Thursday, July 07, 2011
Pure GOALIE Interview: Rob Howland

Today Pure Goalie has hijacked the Pure Hockey blog to interview the Senior Buyer of Pure Hockey (and Pure Goalie), Rob Howland. Rob has been with Pure Hockey since its inception in 1994, so he's pretty much seen it all, from the stores to the arenas to the corporate office. His knowledge of gear is second-to-none! Rob grew up in Massachusetts and was a goaltender for the University of Maine in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at a time when the Black Bears had a dominant presence on the college hockey scene. Let's go for a ride as Rob talks about the opening of the brand new Pure Goalie stores in Berlin and Braintree, MA......

1. So…..why a Pure Goalie store? Why now?
It was time – time to show to our goalie customers that we are back in the goalie business.  There is no question that Pure Hockey took some time off and left some goalies without a great local store to shop at.  It was time to bring it back for them 

2. How will this be different than the goalie sections at Pure Hockey before?
The Pure Goalie stores are going to be exactly that – nothing but goalie.  The first real Pure Goalie concept store is now open in Braintree, MA.  There is over 4,000 square feet of only goalie products, and we were fortunate enough  to team up with the leaders in the industry, Reebok, Bauer, Vaughn, and Brians to bring this idea to fruition.  It will be a place that goalies will just want to hang out, and the best part is that there are many more ideas that we have to make the experience even better – so keep an eye out.  The Pure Goalie stores will be filled with all the latest products,  a massive amount of inventory and will have a huge array of colors to choose from.  There will also be some products that will be exclusive to Pure Hockey - products that we made some modifications to in order to try and improve what already exists – and if there is something that the customer is looking for, we would be happy to hear their ideas.

3. As a goalie yourself, talk about how much has changed on the gear side for goalies since the ‘80s and even the ‘90s
hen I was playing, the products lacked a lot of protection, and everything was so heavy compared to today.  Growing up, my chest protector was only that, a chest protector, and I had separate arm pads.  My pads were filled with deer hair, and other stuffing, and they were water logged after each game.  It wasn’t until I got to college in the late 80’s/early 90’s that the equipment started to get to where it is today.  Even colors weren’t around when I was younger, it was what everyone calls "vintage" now - and that was the choice.  With today's game, the products are bigger, lighter and in most cases more flexible. 

4. What’s the last thing you laughed really hard at?
Everyday with my kids, especially my 2 year old daughter – she cracks me up with some of the things she will come out with

5. As a buyer, what do you consider to be the driving  factors in what goalie gear Pure Hockey decides to carry?
First of all is the product, does it have shelf appeal – is it cool looking?  Does it have the features that it needs for the price points that we sell it for, is the quality of the product where it needs to be, and if it is not, can we change it to make it better?  I look at prices of the products, I look at history of certain products and vendors.  I travel to the manufactures to see how things are put together, and that gives me a better appreciation of what actually goes into making a pair of pads.  I ask our goalie employees their opinions and to get their ideas on trends.  I am in rinks most of the winter with a 7 year-old playing and I watch what people are wearing and I ask questions.  There are so many factors that go into it, but ultimately, the most important one is – will it sell??

