In a new series of posts, we will explore how people make a living out of hockey, not as players, but through various different ways. The saying goes that “hockey gives you a lot”, but how does that extend to those that are not players or work for a team. The aim of the series is to explore the impact hockey has had on people on a personal level and how it has helped them shape a business and a career on the edges of the game.
The first look at how Hockey has enabled a business is to look at Cross Check Clothing, a UK based hockey inspired lifestyle apparel brand, set up in 2012. Since inception, Cross Check has garnered a steady following and a loyal fan base from the UK hockey scene as well as abroad.
But how did the brand’s owner and creator Pete Weeks get into hockey and what made him start his own apparel company? A company that “does it for the kicks”, as Pete himself puts it, but at the same time churns out quality apparel and contributes to the visibility of hockey on the streets.
“I had an early introduction to hockey through family and I picked it up again when my step-son was five years old. He had developed an obsession with the NHL video games and we decided to take him to a game to see what he made of the sport in real life.”
Those who have followed Cross Check Clothing from its early days, will know that from those early days of taking his step son to games, it has become a regular occurrence to Pete and his family.
So if hockey served as a way to spend time with family, where did the inspiration for hockey apparel come from? As Pete explains, he saw a niche in the market “I was shopping for hockey wear for my step-son and found that other than a few uninspiring North American brands, or NHL team wear, there was little in terms of what acknowledged hockey in the UK. After the initial idea I sat on it for a few months and decided to take the plunge.”
It might be safe to say that setting up a company to serve a niche in a niche sport is a risk, but was it a daunting experience? “I knew a fair bit about setting up businesses and how to go about getting stock and growing the name, it was a case of putting it all in place,” Pete explains. “I wasn’t nervous about the start-up, I was excited about the launch and cracking the whip on the design team and suppliers to get the stock in.”
“The first time I really started to panic was after a few weeks. We’d only had an order for about £3 and I started to wonder if we’d sell anything,” Pete explains. “Thankfully, we made some good friends early on who are still big parts of the brand and helped push us forward”.
But where does the inspiration come from. Pete says that Cross Check Clothing has similar aspirations as Vans and Quicksilver, brands that used to be rooted in skateboarding and surfing respectively, but have in the course of time appealed to a much, much wider audience. Is Cross Check looking to get to a similar level as these brands? “The merchandise we put out is lifestyle wear, so we aim for designs that we see anyone wearing,” Pete explains.
But what attracts people to the game? For Pete, the story is familiar to many who come to hockey games. “I think it’s the atmosphere at games, especially after a series of big hits, or a fight,” he explains. “I love the way momentum can shift in a game so quickly when players step up and it means you always have something to cheer for, even if the score of the game isn’t going your way.”
Additionally, the physicality and the demands of the game get a lot of respect from Pete. “When you see players throwing themselves in front of pucks and getting smashed into the boards night in, night out, it takes a lot and I have a huge amount of respect for that,”
From working with Cross Check Clothing for the past two seasons, one of the things that appealed to the undersigned was the way the brand operates. It is very down to earth and personable. Everything the company does has a personal touch to it, whether it is the signed card with every delivery or their presence in social media. That is also true in the interactions. You know you are dealing with real people who really care deeply about what they do and the community within the game.
“Thankfully we’ve always been supported on everything we’ve done, which has allowed us to work on better products and much wider range. Every penny we make is re-invested back into the company to keep regular and better products coming out.” Pete explains the philosophy of the company.
But what of the future? Five years in to the journey of the brand, a fair share of ups and downs, but it is still going strong. What is the future for the company? “Be the headline sponsor of the NHL,” Pete says, laughingly. “To be honest we want to continue to grow with the friends we’ve made. Maybe in the future we will look to take the brand a bit further a field and meet some new exciting people in the process.”
So, that’s a story of a growing lifestyle brand that has its roots in the game of hockey in a nutshell. The journey Cross Check Clothing has been on has been quite extraordinary in the sense that they have continued to evolve and improve in what is a niche market, reaching people beyond hockey. The genuine attitude of the company towards their products is paramount to its success and the people in the UK hockey community certainly have embraced the brand.
Their story is bound to continue for years to come.
Visit the Cross Check Clothing store at: https://shop.crosscheckclothing.co.uk/