Pure Hockey’s Olympic Hockey Preview

It’s been 3 days since we’ve seen a professional hockey game and if you’re like me, you are losing your mind at this point. Well tomorrow is the day that one of the best tournaments in the game begins. We decided to run through some of the contenders one-by-one.

Team Canada

We’ll begin with defending gold medal winners, Team Canada. Their depth is so ridiculous that we are pretty sure that you could put together a gold medal team out of the Canadian players who DIDN’T make the team! Ah, but let’s focus on the guys that will be in Sochi.

When Matt Duchene and Marty St. Louis are your, um “extra forwards,” you are in pretty darn good shape. No team can truly cover the loss of an injured Steven Stamkos, but if any team in Sochi can minimize the impact, Canada can. This is an extremely well-rounded forward group with high level talent across the board, led by captain Sidney Crosby. Combine that with some of the best two-way forwards in the world like Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews and then throw in Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Jamie Benn – and you’ve got some of the most talented grit you’ll find anywhere. That’s not even mentioning some of the best shooters around in Patrick Sharp, Corey Perry and Jeff Carter. Not bad, eh? With 7 of 14 returning from the 2010 games, plus a handful of NHL teammate pairs playing together, the acclimation period should be short.

On the point, they are led by Shea Weber and are arguably the most solid from top to bottom, with a lot of speed and a lot more power. The biggest question mark comes in goal. The frontrunners to start are Roberto Luongo and Carey Price, both with well-documented struggles in pressure situations. Price has the edge this season based on their NHL stats and play, but Luongo did backstop Canada to the 2010 gold medal.

olympic 2010

Team USA

To say there was controversy about some of the player choices would be an understatement, as star players like Bobby Ryan and Kyle Okposo will be watching from home. The defending Silver Medalists who lost in OT of the final game in 2010 made some interesting decisions going into Sochi, electing for a bit more brute force and grit instead of building a speed first, skill team.

Not to say the US lacks skill players. Names like Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Zach Parise come to mind when talking about some of the best talents in the tournament. But it feels to me like many of the US forwards would choose to go through, rather than around the opposing defenseman. On the larger Olympic ice sheet, we have to question whether that type of game can really win out. The United States D core looks solid. Comprised of a good mix of veteran presence who can really bring the boom, like Ryan Suter and Brooks Orpik, as well as some young, quick puck movers like Justin Faulk and Kevin Shattenkirk.

The biggest advantage for the USA comes in the crease. Although none may be considered the best tendy in the games, all are in the conversation, giving the US arguably the strongest, most stable goaltending trio from top-to-bottom. Jonathan Quick, who in recent years has solidified himself as one of the NHL’s top goalies; Ryan Miller, the tournament’s reigning MVP and Jimmy Howard the backstop for perennial playoff contender Detroit. Our feeling is the round robin will see all 3 goalies get a shot, with coach Dan Bylsma riding the hot hand through the knockout rounds.

Team Russia

Another potential contender for this year’s Olympic hockey is host Team Russia. Russians will be proud to know they have already one the gold medal for team with the most ‘Alex’s’ coming in with a staggering eight of them – that’s gotta be a coach’s nightmare.

Long known as a highly skilled team, this iteration will be no different. Led by captain Pavel Datsyuk, arguably the best offensive and defensive forward on the planet. Datsyuk’s Olympics looked to be in jeopardy due to injury, but he’s now practicing with the team in Sochi, so it seems unlikely he will sit out. Add to that Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Vlad Tarasenko and Evgeni Malkin and you have a pretty explosive offense with those players alone. Oh yeah, did you forget about former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk? He’ll be back on the world’s hockey radar for the first time since ‘retiring’ from the league and opting to play in the KHL. For being a quick, skilled team up front, they sure can play physical on the back end. Guy’s like Slava Voynov, Alexei Yemelin and Fedor Tyutin can certainly throw the body and bring some edge to Russia’s game.

Russia’s goaltending is nothing to scoff at, but the play of its two NHL tenders has been far from impressive this season. Both Semyon Varlomov and Sergei Bobrovsky have spent the season hovering around a 2.50 GAA and 0.920 save percentage, not bad but not great. Each, however, are capable of stealing the tournament.

Team Sweden

Henrik Lundquist. Is that enough of an analysis? Guy lives for international competition, remember when he came out of relative obscurity, being an NHL rookie, went 5-1 and led Sweden to Gold in 2006?

