Interview with Michael Vartan of Alias on ABC

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

Last week we had a quick chat with the Pittsburgh Penguins Pascal Dupuis. The week before it was the first in our recurring series of chats with USHL player Todd Skirving. Today we’re throwing a little bit of a curveball at you.


Michael Vartan is a bigtime Hollywood actor. If you are a male anywhere between the ages of, say, 20-50 years old, you probably watched the show “Alias” because Jennifer Garner used to jump around and look ridiculously sexy while doing so. I will readily admit having a huge crush on her back then. Well, Michael Vartan was the lead actor on Alias, playing Michael Vaughn, Garner’s partner and romantic love interest in the mysterious Government entity of ass-kickers. Since Alias, Vaughn hasn’t rested on his laurels – he’s been on several series, including Big Shots and more recently, playing a doctor on TNT’s “Hawthorne.” Vartan was also in the GREAT movie Columbiana (if you haven’t seen it, SEE IT!).

Vartan is a HUGE hockey fan and a hockey player as well, so we thought it would be interesting to hear from him about his playing background, his love for the game and how an unlikely French-born Hollywood actor found the game of hockey. He promised me that his L.A. Kings would take good care of the Cup before it comes back to Boston next year. I do appreciate that very much. Here he is drinking from the Cup in LA a few weeks ago!

And we’re off…..

1. You have an interesting background in terms of where you grew up – fairly non-traditional hockey markets. How did you get interested in hockey? 
I grew up in Normandy, France – not exactly a hockey hot-bed, but i lived about 30 miles from the team (Rouen Dragons) that won the French league 4 years in a row in the ’90s, so there was a little interest there and when i moved to the U.S., I became obsessed with the sport. I went to my first Kings game when i was 6, they lost to the NorthStars 5-4 in OT – and that was it….hooked for life!

 

2. A lot of hockey fans – and particularly players – only pray at the church of hockey. I’m sure you’re a FAN of other sports, but do you play any other sports?

 

I was scouted by a Paris’s professional soccer team (PSG) when I was 14, I play a lot of tennis and golf, too. Pretty much anything with a ball, puck or net and i’m in.

 

3. Here’s a strange question – do you ever apply anything you’ve learned as a hockey player to your job of acting?
One of the greatest things about our sport is the players attitudes. These kids mostly come from small towns, humble families and take the word ‘team” to levels far beyond any other sport does. I suppose I try and bring a “team” attitude when I work, understanding we all have a job to do, and no one is more or less important than anyone else.

 

4. What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?
When Mike Richards blew up Burrows in the first round… not gonna lie, gave me a little chub.

 

5. Given we’re a gear shop, it’s time for a couple of gear questions. What do you currently use for stick, gloves and helmet?
Easton Stealth RS 100 flex (Doughty pro stock), Easton EQ Pro Gloves, Bauer helmet, don’t remember the model… it’s old.

 

6. What piece of hockey gear are you most picky about? Or do you just play the game without getting too involved with the specifics of gear?
Stick and skates for sure! I switched from a P91 curve to the curve used by Doughty, I have hands of stone so I need all the help i can get! I like a really flat radius, mine is 13 and I usually get 1/2″ hollow or 5/8″ in the summer if the ice is softer. I tried the flat bottom V, didn’t really feel a difference so just went back to normal.

 

7. Given you are a public figure, has anyone ever chirped you on the ice about “taking falls” or anything acting related?
Not that I can remember, i’m not really good enough a player or actor for anyone to care!

 

8. Were you aware of the movie “Goon” or did you try to get involved? 
I saw a preview for “Goon” and immediately wondered why I wasn’t up for one of the parts, turns out I was unavailable because I was shooting “Hawthorne” for TNT so I didn’t get a crack at it…next time.

 

9. What’s your favorite hockey movie?  
I have two. “Slapshot” of course, for the story and characters, it’s a classic! And Miracle, probably the most realistic portrayal of sport i’ve ever seen. Not sure if it’s true or not, but I read that they cast hockey players that could act, as opposed to actors who could play hockey. You apparantly had to have college-level skills to even be considered for the movie. The hockey scenes in that movie are the best, those kids could all really play.

