August 4, 2013

From NEHJ: Goalie mentality

By Jesse Connolly


A synthetic ice surface helps customers fine-tune their fit at Sports Etc.(above) in Arlington, Mass.

Goaltenders have been and always will be a different breed of hockey player. When it comes to outfitting them, they require great attention to detail, making goalie superstores a godsend for puck-stoppers young and old.

We chatted with a few local retailers about the challenges involved with equipping a netminder from head to toe, how they specialize in catering to the most unique position in all of sports, if there’s a trickle-down effect from the success of the Boston Bruins’ goaltenders in recent years, and much more.

Douglas Mathews  | WESCO Sports Center

270 Federal Road, Brookfield, CT 06804
203-775-2227 | www.wescosportscenter.com

How much space do you currently dedicate to goalie equipment?

Here at WESCO we have 2,500-plus square feet dedicated to retail space for goalie equipment.

What’s the biggest hurdle when it comes to outfitting a player new to the position of goaltender?

One of the biggest hurdles we face is commitment. We get a lot of goalies who want to try playing the position, but they are not sure if they will continue to play. Another big hurdle we have to overcome is proper fitting. For players new to the position, it can be difficult to move in all the new gear. It makes it very important to have proper fitting equipment. Even though the parents may want to get two years out of the equipment, it is not something you should do for a new goalie. If the equipment is too big, the new goalie will not be able to move and may become discouraged from the position.

What are some of the standout elements of The Goalie Center at Wesco?

On top of our incredible selection, we have the most experienced staff of goaltending experts. Both Mike Glaberman (UHL, FHL) and Nick Niedert (AHL, IHL, ECHL, CHL, SPHL, FHL and still playing) have played for a combined 12 years at the professional level, and Russ Stein played four years of NCAA Div. 1 at Providence College. Mike has been fitting goalies of all ages for nine-plus years. Both Nick and Russ have been doing the same for seven-plus years. To top it off, I have been fitting goalies for 40-plus years. As for The Goalie Center, it speaks for itself, just come in and take a look. Our Goalie Center is one of the largest in the Northeast, and is currently expanding.

What kind of effect does the success of local prominent goalies (Connecticut’s Jon Quick, Tuukka Rask and, in 2011, Tim Thomas for the Bruins) have on business, or perhaps more players being interested in the position?

Having goalies like Jonathan Quick, who used to get his equipment here growing up, has brought a new interest and dreams to several goalies. It is always good to have a local goalie make it big. It brings hope and dreams to kids in the area. Though not from Connecticut, Henrik Lundqvist has had an impact on what young goalies are looking for in equipment. Any goalie in the NHL has an effect on what kids want to buy. I can recall several occasions where kids come in and say, “I want the pads Lundqvist uses!” or “Wow! Are those the pads Quick uses?” or “Hey aren’t those the (Carey) Price pads?” The younger goalies are always looking at what their local or favorite goalie uses and want to get exactly what they have.

Rob Laurie | Goalie Monkey

949 Providence Highway, Norwood, MA 02062
781-769-1754 | www.monkeysports.com

1500 Route 9 North, Woodbridge, NJ 07095
732-634-1446 | www.monkeysports.com

How much space do you currently dedicate to goalie equipment?

Our Woodbridge, N.J., location is about 3,000 square feet, while our Norwood, Mass., store is about 5,500 square feet.

Do you feel like more equipment retailers are dedicating more time and floor space to goaltenders these days?

It looks like it is headed that way from what I see we are doing, as well as some of our competitors. Goalies today are looking for not only model selection, but a retailer that can offer a great selection of colors as well.

What have been the biggest advancements when it comes to goalie equipment in recent years?

Materials continue to get better, most noticeably in the midrange-priced product. This includes improvements in weight as well as durability, making some of the high-end senior and intermediate models hard to distinguish from the more expensive pro level gear. Brian’s came out with the Smart Strap system, eliminating the conventional leg strapping usually found on pads. That was a big innovation. Other companies are finding ways to soften pads but keep their shape without any break down over time. Warrior’s new chest protector has unique arm design with an external shell almost like a player’s shinguard that has gotten a lot of attention the last few months.

What are some of the challenges/benefits of the online side of sales when it comes to goalie equipment?