Sweden enters the tournament as one of the favorites. They join Team USA and Team Canada as the only squads comprised completely of NHL players. The always smooth-skating Swedish team is led upfront by Henrik Zetterberg, Alex Steen, Gabe Landeskog and Daniel Sedin. Tons of speed and even more skill. A pretty versatile defense core splitting between guys like Niklas Kronwall who can absolutely lay guys out, then on the other end of the spectrum there’s Erik Karlsson; one of the elite offensive defenseman in the world.

In net, back to my original argument… Henrik Lundquist

Team Finland

Finland isn’t a highly touted team coming into the games, but they are definitely what we’d consider a dark horse team who, at the very least has the potential to knock around the standings a bit and is one of the most consistent medaling teams in the history of the games.

Led by Olli Jokinen, Jussi Jokinen and Teemu Selanne (playing in his record tying 6th Olympic games), there is no question that Finland has some talent upfront, but not as impressive a roster as some other nations. On the blue line, veteran Kimmo Timonen is the leader, along with Sami Salo and Pens impressive youngster Olli Maatta adding stability.

In goal, Finland is another team in the conversation for the best top to bottom goaltending trio. All three having proven themselves in the NHL, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask will be formidable in the Finnish crease. Rask looks to be the leader out of the gate to start, although he has had some tough games for the Bruins in the last few weeks. With Niemi having won a Stanley cup in Chicago and Rask having led the Bruins to the cup finals last season, both have built a reputation for stepping up in pressure situations.

My bold predictions:

lundquist oly

Gold Medal Game:

Sweden 5 vs Canada 3

Bronze Medal Game:

USA 4 vs Russia 1

How about you? What do you think? Settle in, it’s gonna be a fun ride…..


Team Canada Olympic Hockey Gear Breakdown

Canadian olympic gear infographic

Our exploration into what brand Olympic hockey players are wearing continues! Today we are taking a look at the full roster from our friends to the north. Team Canada.

Oh, Canada

Overall, Bauer once again leads the way on Team Canada, with 47.7% of the gear being worn in Sochi, over 2.5 times more than second place Easton who came in at 18.2% of the total gear worn. In hockey skates, Bauer led the way with a dominant 72.7% share, followed by Reebok at a distant 18.2% and CCM, worn by 9.1% of players.  Sticks are a lot closer but Bauer still takes the gold here at 36.4%. Easton is right there, though, at 31.8%, while Reebok and Warrior come in at 18.2% and 13.6% respectively.

Jumping to gloves, once again there is a more even spread, but Bauer leads again at 31.8%. There is, however, six brands of gloves represented here, the most of any category. In 2nd was Easton, followed by Reebok, Warrior and CCM in that order. Winnwell came in last, with one pair, the gloves Rick Nash will be wearing during the games. Finally in helmets, Bauer came in with 50% of the total, followed by CCM at 22.7%, Easton at 18.2% and Reebok at 9.1%.

Goal-line to Goal-line Gear

Looking to positional breakdowns, among forwards Bauer again takes the majority, garnering 53.5% of players. In second place came Reebok at 21.4% followed up by CCM 12.5%; Easton 8.9%; Warrior and Winnwell both tying with 1.8%.  On defense, the battle was a lot closer, but surprise – Bauer still won with 37.5%. Easton almost caught them, equipping 34.4% of Canada’s hockey backline. Warrior will be providing 15.6% of their gear while Reebok and CCM both finish with 6.3% of players.

In net, goal gear was split into Pads, glove, blocker, sticks and skates and then totaled up per brand. Reebok absolutely dominates, at 60% of the 3 Canadian goalies gear. CCM came in with 33.3% of gear, while Graf finished with 6.7%. We will have many more of these gear breakdowns leading up to the games so keep checking back and click here to download the full size version of Team Canada Olympic Hockey Gear Breakdown!!


USA Olympic Hockey Team Gear Breakdown

USA Olympic gear infographic

So it’s almost Olympic hockey time and we are preparing to watch one of the best tournaments in the game of hockey.

We decided to take a look at the games the only way we know how – through the lens of gear. We researched all the big name Olympic hockey rosters, including the USA, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, breaking it down by what brand each player wears. We looked at the four main categories for players – skates, sticks, gloves and helmets.