Interview with Pascal Dupuis of The Pittsburgh Penguins

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

As we march through the offseason, here’s another NHL player interview for you. Pascal Dupuis is currently a forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins and rides shotgun alongside none other than Sidney Crosby (when Crosby is healthy). Born in 1979 up in Laval, Quebec, Dupuis is another one of those feel good stories you run across with certain NHL players – he went undrafted, but ended up being signed by the Minnesota WIld and played his first NHL game with the Wild during the 2000-2001 season.

Minnesota’s talent evaluators couldn’t have been happier when he notched 20 goals and 28 assists in his second full season in Minnesota. Dupuis then went on to play for the New York Rangers briefly, the Atlanta Thrashers and then, during the 2007-2008 season, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where his game has flourished and he won a Cup in 2008-2009. This past season (11-12) was his personal best, with 25 goals and 34 assists.

We asked Pascal these five questions…..hope you enjoy them!

1. What is one thing that the general public would never guess about you?

That I used to be a defenseman until midget AAA!
2. Being a gear store, we are well aware that all athletes are different with how they choose their gear – which piece of equipment are you the pickiest about?

Definitely my skates. My summer house up here in Quebec is close to Bauer factory, so I make a couple trips every summer to make sure my skates are all dialed up for the season!

3. Tell us what has changed the most for you regarding hockey equipment since you were a kid?

Sticks for sure! When I broke into the NHL, I was playing with a wood stick! The good ol’ Sherwood PMP was my go to stick back then!

4. During the offseason, are you given a very specific workout program by the team, or is it just basic guidance and it’s up to you to structure the specifics?

I have been working out with the same strength coach for the past 17 years, his name is Stephane Dube and I always use specific training put in place by him.  (ed. note: more on Dube here).

5. Up to now, what is your most memorable goal that you’ve scored as a player?

I would have to say my double overtime goal against Ottawa in game 6 last year,  we were up 3-2 in that series and that goal I scored won the series for us!

Pure Hockey note: here’s the goal:

Thanks to Pascal Dupuis for taking to time to have a quick chat with us! Stay tuned as we interview more professional hockey players during the offseason.


Interview with Todd Skirving of the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

During the offseason, we here at Pure Hockey are still uber-focused on hockey equipment. The season truly never ends for us. While less hockey is certainly being played during the summer months, we are focused entirely on getting ready for the next season; what will we buy? what is the demand for? what changes do we make to the stores or the websites? how will we advertise? We ask oursleves these and a truckload of other questions. But the offseason also allows us to go out and talk to players who are too busy during the season to do so.

Our interview today is with Todd Skirving. He’s not an NHL player or a professional hockey player. Yet. Todd is a 20-year old kid who plays for Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL, one of the elite breeding grounds for the NHL and for NCAA Division 1 schools. How impactful has the USHL been, you ask? Well, a total of 28 USHL players were selected in last year’s 2011 NHL Entry Draft and more than 165 of the USHL’s alumni are currently under NHL contract.

One of our goals with this blog is not only to review hockey product for you, but for you to also gain an understanding of the sacrifice, culture, hard work and yes, fun, that goes into being a hockey player. This is the first of a series of interviews that we’ll have with Todd as we follow up through the offseason and through the course of a USHL hockey season. Todd, in turn, is well spoken, educated and clearly is a person who knows what we wants. We sincerely hope you enjoy the series….here’s part one:

1.  As a 20 year old playing in the USHL, hockey is obviously one of the main priorities in your life and takes up a great deal of time. Now that it’s the offseason, what are some of your hobbies and what do you generally do?

For sure hockey is definitely one of my top priorities all year ’round.  It’s not just a way of living, it’s also like a job.  You have to put continuous time and work into bettering yourself not only as a player, but also a person. I find that the way you carry yourself off the ice leads into how you perform on the ice, whether it is your determination towards general tasks or your tenacity towards wanting it more than the guy beside you.  Now that it’s the offseason, it gives me the chance to improve my skills and strengths and better myself in different assets of my game.  The offseason is also a chance to relax and reflect on the past season.  I encourage all players to get away from the rink and the gym once the season is at an end.  It’s healthy to give the body a rest and let it rejuvenate after a full, gritty season of hockey.  It will only benefit you when you get back after it in the weight room and out on the ice.  Personally, now that we’re midway through summer, I like to get a well-balanced healthy breakfast in me and also a lunch before I head to the gym.  I train in the early afternoon with a few of our local pro and college guys.  It’s nice to train with guys above my level as it pushes me to be the best I can be and also gives me footsteps I can follow.  They’re already at a level where my standards and goals are set for.  I do, however, like to hang with the guys, catch a local baseball game or head out to the lake to do some fishing.  I take the chance to visit with friends and family and let the body and mind recuperate.

