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A broken hockey stick is no longer its downfall, thanks to a repair company – The Rink Live

GRAND FORKS — A dismembered hockey stick used to be incompatible. It meant it was time to move on.

Not anymore, says Cal Helgeson, an Integral Hockey franchisee in Grand Forks, Bismarck, Fargo and Minot.

With a reputation that speaks for itself, Integral Hockey repairs damaged and broken hockey sticks to like-new condition and resells them for a fraction of the cost of a new stick. Founded in British Columbia in the 1990s, Integral Hockey has since expanded to approximately 80 franchises across the United States and Canada, including five in North Dakota and nine in Minnesota, including Bemidji, Hermantown and several in the greater Twin Cities area.

Growing up a basketball and football player, Helgeson was surprised one day when his son returned from kindergarten with a hockey flyer.

“I told him there’s no way you’re ever going to play that game. What we know about hockey players, we didn’t have it,” Helgeson said, “but he was very adamant that this was going to happen, so we just looked at hockey at that point.”

… What I found was that everyone had a garbage can full of them. They either made picture frames or BBQ tools, or threw them in landfills. Everyone I knew and spoke to had a stick to fix.

Cal Helgeson

As his son skated season after season and his other children also got involved, Helgeson took a keen interest in the sport himself and at 35 joined his first rookie team. It wasn’t until 2016 that his family had their first team broken cane.

“I was there and in less than 14 seconds I had $600 on the ice in four parts,” Helgeson said. “I knew there had to be a better way for parents and players back then.

With new sticks costing up to $350, Helgeson felt there had to be a way to repair hockey sticks rather than replacing them outright. Two years later, in 2018, he found Integral Hockey.

“I spent the summer and the fall [of 2018] I studied the number of players and broken sticks in the area, and I found that everyone had a bin full of them,” Helgeson said. “They were either making picture frames or BBQ tools or throwing them in landfills. Everyone I knew and spoke to had a stick to fix.”

In January 2019, he launched his own Integral Hockey franchise from his home in southeast Grand Forks. With a rapid burst of business, it expanded into Bismarck and Minot in 2020 and Fargo in 2021.

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Each of these hockey sticks has been broken once on the ice. A repair by Integral Hockey’s Cal Helgeson in Grand Forks makes it hard to tell.

Contributed / Cal Helgeson

How do Integral Hockey repairs work?

No matter where the crack or break occurred, Helgeson said it’s almost always repairable, and once it’s back in a player’s hands, the difference is barely noticeable.

If there is a break, players or parents can hand in their racquets or send them to Helegson. He said he usually gets calls, texts and emails on Sundays as the sporting weekend draws to a close. Realizing that these players prefer their racquets, he quickly initiates the repair process.

Working primarily in his three-box garage, Helgeson uses Integral Hockey’s patented process to repair sticks. Though he wouldn’t reveal much about the top-secret repair, he said the repair involved fitting a hollow-core carbon-fiber sleeve across the break and using aerospace and composite technology to fill cracks, bond breaks and the stick to bring a new condition.

“The process we use allows the racquet to have no noticeable difference in the flex, weight, balance or kickpoint of these racquets,” Helgeson said. “We’re not taking this technology off the shelf, we’re taking the delamination and those factory defects in the carbon fiber and repairing them with our process.”

Integral Hockey claims their repairs work so well they even offer a warranty.

“[The repair process] allows us to come back with a guarantee the market isn’t used to – a lifetime guarantee on our repair,” said Helgeson. “There’s really no other market out there that we’re competing with to this day. It’s a process that we have pushed forward [competitors] out. We stand for integrity in our process.”

Helgeson said the sticks he repairs come from a variety of players and leagues, from the NHL to youth hockey. After the broken sticks are repaired, players can buy back their sticks for about half the price of a new stick, or leave them with Helgeson for other buyers to purchase.

And while hockey players can be picky about their gear — Helgeson jokingly calls some players “divas” — he noted that the repairing process typically only adds less than 10 grams to a hockey stick, most of which weigh around 360 grams.

The weight change is so minimal that he feels it shouldn’t impact a player’s experience. In addition, the ratings shine.

Ex-NHLer Andre Dore – who played professionally for seven years with the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Quebec Nordiques – was so impressed with Integral Hockey products that he started his own franchise.

“Until now, it was the only piece of hockey gear that couldn’t be reused. After extensively testing repaired sticks, I found that they behaved exactly like a new stick and did not lose any properties,” said Dore. “I’m convinced that all hockey players who try it feel the same way.”

Help your wallet and the environment

While the financial savings Integral Hockey has brought to players and their families since its inception are significant, Helgeson made it clear that the company’s impact goes well beyond monetary.

By the end of 2022, Helgeson estimates that its four North Dakota locations will have serviced “well over” 2,000 sticks. With an average savings of about $200 for players who purchase repaired racquets, he has saved players and their families an estimated $400,000.

“Hockey is an expensive sport and if you’re talking about a new stick for $339 and I sell it back for $140, you can save $200,” Helgeson said. “If you have people using half a dozen to a dozen sticks every year, that’s some real dollars.”

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After Integral Hockey’s Cal Helgeson restores these broken hockey sticks to like-new condition at his home in Grand Forks, he sells them back to players in the community at a huge discount, keeping some extra cash in consumers’ pockets.

Contributed / Cal Helgeson

Across all locations, Helgeson has estimated that Integral Hockey saved over 100,000 sticks and saved approximately $20 million in player spending.

Helgeson said it meant the same number of sticks were ultimately kept out of landfills, eliminating more than 80,000 pounds of fiberglass and processed carbon from the ground, both of which have limited recycling opportunities.

Summarizing all the benefits, Helgeson said he was grateful to have gotten into the industry.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to work with all of these people and communities to get the sticks back on the ice,” Helgeson said. “If we can stop making grilling tools and we can fix these sticks and give them back to these families — what we’re giving back to the kids and the community, it really levels the playing field for everyone.”

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