When I was a pro hockey rep, there was always one player on each team that was a whale. If you could lure that whale in and get him to use your product, you could live off of that for a good long time.
Ilya Kovalchuk was my whale on the Atlanta Thrashers… a Russian white beluga whale; very elusive.
I’d tried to spark up a conversation or two with this whale on many occasion, but he was either being paid handsomely to use the competitor’s product, didn’t like me, was too full of himself to give me the time of day, or didn’t understand English as well as I thought.
Easton however had supplied me with some really good bait, and after dangling it in front of a few other fish on the team, I got a bite from my whale Ilya. These were our newest S17 sticks: light as a feather, and as responsive and powerful as a pistol.
Ilya handed me one of his current sticks to match. I looked at the banana curve and thought “how is this thing even legal?” Sticks can only be curved to a certain degree, and if found to be too extreme, can be illegal. I found out later from my plant manager that Ilya got around this rule by putting a slight indention in the heel of his blade, right where a referee’s tool would sit to check for an illegal curve. The indention would make the tool read a slightly smaller curve than was actually there. A Russian bent of the rules, but if that’s what he wanted, that’s what we’d make.
I received a batch of 12 sticks from my plant: 6 of the explosive new S17’s and 6 of our more mainstream and softer Synergy models. We’d been burned by only making S17’s for another Russian beluga named Ovechkin, and he couldn’t seem to handle the puck with it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the softer Synergy as a backup on that fishing expedition, and we lost our catch.
I drove across Atlanta with my precious cargo of sticks that morning, looking over at ladies applying makeup in their sun-visor mirrors, and guys fixing their ties. How many of these folks even knew who Ilya Kovalchuk was, or cared for that matter, I thought? But this was an exciting day on the job for me.
My whale was being extra elusive that morning and made me wait until the end of practice before trying the sticks. Everyone else was off the ice and it was just him and me. I wish I had my skates on, but alas I was shoe-bound.
He took a few shots with the S17, then asked me to give him some passes… in my shoes. He then tried the Synergy. He seemed to be pleased, but his was a hard demeanor to read.
The team had a home game that night. I didn’t go, but I got the play-by-play from the team’s equipment manager the next day. Apparently, Ilya tried to use the softer Synergy for regular game play, and the explosive S17 on power plays. This was not a normal thing to do, especially with such different-playing sticks.
Well Ilya was on a power play and wound up to take one of his signature one-timers, a slapshot taken right off a pass, and he totally whiffed. He missed the puck like a beginning golfer misses the ball.
I lost my white whale quicker than you could say Ishmael.