Minnesota-based upstart Epoch Lacrosse is making a splash in the lacrosse-equipment market with a brand that embraces technology. The company is using new designs and new materials to compete with established brands in one of North America's oldest and fastest-growing team sports.
Minnesota-based upstart Epoch Lacrosse is making a splash in the lacrosse-equipment market with a brand that embraces technology. The company is using new designs and new materials to compete with established brands in one of North America’s oldest and fastest-growing team sports.
Epoch caught the attention of elite-level lacrosse players at this year’s Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game on June 26. An amateur wielding an Epoch stick strung with its Otter mesh won the fastest-shot competition with a record-setting 116-mph shot.
Co-founder James Miceli launched Epoch in 2011 and aims to create products that go beyond the incremental changes to legacy sticks and pockets. “We have a product you can put in your hands and feel the difference,” Miceli said. “We are winning because of the research and development we are putting into the product.”
A lacrosse stick is made up of three components, a shaft, a head and mesh that forms the head’s pocket. Epoch started by developing a carbon-fiber shaft. Carbon-fiber can be tricky to work with and some initial attempts by other manufacturers to develop carbon-fiber shafts didn’t work well.
Miceli claims his company is the first to successfully introduce a durable carbon-fiber shaft that can stand up to the rigors of the sport. The material shaves precious ounces off the weight of a traditional shaft but is more durable. The material engineers he partners with have been able to create models with differing shaft “whip” or flexibility. Epoch’s shafts will flex under load but return to their original shape and are not prone to denting and warping like metal-composite shafts.
Epoch’s products are designed for elite players and command premium prices. Shafts retail for $140. Premium shafts from competitors range from $70 to more than $100.
According to the National Sporting Goods Association, 2.8 million people participated in lacrosse in 2013, up 129 percent since 2007. The association reports retail sales of lacrosse sticks hit $62 million in 2013, up 103 percent since 2007. The growth of the lacrosse industry has also attracted the attention of some major sporting-goods manufacturers.
In June, Performance Sports Group, an Exeter, N.H.-based company, raised $126 million in an initial public offering. The company, formerly known as Bauer Performance Group, makes hockey, baseball and lacrosse equipment. It controls two big lacrosse companies — Maverik Lacrosse and Cascade (the largest maker of lacrosse helmets). PSG estimates it has 25 percent of the lacrosse market and forecasts its equipment business to grow in the high-single-digit to low-double-digit rates for the next several years.
Adam Postelnek currently plays in a men’s league. Postelnek, who switched to a carbon-fiber shaft two years ago, said it is noticeably lighter, more flexible and durable.
“It’s a better experience all around,” he said.
Postelnek plays with a carbon-fiber stick from another company. Speaking of Epoch, he said: “If they do things right, I think they can definitely make an impact.”