Hockey House: Creating an atmosphere off the ice for area players
The motto fits the store perfectly: “Hockey is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.”
A lifestyle that Hockey House owner, Dan Anderson knows well. A former player in the Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association (BAHA), Anderson, along with lone employee and Brainerd Bantam ‘A’ hockey coach Derek Argir, operate the store, dominant in Warrior blue and full of hockey merchandise, gear, skate sharpening and a TV broadcasting sports. All on hours conducive to people’s needs — and of course hockey games.
“On Saturdays during the season I want to close the store down a bit early because I want to be at (Brainerd hockey) games,” said Anderson. “And you know what, they (aspiring players) should, too.
“That’s where they are going to learn.”
A dream that has been brewing in Anderson’s head — and heart — for awhile, his vision finally became reality when he moved the business into the strip mall off West Washington Street near the intersection of Northwest Fourth Street, sandwiched between Rafferty’s Pizza and Domino’s Pizza.
“I have to give credit to my wife, the woman behind the scenes,” said Anderson, who along with his wife, Amy, has two daughters: Emma, 14, and Elise, 12. “She let me go off and do this.
“It’s something that I have always wanted to do and you know, here I am doing it.”
Unlocking the doors for the first time July 6, Anderson said despite the summer opening, there was no shortage of hockey players checking out the new digs.
“Every day since we’ve opened we have had a good flow of kids and parents coming in to check things out,” he said. “And now with the season right around the corner hockey is on their minds.”
More than just a one-stop shop for hockey gear and merchandise, Anderson said his goal is to make Hockey House a hangout for kids and a “roundtable of hockey discussion” when needed.
“I want this to be a place for kids to come in and hang out with friends and just be kids,” Anderson said. “Kick back with their friends, or for parents who want to come in after they drop their kids off at practice and check out the Vikings game on a Sunday.
“I want it to be more than just your average sporting goods store.”
A presence communicating on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Anderson said he uses those to his advantage of not only spreading the word about happenings at Hockey House but to continue to vest an interest in his clientèle: the hockey players.
“These kids are on Twitter and Facebook and I want to be there to check in with them and show them that I care,” said Anderson. “We chirp them a little bit and I want to be able to talk to them about how their day was and hockey, really whatever they want to.”
Argir agreed with Anderson, adding that in order to reach them you have to “speak their language.”
“If you talk down to them every time they enter the store, like they are ‘just a kid’ then they aren’t going to want to come back,” said Argir, who has two sons, Peyton, 17, and Mason, 10, who is a second-year squirt. “We want to be there for them, for whatever they need. Whether it be to help them pick out the right pads or stick or just talk about what’s going on at school.
“That’s important to speak their language and speak to them, not just at them.”
Another way Hockey House appeals to the crowd are the extra offerings outside of items to purchase.
Like the ongoing hockey hair contest, with registration running through Oct. 31 and judging taking place Feb. 28. Players are asked to sign up if they think they have the best “hockey hair” in the area. The first place flow will get a $25 gift card to Hockey House, free Sauce T-shirt and a complimentary haircut and style. Second place will win $15 gift card and new haircut and third place earns the cut and style. Anderson said he has some other ideas for the store that he’s not ready to announce just yet and is hoping to get a bubble hockey table to start hosting tournaments on weekends.
“Like I said, I want this place to be a fun place to go and not just to buy stuff all the time,” he said. “I still remember going into a hockey shop and the owner asking me how I did on a test or how my day was.
“You remember that kind of stuff and I want this place to be like that. A place guys remember and want to come back to.”