The benefits include the ability to choose from a much larger selection of gear that a typical brick-and-mortar store would never be able to come close to being able to offer. Also, not everyone lives in a great hockey market that can justify a goalie-specific retailer having a location there. With being online, we are only a few days of shipping time away from a customer getting the best gear for his style and budget. One of the challenges that we train our staff to overcome is a customer making purchases without having the opportunity to try them on for sizing. Usually after some dialogue regarding measurements and what kind of gear they are coming from, we can come up with the proper size recommendations for them. Knowing the pros and cons of the product helps as well when educating customers on which models are best for their style.

D.J. DelBuono | Pure Goalie

220 Wood Road, Braintree, MA 02184
781-794-2910 | www.puregoalie.com

On average, how much square footage is dedicated to goalie equipment at Pure Goalie’s locations?

Our seven Pure Goalie locations average about 2,250 square feet, are housed within our Pure Hockey stores and are completely dedicated to goalies. Each location has at least one dedicated goalie specialist to help with fittings, product recommendations and general customer service.

How much more of a challenge is it to outfit a goaltender than it is a forward or defenseman?

Like fitting a forward or defenseman, finding the correct size is imperative. However, with goalie equipment, different products are manufactured to perform differently. For example, Pad X may be built for the butterfly goaltender, while Pad Y may be built with the hybrid goaltender in mind. Therefore, it is important to not only fit based on size, but also the customer’s style of play and specific preferences.

Given that challenge, how much of a benefit is it to your customers to have an unlimited return policy and no restocking fees?

At Pure Goalie, we want our customers to be completely happy with their purchases. We realize customers sometimes purchase products that do not fit their needs. Therefore, it is our priority to ensure they are able to exchange or return those products for something that better suits their style of play.

What makes Pure Goalie stand out from the competition?

Unlike our competition, Pure Goalie places a strong emphasis on our brick-and-mortar locations. We currently have seven Pure Goalie stores throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. Our website, www.puregoalie.com, is one of very few websites in the hockey retail business that is JUST for goalies. In addition to being able to purchase products, we also offer written articles and videos on subjects like how to best fit goalie equipment. We pride ourselves on the customer service and individual attention we provide in store and the vast amount of choices and information we provide online.

What’s on the horizon — or what would you like to see in the future — for goalie equipment?

With talk of downsizing goalie equipment for the 2013-14 NHL season, it will be interesting to see the trickle-down effect in the near future. We’ve already seen a trend to more athletic goalies in the past few years. That being said, I believe we’ll see the manufacturers produce lighter, more responsive goalie equipment in the future.

Paul Stanton | Sports Etc.

1303 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476
781-646-1600 | www.sportsetc.net

What have been the biggest advancements in goalie equipment in recent years?

I think the goal pads have changed drastically in the last few years. When you think they’ve finally perfected them, they come out with more improvements every year. The way they seal to the ice, they square up the five-hole. When they go into the butterfly it’s almost an effortless move. They’ve also done a really great job with the gloves arriving at the stores game-ready. Companies invest in machines that break the gloves in prior to shipping them to the stores. So when the customer picks them up, they don’t have to worry about them being stiff or taking two to three months of use to break in.

How instrumental is it to have that synthetic ice in your store for goalies?

It’s huge. For them to be able to slide back and forth and get the best sense you can without actually going on the ice of how the pads will perform, it makes a big difference to us in evaluating how a pad’s going to perform, if it’s going to work well, and it gives the consumer confidence in really knowing what they’re getting when they go out on the ice.

Can Tim Thomas’ heroics in 2011 and what Tuukka Rask did this season directly affect business?

I think it has more of an indirect effect. I think it takes a few years for kids to really respond to a positive impact like the Bruins winning the Cup in 2011, but we’re seeing that start to take place now. There are many, many kids who are eager to jump in and play goalie. The biggest stumbling block right now is the parents. Parents still get a little hesitant. They think it’s an expensive sport to play. They want their child to do some sort of sport and enjoy it, but playing goalie is a big commitment for a parent and a child. I think that the price tag is sometimes a little prohibitive for a kid wanting to play it. But I am seeing an upswing in terms of young goalies wanting to play the position now. It’s a position where kids will really want to control a game or control a sporting event. When you’re a goalie, you feel like you can put the game in your hands. High-end athletes really want to take charge, and you can see more kids wanting to get into that position.

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 edition of the New England Hockey Journal.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com