As a hockey player there's always a few big brand names you think of when you hear the word "hockey gear". They're reputable, been around a while, and generally speaking hockey players are brand loyalists to the well-known names. Most of us are slow to try new brands even if they may offer new features, lower prices, etc. We're guilty as charged on that point, but we're slowly adapting.
One rewarding perk of running our own small business is bumping into other hockey brands, especially smaller ones that have a focal area or specialty. Kris over at the Beer League Tribune affectionally refers to these brands as "craft hockey businesses". We like to think Third Assist falls in this category as well, but for Small Business Saturday we want to highlight some of our favorite craft hockey businesses. Let's use this opportunity to highlight some of our favorite finds over the last year and put our name behind the brand.
1) Victor Hockey
A mantra for Third Assist is finding the confluence of art and sport. That intersection was originally brought to our attention by Burton Snowboards, and we use it as a guiding charge when designing any of our gear. You could say all of the businesses on this list follow in that vein too, but none more so than Victor Hockey (#1) and Beauty Unis (#2). The founder of Victor Hockey (Adam) is the artist behind the designs you find on their site, and as recipients of Victor Hockey gear we know it is quality and all completely unique. We'd be thrilled to get Victor Hockey gear around the holidays so want make sure to share the name here.
We got our start up in Maine and one of the companies we ran into during our stay was BeautyUnis. For a couple years we followed the company from afar, but later connected with the founder Casey. Casey designs and sources all of the jerseys BeautyUnis puts out. What separates BeautyUnis from other jersey sites is the unique details you can find in the designs- whether that is custom patches, logos hidden in striping, or the complimentary color matching- we're always blown away by what they're creating for their customers. Next beer league or pond hockey team we're developing, we're starting our team design with BeautyUnis.
3) Conway and Banks
What's one piece of hockey gear you don't think much about until you either 1) lose it or 2) find a variation of it you didn't even know is possible? For us, that's our hockey bags. Our hockey bags have always been pretty much the same. A smelly container we cram all of our gear into and spend the next outing digging around looking for all the gear in opposite order. Not to mention tape, wax, shampoo, etc. Well the founder of Conway and Banks (Percy) thought it could be better and we didn't appreciate how right he was until we tried out one of these bags two years ago. The bag was durable as heck, but more impressively the C&B team created a compartment system to actually organize a bag. This may not sound revolutionary, but when you can actually find your (or your kids) gear at a cold 7am skate you'll want to write Percy a handwritten thank you note.
4) Mint Hockey
As kids we bought plexiglass from Home Depot and abused it as much as possible shooting pucks in our driveway during the summers. We thought it didn't get much better than that until two years ago we got the chance to try out two Mint Hockey shooting pads. This is another product we didn't put much thought into until we found out it could be so much better. First, all these shooting pads are made from recycled plastic so it's hard not like like the environmental perks. But second, these pads actually move like ice. You can stickhandle and take wrist shots on a driveway with the closest thing to real ice we've ever found. We shared these guys (cryptically referred to as "T" and "S" on their website so we'll keep it that way) a year ago on a Youtube video, but it's worth the mention one more time.
5) OutsideHockey (Outsidehockey.com)
Most of you probably haven't heard of this website before. It's your resource for all things hockey outdoors. There's a couple great social media pages out there (ODRHeaven, Backyard Ice Rinks Facebook Group), but there aren't many websites devoted to outdoor hockey beyond gear likes ourselves and pond hockey tournaments. This site is new to 2022 and we reached out to Mike to hear about the site from the founder himself:
Mike started Outside Hockey to help hockey families easily create amazing hockey experiences at home. Growing up in Southern California where ice time was scarce, afternoons and weekends were spent finding the best neighborhood game for roller or street hockey. Now as a parent in the Northeast, he is part of a community of backyard ice rink builders. Great players have a hockey stick in their hands more often, which is easiest to do when the hockey is right in your backyard. Outside Hockey has information, resources, and products for those families that can’t stop playing the game.
Those are our top five for 2022, but there's other great ones out there. Tell us some of your favorites in the comments below. We'd be pumped to reach out and share their story, and maybe even collaborate in the future. While the small business hockey community may be spread out across the industry and geographically, we're always here to support each other and grow the game.