 

2.  What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on the ice?

I don’t have too many embarrassing moments, but during my senior year of high school when I was playing for the Thunder Bay Kings (AAA), I broke my stick on a play.  I went to the bench and received a stick from another player, only to find out that it was right handed and not left!  I picked the puck up from the half wall and only then did I realize it. Once I got closer to the net, I just shot a backhander, thinking it would be my best opportunity to make something out of nothing.  As embarrassing as it was, it ended up going in!  Not so much embarrassing I guess, but definitely a funny highlight in my career that I look back on.

 

3.  A lot of hockey players can be wild and adventurous… Is there anything wild and crazy that you have always wanted to do at least once in your lifetime?

Yeah there are a few things I have wanted to do.  I’m not the biggest fan of heights, so you won’t catch me riding around the roller coaster at any Six Flags Parks, but I would however, love to take another ride up Toronto’s CN Tower.  They have recently added the CN Tower Edge walk where you walk around the top brim of the structure while being strapped in by a few belts.  It’s about 356m/ 1,168ft above the ground and about a 30 min walk around, so I’m sure that would be quite the experience and a view from up above!  It would be a huge adrenaline rush for me from doing something like that.  I’m also a big animal fan –  I would like the chance to be around a tiger, which is my favourite animal.  Just to be around one for a bit would be a cool opportunity.  Something else I would like to experience outside of hockey would be to swim with the dolphins.  I have had many friends that have experienced such a thrill, but it’s something I’d love to do and I think it would be a fun getaway and surreal experience.

 

4.  What is one thing that people would never guess about you, just from going and watching you play hockey?

There are a few things I could touch on here, but I would have to say my game day routines – or the fact that I am very superstitious.  It’s not even just on game day, but also in the days leading up to a game.  The way I prepare myself is different obviously from what others do, but in my case or even last year the guys saw it as quite superstitious.  It’s less superstition and more of just a routine for me now.  I used to call them superstitions, but I have carried almost all of them with me for the past several years now that it really is becoming a routine and just an everyday thing for me.  I really do have some crazy and funny superstitions.  However, on days where I might forget something, it won’t get to a point where it affects my one ice play.   It is almost like another way to push my game to another level because I feel I have to prove the “superstition” wrong.  So I would have to say I’m a pretty superstitious guy if one didn’t know me.  My team and fans as well could probably agree that it’s almost like another side of me when it comes to something like this!

 

5.  Being a gear store, we are well aware that all athletes are different with how they choose their gear… Which piece of equipment are you the pickiest about when playing and why? 

Growing up over the years it sure has changed in what equipment I am pickiest about.  Starting out, when it didn’t even matter what you wore, to now having sponsors for equipment and having it profiled to meet my (and other athlete’s) needs. I can’t pick just one here so I’d have to go with skates and shoulder pads.  With today’s technology in building skates, players can get their full output and power within their stride.  I like my skates to have a solid and comfortable fit.  I have wide feet, so I go with a wider boot.  I get my blades profiled at an 11’ radius and ¾ skate sharpening, which allows me to stay on top of the ice more and not dig into the ice, thus keeping my stride quick and powerful.  I recently got a pair of the new TotalOne NXG skates.  I went up from the previous TotalOne’s as it is a skate that I can literally put on and go.  I do, however, also get my skates molded so it gives me that nice tight and comfortable fit on my feet.  Another piece of equipment I’m picky about is my shoulder pads.  I like the smaller, tighter fit when it comes to shoulder pads.  I don’t like them bulky and that’s why I wore the Bauer Vapor XXXX shoulder pads this past year.  I have looked into new pads for the upcoming season and I like the new Bauer Nexus shoulder pad model that Bauer is bringing along.  It’s a nice, snug fit that isn’t too bulky at all.  It’s like a blast from the past, too, with the colours and the way it’s designed.  It looks like the new equipment is bringing back styles that were in the older days of hockey and it’s really starting to grow on young athletes and even the pros.

