The fruits of victory
Shops, camps, and rinks say the Bruins’ Stanley Cup win is translating into brisk business this summer
By 8 o’clock one recent morning, the line at Total Sports Repair was 20 deep.
Arriving to oversee the annual tent sale at his Salem, N.H., shop, owner Brendan Sheehy Jr. did a double take. “It was like we were selling the iPhone 5 or something,’’ he said.
But it wasn’t the latest coveted tech gadget that kept Sheehy’s registers ringing for four days. Business was brisk because of something old school - hockey skates, sticks, pads, and gloves.
The Boston Bruins’ Stanley Cup win in June has sparked more interest in hockey, and sports retailers throughout the region say they are benefiting. For instance, summer hockey camp organizers report that more skaters are taking to the ice for the first time, and fall leagues are bracing for a banner year. That means more equipment sales.
“We’ve seen a lot more happy and excited faces come through the door,’’ said Paul Stanton, manager at Sports Etc. in Arlington.
“After the playoff run, parents want their kids to learn the sport,’’ said Stanton. “There’s a greater passion and appreciation for hockey.’’
The last time such enthusiasm surrounded hockey was in the 1970s when Bobby Orr and his teammates brought home the Cup two times. Meantime, Boston’s other three major sports teams have enjoyed a string of major successes. Finally, the Bruins - and hockey-related businesses in the region - are again reaping the benefits of winning. “It translates into exciting hockey and Boston natives playing the sport,’’ said Steven Jones, director of global marketing for equipment maker Bauer Hockey in Exeter, N.H. The traditional hockey shopping season doesn’t peak for another month, but the early signs are promising, according to Jones.
“If kids are starting to look at skates in July and August and are excited about the Bruins, they will play in September and October,’’ he said. “That’s a boon for us and our retailers.’’
And the recent turmoil on Wall Street isn’t dampening excitement, said Wayne Zwicker, owner of H.A. Zwicker Inc., a Bedford hockey outfitter.
“One of the last things parents are going to do is take their kids out of a sport,’’ he said. “A lot are giving up cable, they will forgo the vacations; they find other places,’’ he said. “There’s been a recession before. I find that hockey is an area that holds up very well.’’
Anticipating increased interest in the sport, Pure Hockey in Franklin is offering starter packages that include helmets, gloves, pads, sticks, and a free pair of skates for $160.
“The Bruins winning the Stanley Cup is a big, big driver in the increase and interest that we are seeing,’’ said Jeff Copetas, vice president of marketing and e-commerce for Pure Hockey, a chain of 13 stores from New Hampshire to New Jersey.
And it isn’t just bargain gear that appears to be popular.
Sales of Bauer’s new elite skate, the Vapor APX, which was released in April and retails for $800, are “doing extremely well. Better than we thought and better than the comparable model a year ago,’’ said Jones.
Standing by as his daughter Caroline and son Patrick tried on $300 skates at Sports Etc. earlier this month, Donald Garrity gave his teenagers a choice. “It’s either a laptop for school or APX’’ skates, he told them.
Garrity estimated he will spend $700 outfitting his two children, who grew up skating on their frozen backyard pond in Lynnfield. Although no strangers to hockey, they now have the added incentive of local heroes to follow.
“They keep telling me they are only five years younger than Tyler Seguin,’’ said Garrity, referring to the 19-year-old forward for the Bruins.
The Bruins effect is reaching an even more youthful demographic, too. At The Edge Sports Center in Bedford recently, 30 well-padded and helmeted kids ages 6 to 12 slid across the ice on wobbly legs as their parents looked on.
John Kapilian, 8, took up hockey a year ago, but his interest intensified as the Bruins quest for the Cup progressed. “It fueled his love for hockey. All you would hear around the house was ‘Tim Thomas, Tim Thomas,’ ’’ said his mother Lyn Kapilian, of Bedford.
Girls - including Emily Henry, 12, of Cambridge - are getting into the game in greater numbers, creating more opportunities for equipment makers and sellers.
Since the US Women’s Hockey team won the Olympic gold medal in 1998, more women and girls have been flocking to the sport. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, there were 690,000 female hockey players last year, a jump of almost 100,000 from the previous year.
“When you get a goal you really feel good,’’ Emily said on her third day at the Bedford camp.
First-timers like Emily have boosted enrollment at The Edge Sports Center 15 percent this year, according to general manager Scott Fusco.
“In the summertime there was usually nothing,’’ he said. “This year, there’s been a lot more attention and activity in the off season.’’
Matt Deschamps, co-owner of Micro Ice Training Centers of America in North Andover, said there has been a 25 percent increase in enrollment for his youth hockey programs this summer, a boost he expects will carry over into fall clinics.
“They all want to be the next kid to win the Stanley Cup in Boston,’’ Deschamps said.
They are even willing to put other sports on ice to make that happen.
Zwicker said he has overheard children telling their parents, “I’ll give up another sport if I can play hockey.’’ To meet that demand, he has increased his inventory by 10 percent and anticipates topping $1 million in hockey sales for 2011.
The question is: Can the renewed interest in hockey be sustained into next year and beyond? Another banner Bruins season - which starts Oct. 6 - would help, store owners say.
For now, however, 2011 is looking a lot like 1970.
“You saw the growth of the sport, and you saw so many amazing players come from the area,’’ Deschamps said. “That’s what everyone is crossing their fingers for.’’