Interview With Rob Howland, Pure Hockey General Merchandise Manager

We’ve now been around for 20 years and for a niche retail company like us, that’s pretty darn good, if we may say so ourselves. There is only one person who has been employed here for all twenty of the years we’ve been in operation and his name is Rob Howland. We thought it would be fun to ask him a few questions about the days of Pure Hockey yore and how the company has changed. Here we go…

You were basically one of Pure Hockey’s first employees. Tell us about that first store, and what it was like?

The first store was in Worcester, MA 20 years ago and the original name of the company was KC Sports. The store was no bigger than 800 sq. feet and the only place we could put sticks was on the ceiling!  There was something hanging down from the ceiling that we were able to lay the sticks on, so we did it!  We moved the store across the street onto Gold Star Blvd in Worcester, to a 1700 sq foot store and that is when the name changed to Pure Hockey.  (Ed. Note: we tried desperately to find pictures but were unsuccessful)

How did you end up at Pure Hockey? What had you intended to do coming out of college?

I started working at Pure Hockey part time (just 1 day a week) to help with the goalie customers.  I had a friend that was working there at the time, and he recommend that they hire me.  What I intended to do coming out of college – most people would not believe.  Both of my parents grew up on large dairy farms in central Massachusetts – and the land is still being farmed today.  I went to school for Animal Science, and my intention was to continue with the Dairy Farm.

What is your role today at Pure Hockey?

My role these days at Pure Hockey is the General Merchandise Manager, which means I oversee all of the products that enter the stores and/or web for all aspects of our business, including hockey, goalie, lacrosse, apparel, and accessories.

Are there any customers of that first store that you still see today in any of our current stores?

I do see customers from the original stores now and then, but you know you are getting older when you are seeing the kids that came to the stores back then….with their kids! The cool thing is that they have passed on their love of this great sport to the next generation.

What do you think has changed the most in the hockey equipment business since 1994?

Technology in the products.  When I started, there was not a tremendous amount of technology and things really changed when Nike entered hockey.  They forced the companies to really step up and start creating better, lighter and more protective products.  The Research & Development that has taken place in the past 15 years is just awesome.  Having new products hit the market place every 1-2 years with new foams, materials, and ideas was a huge change.  The other huge change is the introduction of the composite sticks.  This was something that took a while to get started and once it did – it exploded.

What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?

I laughed pretty hard at a golf tournament I played in last Sunday.  But a hard laugh would have to be with my kids.  My 5 year old daughter says something every day that makes me stop and look away laughing because I am not supposed to be laughing. At least she shouldn’t see me laughing, but I am not sure where she comes up with some of the things she says.

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