USA, USA, USA

Our first installment focuses on the USA olympic hockey team. Bauer leads the way in all categories except for goalies, carrying 58% of the total gear worn.  This isn’t too surprising with the recent release of the APX2 skates and stick, with the Vapor line perennially being among the most popular around the sport.

In skates, Bauer is the choice for an impressive 80% of American Olympians, while four other competitors are tied for second with only 5% each.

In sticks, Bauer tied with Easton with 8 players out of a possible 22 using their products, each doubling Warrior, the next closest brand.

In gloves, Bauer again takes a hefty lead with 54% of players wearing their mitts. Between the new Nexus, the TotalOne NXG and the Vapor models – APX and some early APX2’s, Bauer gloves are hugely popular. Warrior and Easton put up respectable numbers in gloves with 22% and 14%, respectively.

Helmets are another area where Bauer has created a stronghold, with 59% of the Americans wearing their lids. Easton was second with 18% of players. We were a little surprised that CCM came in so low among the Americans.

Gear by Position

We also decided to split it up by position. For forwards, Bauer again led the charge with 47% of all forwards gear, followed by Easton and Warrior at 18% each. Reebok, CCM, Sher-Wood, Graf and VH Footwear all finished with fewer than 5%. Among defenseman however, it was much less spread out. Bauer will be equipping 75% of the USA backend, followed by Easton at 19%, while CCM and Warrior tied with 3%.

Between the pipes, its all about Vaughn, with all three of the US goalies wearing their pads and helping Vaughn with 53% of the total gear in net. Bauer and Warrior were up next tied with 13% while Reebok, CCM, and VH Footwear with 7% each.

Keep an eye out for some more teams coming in the next couple weeks and click here to download this in full size format! 


Work Life at Pure Hockey

By Jeff Copetas

VP of Marketing & E-Commerce

I want to tell you a little bit about working here. Around this time each year, when the leaves are almost done falling and the initial biting winds start stinging our faces, things get busy. Really busy. Really, really busy. As a result, we often find ourselves scrambling around the building trying to get all of our work done – and we all have a unified goal – to get as much stuff into our stores for the holidays so our customers can find what they are looking for. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Just get the product into stores. But it’s so much more than you think – and we won’t bore you with the details about how we approach such things. Just know that with 13 stores across five states, it’s not as simple as one would think. How many of these should go here? Any why? And when?

Anyway, as any retailer will tell you, the holiday is just a mad rush, starting NOW. With that said, not only do we scramble to do our own jobs here at the office, we are often called upon to help other people and other departments get their job done, too. Again, it’s an all-out push to get our stores in as good a shape as possible so you, customers, can find the right gift for your hockey player. Sometimes doing these “other jobs” is interesting and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes not.

But I will tell you this much, for example:  dropping a person in Marketing into the warehouse for a few hours makes you appreciate and better understand the complexities and functions of a warehouse that has to feed 13 stores. Or dropping a person in the corporate office into the shipping department for half a day opens your eyes to what works and what doesn’t. What else? How about spending the day working in one of our actual stores? We do that as well, during our annual Tent Sale.

In the end, doing other people’s jobs is beneficial in so many ways. It makes you understand your whole company better and it makes you a better employee because you can see through the eyes of what some of your co-workers see every day. How is that not beneficial for your own position? As a Marketing guy, I can stand in a store and gather some insight into the shopping customer. As a guy who runs the website, I can work in the warehouse and see the process of shipping our product, how it looks, how it’s packaged, etc, etc. Insanely helpful.

So yeah, sometimes the work isn’t what you want to do, but you do it. Last night almost the whole corporate staff was out in the warehouse from 5-9pm, applying pricing tags and “splitting” product into bins for our stores. Hard work, but helpful in making us better employees and teammates. A lot of us here played competitive sports, be it high school all the way up to the division 1 or pro levels. It can be a competitive workplace environment, but most often it reminds me of teammates on all the teams I played on growing up. We all have different background, different roles, different ways for which we are judged. Nobody is exempt – our CEO was right out there with us last night. He, too, helps in shipping during the holidays, in the warehouse and the stores. That means a lot.

But put it all together and you have a team. A hard-working, serious, goofy, loud or quiet set of people – all with one common goal. And that’s cool.