"I've been here (the NHL Store) on numerous occasions for different events for the League. It's nice they're able to have such success and promote our great game of hockey." -- Former Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko
- On a beautiful autumn day in New York City, the NHL Store Powered by Reebok celebrated its first birthday.
And what a party it was.
With former All-Star players, live music, ice sculpting, free Starbucks giveaways and the unveiling of a custom Orange County Choppers motorcycle, the store celebrated in grand fashion.
"This is where the hockey fans can meet, and today they're given another reason to witness something special," said New York Rangers
legend Rod Gilbert
. "The people here in New York, all our fans, are getting ready for a new season. This is a great launch for all of us."
Gilbert was one of a number of former players who attended the festivities. Former Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko, Flyers legends Bob "The Hound" Kelly and Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, former NHL player and current TV analyst Ed Olczyk and Bruins great Terry O'Reilly all were on hand to sign autographs and mingle with the hundreds of fans who packed the store and spilled around 6th Avenue in Manhattan and onto West 47th Street.
"The store's been a real success," Daneyko said. "You see the buzz today, a lot of people coming around. It's great for the League. … I've been here (the NHL Store) on numerous occasions for different events for the League. It's nice they're able to have such success and promote our great game of hockey."
"It's a great store," added Schultz. "A great place for people to come who are NHL hockey fans."
"I came here last year," said Brian King
, a New York resident and Rangers fan. "I just like to celebrate the NHL and I'm glad they have a store. Sometimes I think hockey isn't recognized enough and I think it's good to see the people come out like this.
"The fact that you have tourists stopping, looking at what's going on, the NHL is getting attention that way," said Michael Smith
, who came from the Bronx for the event, mostly to get an autograph from Schultz.
"I came down here for the opening last year. I think it's pretty interesting they've done so well. They've only been here for a year and they've blown away all the projections."
Brian Jennings, NHL Executive Vice President, Marketing/Retail, Licensing and Marketing, said that is just the case.
"We had very lofty expectations going into it, but it exceeded our expectations on a lot of different fronts," he said of the NHL Store. "From a marketing perspective in what it's done for the brand, as a place to gather for hockey fans before the game, after the game. And from a sales perspective, it's allowed our fans to get a unique experience and unique products, as well. The sales numbers have indicated that we're off to a terrific start.
"It's very validating and vindicating. We set out a year ago with a mission to deliver this multi-sensory shopping experience for hockey fans, letting fans have a place to gather and celebrate the sport."
Helping in that celebration Friday was the cast of the TLC show "American Chopper," which follows the workings of the Teutel family and their motorcycle company, Orange County Choppers. Paul Teutel Sr., who runs the company, presented NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman with an Original Six-themed bike, which will be displayed in the NHL Store for a year. Next October, the bike will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to Hockey Fights Cancer.
"I'm really excited about this bike," Teutel said. "They wanted to do an old-school theme and that is me, so the whole thing should fit right in. The paint is really cool on there, the seat, the front wheel represents the six old teams and we've got hockey pucks for a sissy bar (seat backing) and on and on. It's really cool."
"It's very validating and vindicating. We set out a year ago with a mission to deliver this multi-sensory shopping experience for hockey fans, letting fans have a place to gather and celebrate the sport." – Brian Jennings, NHL Executive V.P., Marketing/Retail, Licensing and Marketing
Also part of the festivities was The Zambonis, who bill themselves as the first all-hockey rock band. They played original songs as well as covers and entertained the fans throughout the afternoon.
"This is just amazing," said Dave Schneider, who plays guitar and sings. "We've been doing this for 17 years and we've played everywhere -- clubs, hockey banquets, wherever. The president of Latvia even had us over to play during the lockout. But when the NHL takes notice and calls, that truly is something special. Trust us, we are a band that smells the roses when they come along and this definitely is one of those times."
There also was a photo booth where fans could enter famous hockey scenes, a spot to answer trivia questions to win prizes, and an ice-carving demonstration by Fear No Ice. A 20009 Honda Fit Sport was given away, as well. Honda recently signed on as the official vehicle of the National Hockey League.
"This is a great way to kick off the relationship," said Tom Peyton, senior manager of national advertising/American Honda. "We're excited about the NHL deal; it's the perfect demos for us. We're getting bigger in the U.S. and it’s a great platform for us to talk about our new products and plans that we have. Giving away a car today is a great way to start it off."
Jennings said he's already started the planning for Year 2 of the NHL Store.
"We're going to have a lot of stuff planned for our fans, little unique treats that could really delight and surprise them when they come to the store," he said.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.