Bquipped Equipment Education

From Pakistan with Hockey Love

May 6, 2014

Sialkot, Pakistan, 78 miles north of Lahore, is the sports equipment manufacturing hub of the world. Its ascendancy traces back to the British colonial period of pre-Partition India when British soldiers at an army post near the City sought tennis rackets, cricket bats, and hockey sticks. The sports equipment was manufactured to occupy the soldiers in their off-hours, and over the past century Sialkot has grown to become a top manufacturer of our beloved sports equipment.  It is the number one producer of hand sewn soccer balls, exporting roughly 40 million a year and the origin of the official soccer ball that was used in the 2012 Olympic Games.  Despite the fact that Taiwan, China, India, Indonesia, and Korea have all become sports equipment manufacturing hot spots over the past few decades, Sialkot remains one of the few dedicated to improving technology, performance, and excellence. 

A flight from Australia to Singapore, to Sri Lanka, finally brought me to Karachi, Pakistan in January of 2012.   Since it is rare for Caucasian female travelers to be traveling on their own, more than one gentleman approached me asking if I was heading to Pakistan for work.  I said yes and was welcomed with numerous opportunities to visit medical device manufacturing sites, textile plants, and linen producers among others. In my naivety, I had no idea of the sheer quantity of products manufactured in Pakistan, many of which we use on a regular basis in the United States.

After three days of sightseeing, a good friend and I headed to Sialkot with a driver to visit several sports equipment manufacturing plants. On the way, we noticed that nearly every building in town hummed with production. Men on motorcycles sped by, donkeys carried the ripest oranges I have ever seen, and small children begged for attention.  The smell of burning rubber was potent as youth burned tires in the streets of Sialkot, blocking our initial route; and protesting recent gas shortages and price hikes.  After nearly four hours on the road and several traffic delays, we finally arrived at our destination. 

I was impressed by the dedication and care that was put into every grade of hockey stick – from the original Mulberry sticks I had once played with in middle school to the elaborate composition of the most high-end sticks on the market.  It was an Olympic year and we were invited to watch the specialty crafted graphics being placed on the sticks for the UK’s national team’s in honor of the occasion. I felt like a little kid in a candy store as I stared wide-eyed at the craftsmanship behind the essential tool for my beloved sport.

The graphics, molds, grips, paints, sheets of carbon fiber, aramid, fiberglass, mulberry blocks, presses, and drying racks were all here before my eyes.  Looking at thousands of perfectly finished field hockey sticks, carefully packaged in bubble wrap, waiting to be shipped to field hockey lovers around the world, my awe was ephemeral. I had a tough decision before me: which one, among the masses was the right one for me?

Back in the United States I looked for a scientific answer to that very question and so my research began.  Figuring out the best field hockey stick is challenging.  I’ve included a few hidden gems and shared a glimpse at the newest brands on the market. While not all of these are manufactured in Sialkot Pakistan, traveling half-way across the world was just part of my journey in understanding just what it takes to control the turf in real time. Listed below in alphabetical order are 14 sticks to look for and why they strike me.

Adidas – the German giant – one of the biggest names in sports is tackling field hockey sticks. They’ve worked to improve on previous lines and come out with a few new innovative molds.  Light weight and agile, but can they withstand the beating of my fierce hit?  

Brabo
– Maartje Paumen, need I say more – the two-time Dutch gold medalist and FIH Women’s Player of the Year, Maartje Paumen has her own Brabo line, MP17. Check out not only the line, but her sick drag flick at
www.brabo.nl and YouTube Video Will the MP17 help you to drag like Maartje?

Dita – the main stay – tried and true, Dita continues to stay true to the needs of its players with new tweaks to their fresh 2014 line.  Don’t be mislead by the names, they may have just improved the bow to make that aerial even easier to get the air you desire. I’m trying to get my aerial to fly even further so I might just have to pick one up, not to mention my all time favorite turfs!

