How are small hockey companies like craft beer companies?

Is there anything better than hockey and beer? Yes, hockey and craft beer! Did you know that small hockey businesses are like craft beer breweries? They build unique products unique to the industry and take up similar market share, and by helping smaller companies grow, players can have a better more diverse product offering across the board from major and smaller brands. 


Who are the smaller companies? 


The numbers for small companies for both craft beer and in our case “craft hockey” companies are very similar. In 2017 CCM & Bauer took up about 85% of market share, and in 2018 small craft breweries made up about 13% of the beer market! That means there are several small companies in both realms! Most of these small companies, (including the ones profiled here: Arsenal, Diezel, Hoapa, Third Assist, Beauty Unis & HPC  ) have all been started by former or current hockey players. These players, only want to help deliver a quality product at a good value.  


A lot of small companies that are known are stick, apparel or jersey companies. That is because the barrier to entry is lower than say a full product line of protective or constructing a skate. That doesn’t mean that these smaller stick brands don’t care. The guys at Hockey Players Club revamped their stick for the 2019 season based on feedback from several players at all skill levels. Elevate is re-defining what a hockey stick is. While Hoapa is allowing you to customize your full stick from textures, curves, flex, and even the length.


Smaller companies just don’t come in the forms of sticks. Another popular option for small brands is goalie equipment. There are several out of Canada that make quality equipment that can help you save hundreds! Some of these pad manufacturers, like JRZ, have had big manufacturer contracts and have recently gone independent. While others like Battram, Simmons, and Boddam have made quality gear at a quality price for a very long time. There was just the agreement of Verbero and Kennesky to start making goalie equipment for Verbero as well!


As far as other equipment besides sticks and goalie, Verbero is doing some unique stuff by offering full lines of equipment such as skates, pants, gloves, and protective (and goalie as already mentioned). Other small brands have produced gloves as well like Hoapa and No Name but Verbero is the only one doing full lines of equipment. Hopefully, other brands are growing and can give more options for full lines of equipment in the near future. 


Why buy from a smaller company? 


I have gotten this question a lot. I think there are several great reasons to buy from a smaller company.  Here are just a few reasons…


Not as many hoops to jump through : 

With a small company, you can usually get great support and direct answers. When you have questions you’re either talking to the person who had direct input or are only 1 degree of separation. It’s not like a big company where you have multiple hoops to jump through before you get to talk to the real folks behind the product. 


Players developing for players : 

Small companies are usually run by players. Whether it’s a t-shirt company, goalie company, or sticks, they are started by players. That means they really care about the players and where they source their products. 


Direct to players : 

Small companies usually sell direct. That means they cut out the middleman or larger retailers. (See our sticks article on how stick prices go up). By going direct, it’s cheaper for the player and the company. This usually means it can be a better quality product because they don’t have to have a ton of stock on hand as they would need for a large company. 


What can happen if small companies grow? 


Just think of what small craft breweries are doing to major ones. They are making big companies take notice… AB InBev has one of the largest brewery portfolios, and they are buying up small craft breweries. The same can be said in the hockey world. True has just acquired Lefeve. They also bought VanHorn for their skates. Years ago when Warrior started, they bought MIA, a glove company that made very good gloves. Bauer also acquired Easton Hockey back in 2016. When larger companies acquire them, they are adding to their arsenal of products! 


In addition to big companies buying smaller ones, small hockey companies can help be a game-changer. For example, Elevate is trying to change the way we think of a hockey stick. Third Assist has made a unique glove just for the outdoors. Buttendz came out with a unique grip that is seen at all levels from the NHL to mites! Small companies can come up with great ideas that larger ones might not have a budget or time to do to test the market. Just like craft breweries are coming out with all different types of beer that the larger guys can’t afford to mess with. This allows for more product diversity and perhaps better products.


If small companies are eating up enough market share, it could potentially drive prices down. For example, you can get a top-end stick from Hockey Players Club, or Hoapa for about $200. Those sticks have almost identical features as the name brand. If more and more people bought sticks (or equipment) from smaller brands, bigger brands would have to do something to get a player’s attention.


How can you help small companies? 


Small companies need some help. There are several ways to help them out.   Again similar to a small craft beer company, hockey companies are the same. One of the easiest ways is following, sharing, retweeting, or reposting their stuff on social media is a great start. It helps build brand awareness. Another way and quite the obvious one is to buy their stuff. It is a big way to help because it gives them money to keep making their products! However, if you have bought, you can keep helping them grow by writing an honest review. This helps them with future products and getting products in players’ hands! 


Hockey and beer is a great combo on the ice. However, did you know there are several high-level comparisons to their businesses? Small hockey businesses are like craft beer breweries, they build unique products unique to the industry and take up similar market share, and by helping smaller companies grow, players can have a better more diverse product offering across the board from major and smaller brands. 


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