Strolling along 6th avenue in Manhattan last week after sampling some of your fine American food at McDonald’s, I suddenly spotted something a Canadian never expects to see whilst traveling in the US: hockey jerseys. Across the street from me was a large store window adorned in jerseys and other hockey schwag. It was in fact the recently opened NHL Store.
I drew near, filed with anticipation. Dreams of NHL gear glory swam in my head. (Habs condoms! Habs shoehorns! Habs prostitutes! Bettman dart boards!) In my wallet was a wad of greenbacks grown fat thanks to the raging Canadian loonie.
And so I ventured inside to gawk and spend at the league’s beacon of retail.
The store is reasonably large, very bright and shiny, and (contrary to the above image) sparsely populated with customers. Hey, it’s like the Devils’ new arena! I also found it to be somewhat lacking in merchandise. I asked the guy at the counter if they had any luggage tags with a Habs logo and he told me, “Whatever we have is out here. We haven’t been restocked since we opened a few weeks ago, so were waiting for more stuff.”
Yeah, that sounds about right for the NHL.
If you wanted Rangers or Islanders stuff, you were in good shape. No surprise there. But merch for the other teams was hit and miss. Strangely, they had lots of Winnipeg Jets stuff. Was this Bettman’s idea of grave dancing? Not only will we take away your team, we’ll make money off its logo for years to come. Suck it, Winnipeg!
Another thing: they can’t put your name and number of choice on a jersey. Seriously, what the fuck? But there’s a nice, big selection of non-NHL Reebok shoes and fitness gear! And a kiosk where you can customize shoes with team logos and colors. Oh wait, that was just for display. It’s not working yet. But it looks like fun! Yay Reebok!
As I was talking to the sales clerk, another guy strolled in and asked for some Hartford Whalers gear. Sorry, no. But do you want a Jets t-shirt?
One thing I’ll give them credit for: there wasn’t much Leafs gear. At one point I accidentally brushed my hand up against a Leafs t-shirt and had to wipe it off on a Flames jersey. Sorry, Calgary. You deserved better.
Up above the retail floor I spotted a small radio booth. I was told that the new Bettman XM satellite radio show will be taped in that booth. I encourage all New Yorkers to head to the store at taping time and pelt the glass booth with Canadian loonies, Jets merchandise, and your best insults.
By this point, the Hartford guy, sales clerk (who actually knew something about hockey!), and me began to talk of Bettman. I said we could support a couple more Canadian teams. The Hartford guy said it was stupid to put a team in Phoenix. I called Bettman an unkind name.
“Bettman’s in here all the time,” said the sales clerk.
I looked around, hoping for a peek at the regal Bettman beak.
“A woman was talking about him, saying bad stuff, and Bettman walked in right behind her,” he told us. “The woman didn’t say anything.”
But all was not lost: I found a nice Habs hat and picked up two Senators luggage tags for the soon to be father-in-law. Should you ever get to the NHL store, tell ‘em I want my fucking Habs luggage tags — and to turn that radio booth into a Bettman dunk tank.