Edge – the competitive Edge from Down Under - Four Aussie’s came together to build Edge in 2011.  Setting their sights on redefining how the best sticks in the world should be priced; Edge led performance to a price point fit for everyone. “We looked at the market and thought we could do a better job!  We wanted to develop a brand that would allow players to have the best possible hockey equipment without the huge price tags associated with sticks in Australia,” said Paul Graham, Edge co-founder.  They are on the brink of hitting the U.S. market so keep an eye out. 

Grays – still on top – they remain the #1 brand in the world and a favorite of the Latin Americans.  And the Grays GX7000 is one of the most popular among the male and female professionals in Europe. CranBarry on the youth side has come out with some awesome graphics to keep the kids looking hot! And goalkeepers, OBO is where it is at. Don’t know what I would have done without my Grays GX5000 helping me stuff right wings coming into my defending circle throughout college.

Gryphon – the legendary king of beasts and birds - With nearly half of the Australian national teams (Kookaburras and Hockeyroos) kitted out with Gryphon, it’s hard to ignore their dominance as an elite performance field hockey stick brand.  They are continuously on the cutting edge of technology. Am I strong enough to handle the high carbon content of their elite range?

Harrow – gaining momentum – Colorado based Harrow and their RD8 (Rachel Dawson #8) is the pick for U.S. National Team player Rachel Dawson, who is in her 10th season with the team.  Harrow recently joined forces with Princess, the boutique Dutch brand, to improve and round out their current field hockey stick selection.  What girl doesn’t want to try a field hockey stick called PRINCESS?

JDH – Jamie Dwyer Hockey – As many of you know, Jamie Dwyer, the world’s most decorated player in hockey, Australian Men’s scoring phenom with over 291 international caps as of April 2013, just finished another stellar performance in the new India Hockey League.  In 2013 Jamie launched his own hockey stick brand, JDH. It’s one of the fastest growing out of Australia and the NCAA reigning champion’s University of Connecticut girls seem to approve as well.  UCONN ladies, tell me, what do you love about your APX795s and APX750s?

Mercian – expertise both new and old – the English brand has been around for over forty years, but with ex-Olympian Simon Mason as one of two at the helm they ensure their products continue to innovate and energize their athletes, while maintaining the legacy of the Mercian brand.  Not only does Mercian make sure they launch out of this world products, they are also committed to supporting the game through their Mercian School of Hockey (MSOH). Check out both their sticks and Hockey School here

Osaka – A Japanese city – Or the hottest new brand coming out of Europe.  Belgian based, Stephen Butler, former Ireland National team member, founded Osaka in 2011.   Their stylish graphics, hot models and music blasting DJs have hit the ground running and are revolutionizing the epicenter of the “party” hockey scene.  They are just hitting the shelves here in the States so keep a look out. Can’t wait to party with #TeamOsaka and watch their players perform magic at the 2014World Cup in the Netherlands.

Rage – the new kid on the block – but only in the U.S.A. Rage, an English brand, has been rocking the shores of Europe, New Zealand and Australia for the past several years.  The Kiwis bring out the Rage in full force.   And now they are available here in the United States! We want to know, what makes you Rage?

STX – not just for Laxers – STX has worked hard over the past two years to reinvent their brand, molds, and stick performance to compete at the highest levels within the U.S. field hockey stick market.  Don’t just think of them as your first field hockey stick; it might just be time to pick up your second. 

TK – in search of Elephants – one of the most popular field hockey stick brands in the world and a favorite of the Germans. These sticks are made to last.  The leadership of Thomas Kille, who founded the brand nearly thirty years ago, continues to hold the standard for field hockey sticks globally.  My players have loved every TK I’ve recommended. Thanks TK and keep the streak alive!

Voodoo – Magic – this Australian brand is the cousin of long standing Gryphon.  Don’t just focus on their cool graphics; they have some awesome sticks to take your game to the next level too.  You can find them either at your next festival or tournament or at 4U Sports. www.4Usports.com

To see more images and video from Pakistan please visit http://www.youtube.com/user/Bquipped/Pakistan_2012


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