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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Part 2 Easton & Louisville

I am leading off this series with Easton. Long renowned as a top quality arrow maker and baseball supplier, Easton is a well known name in US sports. Their bats are highly regarded at all levels of amateur baseball and softball and their arrows are the creme de la creme of the archery world. Their knowledge of working with high strength and light weight metals and composites are legendary.

This knowledge led Easton to become the first company to produce an aluminum hockey stick in the early 1980s. About a decade later, they were the first to bring graphite composites to the ice. Boasting such high quality endorsers as Steve Yzerman, Jerome Iginla, and Henrik Zetterberg, Easton is considered to be one of the top brands in hockey. Their sticks constantly receive high praise for the their strength and durability.

Why will they enter lacrosse? For the same reason as Nike and Adidas - because it is the fastest growing sport in the US. They will realize soon that by staying out of lacrosse, they are missing a premier market for which they are uniquely qualified. The composites, aluminum, and titanium used by Easton in their current sports applications lend themselves perfectly to the sport of lacrosse and their factories could easily add the necessary tooling for sticks and heads. The glove and pad construction is similar enough to hockey equipment that the change in tooling or procedures would not be that great. They would take a page from Reebok's book and use their existing know how to create high quality gear.

How will they enter lacrosse? While it is not difficult to imagine Easton decided to go all out on their own, the most likely scenario sees them buying a smaller company like Scorpion or Serpent to have ready made tooling available from day one. It is possible that they will prefer just to create every thing from scratch, including designing their own stick shape (the rules are "roughly cylindrical") and freshly designed heads using their advanced work with plastics. Undoubtedly they will reciprocate Warrior/New Balance's entry into the hockey world by luring an inside man from Warrior Lacrosse (for those of you that do not know, Easton had a large lawsuit against New Balance when an executive left the former for the latter with several trade secrets in tow). I highly doubt the Easton move would be so underhanded, but it would be just.
I predict that Easton will get wise by 2012 and may be the first company to have their entire line of heads compliant with the 2010 NCAA rules.

Louisville will follow much the same path as Easton (save the whole Warrior-revenge deal). In many ways, they mirror the larger company in quality on the diamond and on the ice. Their sticks and bats are quite comparable to Easton's and their pads are top notch (the best shoulder pads I've ever owned for hockey were TPS).

The big question with Louisville would be what they would title their lacrosse line. "Slugger" is well known in baseball circles and "TPS" stands out in hockey. I think something like "Whips" or "Pride" would accompany the Louisville lacrosse line. They have many of the same options as Easton when it comes to entering, but I see them more likely to purchase a small company like Serpent. They will most likely come to the market within two years of Easton.

Continue to Part 3

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