Arizona Rubber

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Behind The Mask’s Exelby finding ways to give back to Arizona hockey community

 

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randyHockey in the desert continues to flourish year after year, owing much of its success to the help of a local pro shop.

Randy Exelby founded Behind The Mask in 1994. Originally from Toronto, Exelby formerly played in the IHL for the Phoenix Roadrunners.

Pro shops make the hockey world run smoothly and in Arizona, that can be difficult.

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Exelby made it less difficult for the folks in Arizona to purchase hockey gear. Always interested in pro shops and how they worked, Exelby opened up his own shop for business.

Over 20 years later, Behind The Mask, much like hockey, is moving in a positive direction. Exelby currently owns three pro shops located throughout the state – the Goalie Superstore in Scottsdale and inside both AZ Ice Gilbert and AZ Ice Peoria.

Behind The Mask AZ Ice Peoria manager Beau Saugling enjoys the business.

“A mom or dad have a good hour of time to kill in between when the practice or game starts when they get here, so a lot of the time they will come in and browse, killing time, walk through and see a piece of apparel they like and buy it,” said Saugling.

With few available business ideas to help Exelby’s shop succeed, Behind The Mask often turns to social media.

“It’s such an important resource, 80 percent of my revenue is between 12- and 18-year-old kids in our store, and (social media) could get to them,” said Exelby.

Exelby stresses the importance of good employees, with almost every single Behind The Mask employee having some background in hockey.

All of the gear needs to fit a proper way and the gear won’t fit a proper way if the seller doesn’t know what they are talking about.

“They are really great guys – they are really knowledgeable about everything, especially with goalies,” said Arizona State University women’s goaltender Jordan Nash-Boulden. “Everybody there knows pretty much anything that you would have to ask.”

As with any business, there will always be competition.

“We have to work hard to educate the people because a lot of the current products that we have were the same price or cheaper and sometimes, there is a misconception that the internet is cheaper,” said Exelby.

If a customer purchases skates from the pro shop, they are able to get a discounted skate sharpening, incentivizing visits to the store.

The store’s warranty program enables customers to use this program when they buy from the store. Gear is expensive, so if an item breaks, the customer is able to exchange it on the spot or the shop can see if they are able to do repairs.

Exelby doesn’t just give back to customers, but the community as well

“We donated, in the last couple years, hundreds of sets of hockey gear,” said Exelby. “We had a recycled donation program where when people would come in, they would get new gear and give us their old stuff and we would take it to places we thought would need it.”

Many donations go to smaller hockey markets in Arizona, such as Yuma or Lake Havasu, which are trying to draw more kids to the sport. On a more academic side, Exelby has been handing out high school academic scholarships for the last decade.

During down time, however, goalie camps are run where Nash-Boulden has participated and coached.

“They let me come out and be a coach at the goalie school last summer for the first time and that was a really great experience because they have been there for me over the years and they’ve seen me grow from the little guy to who I am today,” said Nash-Boulden. “It was really cool to give back and help out with the same process.”

Behind The Mask is much more than the average stick and tape pro shop. Exelby and his employees are dedicated to help better the hockey community here in Arizona.

“We feel it’s our responsibility not to just sit in our store and wait for customers, but to grow hockey,” Exelby said.

— Liesl Babicka

(Jan. 10, 2018)