6. Tell an interesting, amusing or memorable story about your days as a goalie at UMaine
I think for me, a kid coming out of a small town in Central Massachusetts, then going to a school that, at the time, was ranked continuously in the top 5 in the country, walking on to  the team, being around such talent, going to practice everyday and playing with those guys was amazing.  I was a fan of the team, and then I am part of the team and skating onto that ice, coming out for games and how loud the Alfond Arena was, it was just crazy.  The fans up there were the best, the place was always sold out and teams hated coming up there.  So here's a story: during my sophomore year we were heading out the Frozen Four in St. Paul, MN, playing in the rink which at the time had those glass boards and the glass went all the way down to the ice, remember that place?  It was a rink that I always wanted to see and to skate in, and we were heading there!  On the way out to Minnesota, we had stops first in Manchester, NH, and then to Chicago, then on to Minnesota.  On the way out, I started feeling like crap – my stomach was killing me, to the point that I could no longer sit, so I just stood up in the back, bent over.  We finally landed in Chicago, where they had a wheelchair waiting for me. So they wheeled me down to where our connecting flight was  and I remember Coach Walsh yelling at the flight attendant that they gave me food poisoning, but I had to tell him that I did not eat anything on the plane.  They wheeled me down the walkway, where an ambulance was waiting and we went to a Chicago hospital while the team flew to Minnesota.  The next day I had my appendix removed, spent two days in the hospital and flew to meet the team in Minnesota. The problem was I met them at the airport there because they had lost to Northern Michigan the night before and I never did get to see that rink – which since then has been torn down.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Victoria Arlen

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

As you might imagine, we are very often asked for charitable donations from many, many entities such as sports programs, local churches, events for charity and school fundraisers. Oh, how we would love to give to all of them! Much like other corporations, though, we just can't accommodate them all. It's so hard to have to say no to people who deserve and need contributions in one form or another. On the flip side, it feels awesome to be able to say yes and hear or read the reaction of an entity we give to. Seeing their appreciation is really, really satisfying. We quietly do our fair share of giving back to the community and will continue to do so in the future - quietly. It's not cool to broadcast charitable giving, you know. Unless you're Bill Gates.

But I feel the need to break the rule this one time. We first heard Victoria Arlen's story a few months back. In short, Victoria was your typical young teenager - dancing in the house, singing out loud, very active in athletics, going to school every day and being part of a great New Hampshire family. She is one of three triplets and comes from a hockey lineage - her dad and brothers all play the game and shop up in our Dover, NH hockey store. I wish the story continued as is, but unfortunately it doesn't. A few years back, Victoria contracted Lyme Disease, a relatively uncommon tick-borne disease. Most suffer the basic symptoms and go on living normally, but some aren't so lucky. Unfortunately, Victoria was one of the unlucky ones, as it took doctors over a year to diagnose her and she ended up suffering for years after that, unable to walk, talk, eat or speak. Victoria eventually ended up paralyzed and teetering back-and-forth between good and terrible health.

So many times we hear about how much we take life for granted. I'm as guilty as anyone of it. But if you read Victoria's story and watch some of the videos of her suffering, you quickly get brought back down to Earth. What she went through was simply horrific. I began to ask myself "what if it was me?" I've played hockey since I was four years old. What if I had to stop when I was 13 and fight for my life? Would I have what it takes to fight? So far, I haven't had to answer that question and I am glad for that. But Victoria did. And let me tell you, she fought. And won.

Victoria remains paralyzed today, but you would never even know it if you sat and talked with her. She's back to that cheerful, bubbly teenaged kid you see everywhere.  Her paralysis is not going to stop her from pursuing athletics. No way. Before Lyme Disease affected her, she was a championship level youth swimmer. When she overcame ill health, she got right back in the water. She also took up sled hockey - and this is where we come in. If you're unfamiliar with sled hockey, you should head over to YouTube and watch some, because it's INSANE! The players are inspirational, the game is amazing and the vitality of these people is infectious. Now Victoria is one of them! So we were very happy and gratified to have provided her with a sled that will enable her to compete competitively. We were also blessed to meet her family, who remain hopeful, funny and incredibly nice people, who after going through something that could make a lot of people bitter and mad at life, seem quite happy now. They are a wonderful and inspiring group to sit and speak with.

But let's let Victoria talk a little! We took our cameras up to the Dover, NH store recently and sat with her for a quick three minute video.....see it here:

I want to thank both Victoria and her family for coming into Dover to spend some time with us. It was an honor to meet them and we're so happy to have helped them out. To find out more about Lyme Disease and how you can help, go to the American Lyme Disease Foundation web site by clicking here. Thanks for reading and watching.

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