One thing about hockey representatives: you tend to never see them anymore. Forty years ago they were frequents at the store, always dropping by to solicit more business, acquiring more revenue for the company. In fact, back then when a sales rep visited you he would be the ideal brand for the company itself.
Today on the contrary, with the advance of technology and digital media, you rarely see sales reps. The branding itself is less significant and now us retailers only have 2 or 3 suppliers left in the hockey industry to choose from.
One of the best reps I ever came across was Don Caley who passed away several years ago. This man was a bull and there was never a spic of nonsense about him, of course unless he’d take you out for a drink. He would come into the store with the confidence that a sale would be made no matter the circumstances. He would bring the staff together and amalgamate the frame of mind to sell his company’s products rather than those of the competitors.
“This is what you have to do, this is why you need to sell GRAF skates”, he would say. He may have had a quota from his company, but he always exceeded his sales far beyond what the company ever anticipated. His presence contributed to my company and his company collaboratively working as partners in becoming one of the top GRAF retailers in Canada. This is what a great sales rep does, and I had the chance to witness it firsthand.
I had another chance to witness something rather peculiar from another sales rep. The VIC Hockey sales rep was well known; we called him “Hitchin’”. He would wobble into the store with his trademark Michael Jackson tribute glove. Even on scorching hot summer days the glove would always be on his left hand. His knowledge was limited in the product itself however, and the rumour mill churned a claim that he married into a rich family and had a beautiful wife.
At the Montreal Hockey Show a few of the reps and I were having drinks and Hitchin’ gingerly walked up to us with his wife, we instantly shot to our feet for her full attention. He couldn’t stay unfortunately, he was just passing through. The Cooper Hockey rep gasped, “That can’t be his wife?”. The KOHO rep said nothing and just kept on drinking. I told the boys that it indeed is his wife. She had one hell of a rock and I doubted that Hitchin’ would spend $75 for a high class escort to wear a ring like this to show the boys up. The ITECH rep patted me on the back and agreed. “Listen up boys, Fiorenzo has a fair amount of knowledge, he’s not wrong on this one.”
A few weeks later Hitchin’ dropped by the store with all the VIC equipment. We were so busy on the main floor of the store so I asked if he could go over to the goalie department side to preview the equipment for our staff. He placed the equipment on the floor and gave me the pitch. Unfortunately I had to quickly leave the store for a few minutes. By the time I came back he had put everything inside the bag and left the store.
A few hours later I noticed on my display that one of my catching gloves was missing. I asked my manager and everyone else at the store if it was sold, turns out there wasn’t even a sales receipt. I checked my security cameras and dialed in the time Hitchin’ arrived at the store. There he was, point-blank stealing my catch glove.
He came by a few weeks later to finalize the order. I took him over to a secure room and asked him straight to give back the catcher. He denied the allegations, “I don’t steal, why would I steal?” he pronounced. “I’ve got a $3 million house, a beautiful wife and kids, why the hell would you think I would do that?” he repeated. He threatened me saying I better watch my mouth and I could see he was starting to get aggressive, an interesting sight to say the least.
I took out 3 printed images to show him. The first image was him going to the display and removing the catcher. The second image showed him walking over towards his bag. The third image had a clear sight of him putting the catcher inside the bag. He was instantly flustered and said, “The catcher may have fallen on the floor and just may have gotten mixed up with my other equipment, I apologize.” I asked him whether or not he had opened his bag in the last two weeks. He quickly replied, “No! I went on vacation.”
Hitchin’ made good. He gave me back the catcher and I gave him a booking order. Before he left he pleaded that I not mention a word about this to anyone. I gave him my word and before I shook hands with him I told him, “I’ll tell the story in 30 years, is that ok?” He put his arm around me and thanked me.
Subsequently a few years later Hitchin’ lost his job at VIC Hockey and went on to work with Progress Sports. Unfortunately tragedy struck; his lovely wife divorced him and made off with the coach of their son’s hockey team. Needless to say he was kicked out of his $3 million house and had his cars repossessed.
After that there was no trace of him. Few know where he is today and how his daily life operates. The only thing he did leave me when I placed the booking order with him was a cassette tape of Michael Jackson’s tunes. To this day I still wonder why he wore that one glove.