St. Marys Wood Specialty Company recalled in The Hockey News
By Stewart Grant
As a longtime reader of The Hockey News, it was a welcome surprise to read some St. Marys history in the recent special Draft Preview edition. I’ve been a regular reader of The Hockey News since the mid-1980’s, and the publication was one of the early influences on my interest in newspapers.
The Hockey News was founded in 1947 and currently has a readership of approximately 225,000 people, with the company’s website visited by two million readers per month. In January 2018, the business was purchased by entrepreneur W. Graeme Roustan.
In the recent Draft Preview issue, Roustan penned a lengthy advertorial article on Heritage Hockey Sticks, his latest hockey-related acquisition. The company, formerly known as Heritage Wood Specialties Inc., is the “lone manufacturer in Canada or the United States that mass-produces wooden, ABS, foam-core and hybrid composite hockey sticks.”
The roots of Heritage Hockey Sticks date back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, in Ontario towns Preston, Ayr, Hespeler, and St. Marys:
“Meanwhile, hockey sticks were also being made at the St. Marys Wood Specialty Company, a business that was started by Solomon Lewis Doolittle in 1908. Doolittle originally started his company with the purpose of manufacturing tools for working the land, producing products such as axe handles, shovels, brooms and mining tools. But he also saw an emerging market for hockey sticks. Before long, the plant was mass-producing a complete line of sticks for suppliers around Canada. By 1909, it was producing 16 models of hockey sticks. Not even a fire that destroyed the plant in 1912 could deter Doolittle and the plant was up and running again within a couple of months,” wrote Roustan.
The St. Marys Wood Specialty Company was located on James Street South, on the land now occupied by Subway and Little Caesars. Those who recall “Coopers Restaurant”, which preceded Little Caesars, had been inspired by the early days of the site where baseball bats and hockey sticks had been manufactured on-site.
Following the Great Depression, St. Marys Wood Specialty Company was sold to Canada Barrel and Keg, a subsidiary of Jos. Seagrams and Company, and the St. Marys location was closed. This, along with other acquisitions that took place, resulted in the consolidation of the southwestern hockey stick industry under one name, Hespeler-St. Marys Wood Specialty Company.
As the decades passed, the company was sold to Cooper, then later became part of Nike Bauer, before Heritage Wood Specialties was formed in 2004 when Nike Bauer decided to divest its wood stick manufacturing business. To this day, the company that was partially formed in St. Marys continues to thrive, with current operations based in Cambridge.
“If you’ve seen a player toss a stick into the crowd after being named one of the game’s three stars, or Hockey Hall of Fame inductees posing with a stick, there’s a good chance it was a Heritage stick,” Roustan wrote.