 

6.  We assume you live with a host family during the season – what is it like adjusting to that type of situation?

Yes, I live with a housing family back in Sioux Falls.  Usually for the first day and night it’s a little different from what you have back home.  You get the tour of the house, the rundown of the rules and you usually meet your roommate and siblings for the season.  I can say from experience it has been fantastic.  Other players should be so lucky to get billet parents like mine.  You have to go into it with an open mind and be open and accepting towards the family as they are of you.  They’re doing what they’re doing because they love to take players in and they do a great job at it.  I was fortunate to live with a housing family this past year who always went above and beyond.  They were always there for my roommate and I, cooking us 3 meals a day and much more.  When they had to work overtime or when they wouldn’t be home for dinner, they would have something cooking up for us in the oven when we got home from hockey and workouts.  I think it’s great for hockey players that get a chance to live with a housing family.  I think it gives us the opportunity to learn different values and life lessons that build and shape who we are as people.  It’s a great learning curve for young athletes – they want you to succeed just as much as your real parents do.  They’re only going to assist you along into your journey and future endeavours!


Pure Hockey Commercials Part IV

By Jeff Copetas, VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

Our last post provided some insight into how we, um, “casted” the commercials and included interviews with the “actors,” who actually turned out to be GREAT actors even though they weren’t actually actors. Did that make sense? Either way, today, in our fourth and final installment of a look behind the curtain at the making of the Pure Hockey TV commercials, we’ll look at the day we shot the Brad Marchand commercial and also have a quick chat with the man behind the vision, Director and Devils fan Rodrigo Lopez.

We were originally scheduled to shoot the Brad Marchand commercial on September 13, exactly one day after we shot the David Clarkson commercial down in New Jersey. There was just one problem: Marchand hadn’t signed a contract yet with the Bruins. So during the David Clarkson shoot, I found myself on the phone with Brad’s agent, trying to figure out what was going on. Then I went to Boston.com and saw trade rumors. We had a decision to make – spend the money on a TV production shoot for a player who might not play in Boston or roll the dice and shoot the commercial and hope Marchand signed? What would you do? He was skating with the team, so that was a good sign, right? Despite that, we opted out of shooting the commercial the next day – too risky.

The problem with that – we’d have to find a way to schedule Brad during the NHL season and let me tell you, that wasn’t easy. At all. Not only are you trying to coordinate the schedules of a TV production team at Neoscape, you’re also trying to schedule the two main actors and THEN Brad’s schedule. We had a few hit-and-misses and finally, finally, finally were able to shoot the commercial on Sunday, November 13th, the night after the Bruins played Buffalo and now known as the game where Milan Lucic ran over Ryan Miller.

All well and good. Most of us arrived at the Pure Hockey Braintree store at about 9am and it wasn’t long before we were shooting the first few scenes. In both TV shoots, we tried to get as much of the non-Marchand/Clarkson video shot before the player actually got there. So the scenes where Lou and Brian (store manager and assistant manager) are talking to each other were shot in the morning and the scenes with Brad were shot completely seperate, despite the fact that the commercial seems to flow pretty well. Tribute to Neoscape there (and all other TV production firms, I suppose this happens every day).

So Brad arrives at about 2pm and we usher him right into the office for prep and to sign a few things for the store. Keep in mind that we are contracted with Brad for only a few hours, so we wanted to keep his coming into Braintree pretty quiet to avoid too much fandom and to get our commercial shot. The first shot we did with Brad was the helmet scene, which seems to be people’s favorite, in general. Originally the helmet scene was a little more friendly. The way Neoscape had story-boarded this, Brad was to give the customer a few taps, fairly hard – and that’s how the first few shots went. Originally it was Brad giving him a pat on the head in quick succession – taptaptap. But it wasn’t enough. And it wasn’t hard enough. So we did another couple of takes with the taps in quick succession.

But something was missing. So I asked Rodrigo and Brad to slow down the hits, space them out a little, make ‘em a little harder, then have a slightly odd pause – and then a final WHACK! That is what you see in the final version. Good stuff!

