Reader Questions: Follow Up On Gear, Sponsorship and MoreShareThis
New Puck Daddy: Part two of joining a new team – fitting in with the guys. (Link to PD, posts around 2:00 EST.)
Throughout the week, I get a good number of personal emails from readers (always welcome) with follow up questions, and I make an effort to respond to each and every one. Oftentimes, I let them sit in my inbox for awhile because I have to put up a post on Bourne’s Blog (or work on a column) and don’t have the time to get to them that day.
It occurs to me, the utter moron that I am, that this is why other sites do “mailbag” style posts, and I should just answer those questions, two-birds-with-one-stones this damn thing, and run them here. Hopefully I answer some questions some of you had but didn’t ask, and maybe some you didn’t think to ask.
Today, however, I’ll just be answer the questions from one email, frankly because I responded to all the other ones this morning and it would be redundant to re-do that here. Thus, without further ado, a new hopefully-recurring post on Bourne’s Blog: Reader Questions. What a clever name.
From Reader “Max”:
How do sponsorships work? Obviously you have Crosby with Reebok, Kane with Bauer, etc., does that mean these guys get outfitted directly by the company or is it just up to them to pick the correct items from the team? Do players make their gear sponsorship selections based on quality of the product or for the money?
Well, I never played in the show obviously, but here’s a mix of what I’ve seen and what my understanding is:
Company reps come around the rink constantly from Bauer, Easton, RBK etc., display some gear, and let the guys check it out.
It’s always fun – pick up the new sticks, give ‘em a flex and so on. If you’d like to try said product, and aren’t some one-day call-up, they’ll give you a stick or two to try out. Keep in mind these guys get endless sticks, so there’s very little temptation to do what most rec leaguers are thinking now, which is get samples from every rep and stockpile them. It can be more of a hassle than it’s worth to cut and tape and test new sticks, and most guys are happy with what they use, and what they know.
So when a player makes the change, the team orders the gear from that company. NHL teams, AHL teams, they all still have to buy those sticks, albeit at a discounted cost.
So most NHL players aren’t “sponsored” per se, as much as they just use the exact gear they like and don’t think about anything else (ie. price).
Now, there are exceptions. Big name guys like Sidney Crosby occasionally get sponsored – as we all know (and we KNOW, Rebook), Crosby is with Reebok. But the dirty little secret here, is that that doesn’t mean he uses RBK’s stuff. A couple years back I know (or rather, I frequently heard from other players) he was wearing another companies boot, but had it customed to look like the RBK skate that had the pump on it, so Reebok could churn out a million posters with pictures of Sid wearing the new wheels. Which he wasn’t.
So the reps come around and outfit the guys, the team pays for said gear at a low price, and everyone is happy. There’s no way Sid would limit himself to one company if he thought another company’s product was better – there’s no amount of money, whatever it is that they pay him, that would be worth it to a guy that competitive.
How do guys like Teemu Selanne (with his old Jofa helmet) or Osgood (with his ’80s goalie helmet) get fitted when they go to a new team? Does JOFA have stockpiles of those old lids, or would Teemu have to paint his old one when he gets to a new team?
Yeah, I’m sure Teemu has a couple of those buckets that they just re-paint. Otherwise like you said, I’m sure JOFA can always track another one or ten down for a star like him (actually, JOFA no longer exists. I think RBK bought them, actually). Unique pieces of equipment are your own deal – but chances are something better has been made and you should move on.
Talk a little bit about manufacturers – Easton seems to be on top as far as stick use numbers go, but Bauer seems to have a majority of the skate market. What do you make of the fluctuations of brand choices? Are NHLers just fad followers or are there great advances in technology year to year and between manufacturers?
“Great” advances might be a bit much, but there are advances every year. And if there isn’t, a company will just attach some new gimmick to the product and call it improved. It’s a pump! Hey look, now there’s holes in the shaft!
Anyway, most NHLers aren’t fad followers in the slightest bit (some of the young kids might be, but not for long). I think the market fluctuations validate the quality of a product. Bauer makes fantastic skates. Easton makes fantastic sticks (skates too, I hear). And every so often a company comes along and makes a push to be legit.
Warrior is a great example of a company that came in and really shook up the standard brands, because their product (sticks) were terrific, and a good number of players made the switch and used them. Some players have some measure of brand loyalty – I know my dad used Bauer skates, so I did, and thus I never even looked at other brands - but for the most part, guys want whatever’s best.
Warrior did themselves an injustice by coming out with ridiculous marketing – they went with crazy colours and gave the sticks ridiculous names that I don’t even care to remember like “Mofo” and “Badass.” They missed the point – hockey fans and players are all about nostalgia and the inherent, childish goodness of the game (as much as we also love the violence). At it’s most base elements, the game is pure. It’s why we love campaigns like Bauer’s “What Are You Going To Write?” series that I still love so much (in reference to the clean sheet of ice).
Not many players want to stand out (nobody’s bigger than the game, we, we, we!), and holding a stick like that is embarrassing – if they had gone understated, way more players would use them, because as I said, they’re sick sticks in terms of performance. They’re probably changing to a more conservative look, but for me, I’m still turned off. I’m not trying to be Terrell Owens out there standing on the star in Dallas, I’m trying to bury a one-bomb and high five my linemates.
Anyway, gear gets better every year, and you can see which companies are the ones making the strides by who’s using what in the NHL.
Thanks for your questions, and hope everyone found that interesting!
(Oo, and as a PS-slash-plug, that Synergy EQ50 I got from Easton awhile back: still hasn’t broken, I use it once a week and take plenty of clappers with it. Great stick.)