It is a technological advancement, performance enhancer, and style statement tucked inside a marketing pitch — the latter being available via video on your phone. “A stick,” said Kevin Davis, president and CEO of Bauer Performance Sports, “is not just a stick.” Naturally, hockey’s best players serve as a powerful lobby in dictating whether a piece of equipment becomes a hit or an afterthought. Just like a stick is not just a stick, a rink is not just a rink. The 200-by-85-foot surface is as much an equipment proving ground as it is a stage for performance. NHLers, as finicky with their sticks as a violinist is with a bow, repeatedly dial in their approvals and annoyances for every piece of gear. Because of feedback from the sport’s best players, manufacturers can produce equipment for the mass market that’s been distilled through its experts. Such high-level on-ice research and development cannot be duplicated in focus groups. Downstream, in the eyes of a 14-year-old youth player, an NHLer’s use of a particular stick, for example, is the ultimate definition of cool. “It’s incredibly impactful,” Davis said. “It doesn’t help us to bring a new stick to the marketplace if it won’t ...