It wasn’t long, though, before word got out about Brad being in our store. In this immediate news world, people were posting to Twitter and Facebook that he was at the Braintree store shooting a commercial and soon enough, we had small crowds around us during each scene. Manageable, but a little distracting. We expected it on a Sunday in our busiest store, so it wasn’t a huge deal and Brad couldn’t have been more accomodating and patient with people. He signed a lot of stuff, posed for a lot of pictures and was very friendly.

We finished up about 6pm and that was that! The commercial came out awesome and the general public seems to have agreed!

One other funny little story – Brad hadn’t heard the comments that Ryan Miller made about Lucic, so we showed him the video in the office. He got a kick out of it for sure.

Finally, our verbosity about these commercials wouldn’t be complete without some input from the Director of both shoots, Neoscape’s Rodrigo Lopez. I haven’t done many TV commercial shoots, but I can tell you without pause that Rodrigo and the rest of his team were instrumental – no, crucial – in making sure these things went off without a hitch. To a person, the Neoscape crew was friendly, patient, fun and most importantly, super-prepared and focused. It was an absolute pleasure working with these guys. Here’s a quickie interview with Rodrigo:

So you directed all three Pure Hockey commercials over the past few months. Besides the total, complete, life-changing thrill of working with a company like Pure Hockey (ahem), what was the most enjoyable part of the process?

Well, there’s all the fame, fortune and recognition, which has been somewhat life-changing. But in all seriousness, what I enjoyed the most was watching the plan come together during shoot days. We always like to prepare just enough so that you leave room for spontaneity, particularly when there isn’t any time to rehearse. That approach definitely helped with these three spots.

Were these commercials materially different in any way than others that you’ve done in the “normal” course of your work?

These commercials were definitely a departure from the work I do on a daily basis at Neoscape, where I direct a lot of CG and VFX work for marketing films. We do a lot with live action and actors, but here the pressure was definitely on to direct spots that not only had to stand on their own, but be funny as well. We had good material to work with! Plus, we do our best work under pressure so this was a welcome challenge.

Were you surprised by how well our two store employees (Lou and Brian) were on camera? I mean, we basically had no cast for these things until the day of the first commercial!

I thought Marchand and Clarkson were incredibly funny, each in their own way, but I can’t imagine these spots with anyone other than Lou and Brian. They were awesome! When they first read for us on the morning of the Clarkson shoot down in Fairfield, I knew we had our guys. They looked like they had just walked off the set of Clerks – another Jersey masterpiece. I remember thinking to myself as we were wrapping up the shoot in New Jersey, “we need to get these guys up to Boston for the shoot at the Braintree store.” Luckily Jeff was able to make it work.

It’s a small sample size, but what were your thoughts and impressions re: working with professional athletes?

I’m not a big celebrity hound, but the few times I’ve been around athletes, and hockey players in particular, I’ve found them to be very humble and altogether normal. Clarkson and Marchand were no different. As a Devils fan I was excited to meet David Clarkson. I’ve been watching him drop gloves on TV for years but in person he was very down to earth and a super nice guy. Heck, I even had to show him how hard to check one of the employees during the shoot because he was afraid of hurting the guy! And what can you say about Brad Marchand? Everyone saw what he did in the playoffs during the Bruins Cup run last summer, and then for several weeks after that around every bar in Boston. I was even wondering if he’d show up to the shoot shirtless (he didn’t). On the day of his shoot in Braintree there were a ton of customers in the store, and he managed to not only put in one heck of a performance for the cameras, but also found time to sign plenty of autographs.

What was the most difficult part of the shoots, in your eyes?

I can’t think of anything that was particularly difficult, but shoots are always a bit nerve wracking. For the two player spots we were limited to a few hours with the talent – that’s where planning and a great crew make all the difference. I can say that often times what makes a shoot difficult is an over anxious clients, but working with Jeff/Pure Hockey was totally different. We collaborated very seamlessly during the creative and planning stages, and he had complete confidence in us once we went into the shoots. He even delivered his own award-winning performance as “the customer” in the Clarkson spot.

You think the Devils have ANY chance this year?

I really hope so. As a fan, I used to get a lot of mileage out of the fact that they won 3 cups in 8 years. But now that’s quickly becoming a distant memory. Plus, Brodeur needs one more cup to end his Hall of Fame career in style.