“You’re a hockey player?” I would sometimes get asked rhetorically after proclaiming the fact, as if you had to be missing teeth to be a hockey player. Sure, the stereotype still exists of one front tooth, visible facial scars, and some variation on a mullet (aka Saskatchewan neck warmer) but we’re not all the same.
Take two of my pro players when I was an Easton rep: the Washington Capitals, Chris Clark and Brooks Laich. They looked nothing like the stereotype. They looked more like military guys with short-cropped hair and steely-eyes. Like real brother’s in arms. In fact, I couldn’t tell them apart sometimes. So much so, that I actually introduced one of them once as the other.
Clark was the captain of the team, but surprisingly soft-spoken. Laich was very confident, well-spoken, and always surrounded by the press. Clark was on the downswing of his career at the time; getting a little older and hindered by some injuries. We had to make his sticks more flexible than any other pro player so he could shoot the puck without reinjuring his wrist. Laich was getting chances to skate on a line with Alex Ovechkin and kind of on that bubble to being either just a solid player or a real star.
Laich was using Warrior sticks, but I had talked him into trying the newest Easton model. Only problem was that since he wasn’t quite the big star yet, we were reluctant to spend the couple thousand dollars on a new mold for him. His curve was pretty similar to one of our stock curves anyway, so we got him a couple of those to try out first.
Meanwhile, we had made Ovechkin some new sticks to try out and I was in Washington with my plant manager to follow up. The potential Ovechkin business was a big deal. So big, that I was more focused on that than anything else that day.
My plant manager and I had just delivered the goods to Ovy and we were excitedly waiting near the player’s bench for practice to start, when someone called my name. I turned and saw who I thought was Brooks Laich standing in front of me. I even introduced him as Brooks to my plant manager before realizing it was really Chris Clark.
I felt horrible as I realized my mistake, but was somewhat vindicated when from the crowd of fans on the other side of a nearby barrier, kids were shouting “Brooks! Brooks! Can we get an autograph?!”
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t tell these guys apart. If only Chris Clark had a Saskatchewan neck warmer going… but then he’d look like every other stereotypical hockey player.