Have you ever watched a good athlete do something as simple as tie their shoe? There’s a certain grace and fluidity that your average Joe just doesn’t have. Pro athletes take that up a notch. It’s like they have an extra sense. Michael Jordan used to say when he was playing, he didn’t even have to think- it was that natural.
Mike Green wasn’t Michael Jordan, or Bobby Orr for that matter, but he was on path to be the next Paul Coffey. Like Green, Coffey played defense with the added moves and instincts of a forward. Some 30 years later, Coffey’s stick—the Sherwood Feather-Lite—with his signature deep curve, is still popular among the beer-league crowd who watched him play in his heyday. And that stick is most certainly in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Mike Green wouldn’t give the Hockey Hall of Fame his Easton stick the first time they asked. He was breaking records that season, but apparently not sticks- he’d been using the same one for a few months and claimed it was the only good one he had left, and that Easton couldn’t seem to make him another one like it. Imagine me, his rep, reading that in the newspaper the next day. “Well at least he didn’t call you out by name,” my wife said, trying to stay positive.
The first time I saw Mike Green he was on the ice. The Capitals practice rink is on the top floor of a mall in Arlington Virginia. You can approach it via elevators within the mall, or drive up to the top and park. It is one of the nicest practice rinks that I have worked in, and constantly drew large crowds of fans who wanted to watch their heroes up-close and personal, free-of-charge.
Brock Myles, the Capitals head equipment manager, had actually stopped what he was doing for a minute and was watching Green carry the puck. Green was relatively new to the team at the time. The guy was average-sized with skinny legs, but had a looseness to his style; kind of like he was just out there playing pond hockey. “This kid’s going to be good,” Brock said with a knowing smile. “You’d better treat him well Kirky.”
For the next couple years, Green used a potpourri of equipment brands but only Easton sticks. I was happy that he was loyal to our stick, but I was determined to get him into some skates, pants, helmet, gloves.
He actually liked his gloves almost threadbare in the palms, which at a certain point is against NHL rules. I went so far as to ask Easton if we could make him a pair of gloves and have someone wear them for awhile to really break them in before he got them. The plant thought I’d lost my mind and wouldn’t agree to it.
So I had our softest gloves made for him and brought them in myself one day. I sat in the locker stall next to Mike and had him try them on. Suddenly, there was a camera and boom mic in our faces. Only later did I learn they were shooting the HBO special 24/7 that day. I’m not sure if it was that distraction or what, but he never took to the gloves.
We had skates made for him—he wanted white ones for some reason. Maybe to match his white Lamborghini? He tried on our helmet, got fitted in our pants, but I could only really keep him in our stick… for the time being.
Mike Green was extremely particular about his stick. It was a stock Joe Sakic curve. Nothing too unusual. He liked the Stealth model that we had stopped making for the retail market (Easton put out new models every year or so to keep the brand fresh). A handful of pros still used the model though, so our pro plant was happy to build them custom. The problem was that Mike felt his new sticks were coming in slightly different than the ones he started with as an NHL’er.
Well he was technically right, but you’d have the extra sense of say… a pro athlete, to tell the difference. The thickness of his sticks had increased by less than the width of a sheet of paper. We showed him with a precision measuring device, but he still didn’t like the new ones. “They just feel off,” was how he put it, and they probably were; more so than we wanted to admit.
We had recently been forced to find a new source for our carbon fiber. See hockey players weren’t the only ones using this incredibly light yet durable material. The military had been using this stuff for years. And now that the Bush administration thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the US military had first dibs on all the best carbon. But try explaining that to a young kid like Mike, who had a contract big enough to pay for a fighter jet.
We decided not to tell him about our carbon sourcing issues. I mean, how bad could it get? We’d be out of Iraq soon enough, and then we’d have all the best carbon fiber again, right? But here was Mike, holding onto his last “good” Easton stick, and basically telling us and the Hall of Fame to go to H E double-hockey-sticks!