Friday is the best day of the week for a lot of reasons. It’s the end of the work week (as much as I enjoy my job, I need the break); it’s the night when everyone goes out to party; and cool events take place because of all the tourists here in NYC. This Friday was no exception, with the first NHL Powered By Reebok Store opening up right here in Midtown Manhattan and of course, I had to go. M my boss was gracious enough to let me leave work at 11am for a couple of hours to see the store as not only was there lots of cool merch…but the Stanley Cup was there! So my work buddy Damien and I headed off, where we were greeted by a long line and a lot of fellow hockey fans. Having grown up in Canada, I’m always a bit surprised when I see passionate hockey fans in America, mainly because most people I met seem indifferent to the sport or simply mildly amused by it all. But, in the middle of this work day, there were hundreds of people lined up, clad in jerseys from various NHL teams and I admit, it was really cool to see.
After about 30 minutes in line, Damien and I finally got in the store, quickly racing to the Stanley Cup, as we wanted to take our photo with the greatest championship trophy in sports history. I was surprised how many people headed straight for the merchandise and not the Cup, but to be fair, some probably didn’t have as much time as we did and just wanted to get in and out. The result, ironically, was a 30 second wait to get your photo taken with the Cup, as you can see Damien and I did below. I also took a picture of a father & son who were there, clad in Rangers jerseys, but didn’t have a camera to take the photo themselves—I figured I should help them because if I was a kid with my dad, I’d want a record of this kind of once-in-a-lifetime memory.
Now, as to the store itself, it’s a superb design both from a shopping POV and from an aesthetic POV. The store is full of monitors, displays and eye catching larger than life graphics that put you in a hockey mindset the minute you enter the store. I must admit, at times I was a bit annoyed by how narrow the aisles seemed, but then again with hundreds of people inside, it’s hard for it to feel spacious, y’know? It’s hard not to realize how you can find almost everything you’d ever want as a hockey fan—jerseys, sweaters, t-shirts, home accessories and more. Now will you find collectibles, rare items and the like? No, but to be fair, even the mind blowing (and admittedly superior) NBA Store doesn’t have every little thing you could ask for in merchandise. I quickly scooped up a Montreal Canadiens hoodie, an old school Canadiens t-shirt and a retro Winnipeg Jets t-shirt, but trust me, I could’ve bought more. All the retro “Original 6″ shirts were awesome but hardly necessary, so I focused on the merchandise I knew I’d regret not purchasing. The selection of caps was fairly mediocre, mainly because as someone with a big head I need the slightly larger caps to fit my head, but I give them credit for stocking Quebec Nordiques headwear.
Overall, the service was excellent and the selection of merchandise was great, but I hope they have a large store room because in the first hour this store was open, there were already some shelves that looked to be bare by the end of the next hour. Like myself, many people simply grabbed merchandise and didn’t much worry about the price because we were all so excited about a store in town that caters to the coolest (no pun intended) sport on Earth. After checking out and realizing we’d explored the store as much as possible without going broke (I really did want one of those cool new Skill Sticks), Damien and I lined up to see if our NHL key could win us anything. To clarify, all around NYC this week they’d been handing out black keys with the NHL logo, that could be used to open a locked box and win some awesome prizes at the store. Naturally, my key didn’t work and we decided to check out the rest of the cool stuff around there, including a New York Islanders shooting challenge, a hockey trivia challenge and some great free samples, including free Starbucks coffee.
As seen above, I soon ran into some Maple Leafs and Rangers fans, with whom I joked about being natural enemies and asking to pose with me for a photo. I suggested they try beating me up (as I was wearing my new Habs hoodie) and they naturally obliged. We chatted for a few minutes and it only underscored one of my favorite aspects of the visit– everyone was friendly. No matter which team you liked, no matter who you didn’t like, everyone was awarm and inviting because it was a gathering to celebrate the spirit of hockey. I’ll definitely head back to the store again soon…but perhaps not too soon, as I don’t think I can justify spending money there any time soon!
However, I encourage all hockey fans to check out this store and soak in the atmosphere– I’ve had a smile on my face since Friday and I don’t think it’ll go away any time soon because it’s one of the most pure, joyous sports experiences I can imagine outside of watching the game.