|'Keeper of the Cup' Mike Bolt escorts the Stanley Cup to the grand opening of the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in New York City.
Located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, the NHL Store has been advertised as a destination point for hockey enthusiasts and tourists alike, and on the first day of business, with lines snaking around the corner, that’s exactly what it was. While “Hockeytown” might be in Detroit and Toronto is the capital city of the hockey world, the center of the hockey universe is now located at the corner of Sixth Avenue and West 47th Street.
“We all know New York City is great for hockey,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said during the opening-day festivities. “This is a destination for all visitors to New York, not just hockey fans.”
The grand opening of the first-ever NHL-themed store in New York brought thousands of fans to the new facility, as well as some hockey legends like Glenn Anderson, Bruce Driver, Ken Daneyko, Rick Middleton, Eric Cairns, Butch Goring, former referee Paul Stewart, and of course, the biggest star of them all, the Stanley Cup.
“This is my favorite place to officiate my entire time on the ice,” Stewart said, “because when the game was over, the city never sleeps.”
The Cup was delivered in a thrilling ceremony that saw a Zamboni roll up Sixth Avenue in the middle of the busy Manhattan work day, followed by a limousine that held the holy grail of hockey. Fans lined up to take pictures and cell phone videos of the precession, and then got in line outside the store to get a chance to pose with the historic trophy.
In addition to the Cup being in the house, a small street fair was set up outside the store with booths from XM Radio and Starbucks passing out free goodies to the hordes of NHL fans and tourists. Many fans wore the jerseys of their favorite teams, while others purchased brand-new, customized RbK uniform systems in the NHL Store.
All of the hockey legends were greeted with loud cheers out in the street, which baffled Stewart, who said; “You’re supposed to be sophisticated hockey fans. Is that any way to greet a referee?” Stewart, of course, is used to being greeted with boos and not cheers when clad in the famous zebra stripes of an NHL official.
On this day, though, there were only cheers ringing through the streets of New York with the opening of the new store. While the festivities were happening outside, hundreds of shoppers packed inside the store to get their hands on exclusive merchandise available only through the NHL. From the 40-foot wall of custom jerseys to the wall of ice where you can carve your initials, there was something for everybody at the NHL Powered by Reebok store. A long line formed by the video game area where shoppers can try out the new NHL games, while another line snaked out of the adjoining hockey-themed Starbucks location.
The NHL store in New York has something for everybody, from personalized gear to customized NHL sneakers to double skim lattes with or without froth. But judging by the crowds that stormed the store on opening day, there might not be a lot left for very long!