Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hometown Headgear

A goalie’s canvas, the one piece of equipment a hockey player can customize; his mask. The artful aesthetics of the mask began in 1967 when Bruins goaltender Gerry Cheevers began painting stitches on his mask each time he took a puck to the face to signify the many zippers it saved him. Since the auspicious beginnings goalies have donned many fancy facelifts with some paying tribute to family while others have sported anything and everything including their favourite cartoons. (Yes, Avalanche goalie Petr Budaj has Ned Flanders waving a Slovakian flag on the rear of his mask.)

However, few have honoured such a noble cause as 18-year-old QMJHL goalie Karel St-Laurent. A native of Ville Ste-Catherine, Quebec the rookie netminder who plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs was asked what he wanted on his first custom mask? His answer was simple: something to honour his new town. Together St-Laurent and team equipment manager David Kelly decided to honour fallen Canadian soldier Private David Greenslade. Greenslade, a 20-year-old Saint John native was one of six soldiers soldiers killed April 8, 2007 by a roadside bomb.

“What more Saint John could you want than someone who sacrificed their life for us to be able to live the life we do and to be part of the game that we love?” Said Kelly.

The artwork itself depicts a portrait of Greenslade on the left side with the words “Lest We Forget”, while the right side is adorned with a silhouette of a soldier bearing a Canadian flag. Important themes to the young St-Laurent who thinks, “we all need to support the troops. I wanted to paint it for his memory.”

The mask was painted and prepped in time for the Support Our Troops game where St-Laurent led the Sea Dogs to an overtime victory in front of members of Greenslade family.

And for his selflessness, St-Laurent’s headgear will land itself in the Hockey Hall of Fame following the season, not a bad place for an 18-year-old backup.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hot 'Coffey'

KISS, not the 80’s rock band, famous for flashy make-up and outrageous hair, (that even put Jaromir Jagr’s mullet/shag of the early 90’s to shame) rather, KISS among hockey circles means something entirely different. ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’, is a phrase echoed by angry coaches throughout dressing rooms coast to coast. The term is often used to dictate a style of play, however it has been adopted by one Canadian stick manufacturer trying to ‘keeping it simple.’

Sher-Wood Hockey is one of the original manufacturers of hockey sticks and although they no longer hold their spot among elite stick makers due to the one piece craze, they still remain popular with their loyal supporters.

Since the creation of the Sher-Wood 5030 P.M.P. wood stick in 1949, they have kept traditionalists happy by making only gradual alterations since then. “The P.M.P. 5030 was the best stick in the world,” claimed 70’s great Guy Lafleur.

In fact, following Lafleur was Oilers great Paul Coffey who inked an endorsement deal with Sher-Wood in the early 1980’s where they have been producing the ‘Coffey’ curve since then. . The ‘banana curve’ has become legendary in beer league dressing rooms everywhere and has remained the same since its inception even though Coffey is long retired. This fact alone is what keeps Sher-Wood’s customers loyal, they know exactly what they’ve been using for years and the stick and curve will remain constant.

“I come in grab a Coffey off the shelf, I’m good to go. I’ve been using it since I was young … ain’t no way I’m changing now.” Says long time beer leaguer Bob Gilroy.

Contrarily, other manufacturer’s haven’t got this memo of consistency. Easton for instance has seen the name of their most popular curve go from the ‘Modano’ to the ‘Forsberg’ and now the ‘Zetterberg’, and that’s just the past three seasons. For people in the industry that’s more than enough to keep up with, let alone the average hockey player and consumer.

Say you’re purchasing a new stick once a season and each of the last three your favourite curve is no where to be seen, by altering the name each year, the task of buying a new stick becomes an arduous one.

Hockey player’s are often referred to as not being the sharpest tools in the shed, although this can be argued by many, few will argue with the logic, simplicity and longevity that Sher-Wood maintains. Doing their part to avoid the stick rack muddle keeping it simple, and to all other manufacturers remember to ‘KISS’ your customers will love you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Staal boys shoot the lights out with Nike Bauer

An industry leader in hockey equipment, from skates to sticks to protective Nike Bauer hockey has teamed up with Canada's new favourite hockey family. Step aside Sutter's the Staal brothers (Eric, Marc, Jordan and Jarred) are the latest family affair to hit the NHL. The Staal's recently tested Nike Bauer's latest weapons, the Supreme One 90 and Vapor XXXX one piece sticks, at the family barn in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Check it out.