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West Island merchants take a hit from NHL lockout; Sales of hockey jerseys and sticks on decline

  • Hockey Experts assistant manager Keith Murray shows some of the licensed NHL gear in his Dollard store.
    Hockey Experts assistant manager Keith Murray shows some of the licensed NHL gear in his Dollard store.
    Photo credit: Dario Ayala, The Gazette

As the NHL season melts away, the effects of the lockout have had a trickle-down effect on businesses in Montreal, including the West Island.

Local merchants like Keith Murray of the Hockey Experts store in Dollard-des-Ormeaux has seen a drop in sales for Montreal Cana-diens and NHL merchandise since the lockout began in September.

“We’re down about 45 or 50 per cent,” said Murray, the store’s assistant manager.

“Yesterday we did $10 in sales in licensed product. … At this time of year, it’s (usually) climbing because Christmas is just around the corner,” he said.

“The other day we did $100. A guy bought 15 Canadiens pucks, I’m guessing for a team as a Christmas giveaway or something. It’s not like it’s supposed to be.”

Normally, P.K. Subban and Carey Price sweaters would be hot sellers, Murray said. Not this year.

“P.K.?” Murray said. “He’s not even signed by the Canadiens right now. You assume he’s coming back, but we don’t know yet.”

Murray said high-end product isn’t selling nearly as well without big-name NHL stars to endorse it in game action.

“Sidney Crosby would normally be using the 20K stick (by Reebok) right now. The last time (kids) saw Crosby play, he was using an 11K stick,” he said. “The kids see it in the stores, but they’re not seeing pros use it, so it hurts (sales).”

Murray is not taking sides between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, head of the NHL Players’ Association.

“It’s sad, but whose side do you take? Right now I blame both of them because you’ve got two pigheaded people and neither one wants to lose.”

Over at Cage Aux Sports Restaurant in Pointe-Claire, the lockout has not had a major impact, according to an employee who spoke to The Gazette.

“It’s not that bad. Last year, the Canadiens were not that good, so it hasn’t made a big difference,” the employee said. “But it could be better.”

Steve Shelton owns the KSKS Sports Collectibles shop in Pointe-Claire Village. He has a wide array of sports memorabilia, including NHL hockey souvenirs.

Shelton is riding out the lockout by selling mostly vintage memorabilia.

“For us, we’ve been pretty lucky because our business is actually up from last year.

But that being said, we’re not selling today’s players,” Shelton said.

“Collectors are mostly into vintage stuff. It’s mostly older cards, older players signatures … the Bobby Hulls and Bobby Orrs of the world. Stars from the ’70s and ’80s, the Gretzkys, the Messiers. That’s what’s been doing pretty well.”

An autographed Carey Price sweater retails for $375 or $400, but Shelton said sales of modern-day player sweaters are flat.

“Last year, P.K. and Carey Price were our bestsellers and we sell all over North America. Now, I’m down 90 per cent. Not just Montreal but across Canada,” he said.

“It’s a huge impact. Because of the strike, we’re keeping our inventory very low,” he said.

“We’re not buying all kinds of these jerseys because we know there’s no demand. I’m kind of waiting till the last minute to start buying all this stuff.

“That’s what happens when you have two Americans debating on our Canadian sport,” Shelton said.

jmeagher@montrealgazette.com

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