Shop Talk: Behind The Mask continuing the trend of growing the game
Exciting news coming from Behind The Mask – we are moving our BTM Chandler store inside AZ Ice Gilbert.
We have been at our Chandler store for five years, but a lot has changed in the hockey landscape since we signed the lease in spring 2012. At the time we signed the Chandler lease, all three Polar Ice rinks were in bankruptcy. All of us in the hockey community were hoping that someone would step in and buy one or more of the facilities and keep them hockey rinks. The rumors and speculation ran wild.
No rinks means no hockey!
When the dust finally settled, Jim Rogers and his group ended up purchasing what would become AZ Ice Gilbert and AZ Ice Peoria and the Ice Den purchased what would become the Ice Den Chandler.
Back in the mid- to late-2000s, BTM had small satellite locations in each of the three rinks. The BTM inside Peoria was 500 square feet, Chandler 600 square feet and Gilbert was 1,000 square feet. All three had limited hours and limited inventory. They were tough to staff going from three stores to six and all three satellite BTM stores closed in 2010-11. BTM decided to change its focus to larger free-standing stores. In 2010, we opened our much larger BTM Scottsdale, which is also our goalie superstore.
When the Ice Den bought Polar Ice Chandler, they put in their own pro shop, which services the rink well. I have always been a huge fan of the Ice Den and how they conduct their rinks and business. We have been running the BTM Goalie School out of the Ice Den Scottsdale the last seven years.
AZ Ice Peoria and AZ Ice Chandler were without pro shops for many years, which meant to get skates sharpened or equipment, sticks, skates or accessories, you had to go to one of our free-standing stores. If you’re a travel or high school hockey player, no big deal, but the new house league players and men’s league players often did not want to drive.
The new AZ Ice Peoria ownership wanted to make the rink better, wanted to improve the customer feel and services inside the rink. Rogers approached us about moving our store inside the rink. They had some space where the party rooms were. These rooms were a great idea when the rink opened, but were not used often enough. We talked about blowing out the party rooms and expanding into the lobby. This gave us enough space to put a full-fledged BTM inside the rink. The response we received when we moved in was great and it has been a win-win relation with the rink.
In the spring of 2017, AZ Ice Gilbert hosted some of the 14U and 15 Only AAA national championship games. The out-of-town players, coaches and parents were astonished that a rink of this caliber did not have a pro shop. They could not get their skates sharpened and what if steel or holders broke during an important game? We heard all about this when they had to come into our stores.
This, as well as the huge growth in the learn-to-play and youth house league players, led us to think of duplicating our Peoria blueprint in Gilbert, which currently has 12 Mite house league teams, a testament to the rink and hockey staff doing an excellent job growing hockey. Plus, with the Arizona Coyotes and new NHL new on helping to grow youth hockey, it would expose BTM to many new players and customers. In addition, AZ Ice Gilbert hosts many tournaments including the AHU Presidents Day Tournament – the largest tournament that weekend in North America – and is also the home of the Phoenix Knights junior team.
At the end of the day, we would rather pay rent to an ice rink to help grow the game than to a strip mall.
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.
(Oct. 12, 2017)