In Chris Bergstrom’s universe, there’s no better place to unwind after a stressful day than at a hockey rink.
“You get on the ice,” he says, “and you don’t think about anything else.”Well, almost. It was on the ice three years ago that Bergstrom thought of a business idea that redirected his life. He was coaching Xavier’s club hockey team and a thought came to him: “I should start my own equipment company and forget everything else.”
The next morning he began searching the web for companies that make hockey sticks. He sent some emails and finally got a response from a factory owner—in northeast Pakistan. Turns out Pakistan is a hotbed for hockey sticks manufacturing. Who knew?
Bergstrom ordered 125 sticks and so was born his fledgling company, Enforcer Hockey. The carbon composite sticks weigh less than a pound and come with three flexibility options and eight blade curve options. They’re grouped into four series—the Vandal, Player, Venom and Sniper—all with wild graphics along the shaft of the sticks. “We wanted to have a product that’s visually appealing,” he says, “but is also a good-quality stick.”
Bergstrom cuts out the middleman by selling them online for about $100 apiece—about half the going rate of brand-name hockey sticks.
“There’s a huge market of recreational players that are in the $100-per-stick price range,” Bergstrom says. “That’s the market that we’re really going for.”
Bergstrom also distinguishes his company by offering the longest warranty on the market. Slap shots, cross checks and pucks flying faster than most interstate speed limits can all snap a stick in two. That’s why major companies offer only 14-day warranties. Bergstrom’s warranty is 51 days, and his research shows that 98 percent of his sticks are still intact.
Bergstrom began selling sticks without a business background, so the 2005 athletic training major kept his day job as a pediatric assistant in the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. And he’s still playing recreational hockey, always taking the ice with one of his sticks. “It’s the best kind of marketing,” he says. “I’ve actually sold a lot of my sticks to the guys that I play with.” He’s not ruling out expanding his product line, either. “Once we get a grip on the sticks,” he says, “maybe we’ll do gloves, too.”