Brendan Mullins – owner of Mullins Sports
Brendan has been involved with hockey since he was 5 years old. Twenty years ago, he took over a local sports store and pro shop in Greenfield Park, a suburb of Montreal, Quebec. In just a few years, Mullins Sports quickly became a trusted source for sports equipment. In fact, Brendan even services clients who live over 150 kilometers (100 miles) away.
Brendan is a reputable retailer for hockey and football equipment which helped him in becoming an elite dealer for manufacturers. Equipment manufacturers have become more intricate and scientific in their product designs and as a result, Brendan has expanded his knowledge and understanding of effective equipment fitting.
He actively supports community based events and still plays the game because “it is a great way to socialize with people and make new friends.”
THS: When shopping for skates, should people buy brand over product?
BM: By no means. Companies are doing brand loyalty. They are trying to go after the young kids and get them used to their brand in their growing up years. There is no justice done if you focus on one brand only. Skates have evolved so much that what used to be good may not be so much today.
THS: Looking at upper body equipment, should people use the same brand?
BM: Fit is crucial. Brand A may be a top producer of one product like shoulder pads but they do not have the best fit for gloves on your hand. You need to have what fits and mixing and matching is quite good.
THS: Is there a different way to buy for younger players versus older players?
BM: You can expect more maturity in terms of answers from older people. They can tell you how it fits and feels when they try something on. As a retailer, one of the toughest jobs for me is being able to have the younger player get over his shyness to tell me the comfort levels.
THS: Should parents buying for their children be looking at the top of the line? Since it is worn by the pros, some parents think they need to get the most expensive equipment for their son or daughter.
BM: I always say, live within your means. The game is costly enough, adding more financial burden is not going to help your stress level as a family. You can get an inexpensive item, as long as it fits properly.
THS: Does that mean protection is built the same way?
BM: No. In the high end, it is not just protection. It is also the weight and type of materials used. There is a minimum safety standard that manufacturers need to follow.
THS: What is the biggest problem shoppers are feeling today?
BM: Expectations. Durability factor for equipment is a good example. Take the one piece stick as an example - people are buying them thinking that they will save them money because they break less often. Reality is, many of them are getting broken.
THS: You say expectations. Is it also high expectations for high-end equipment?
BM: You cannot buy the most expensive piece and be a better player. If a golfer buys a driver for 500$, he does not get 50 yards more if he spends $50 more.
THS: What is the key thing for buying a helmet?
BM: It is crucial to be fitted properly. You need to fit a helmet with a cage. The helmet fits one way and then once you have the cage, it fits another. It may be too long or short on the chin.
THS: How crucial is it to have both pieces at the same time?
BM: Trying them on at the same time is key. You can get away without buying new for both but when you are buying either one, make sure you have the other. If you buy a helmet, bring your cage.
THS: Is there something that should be known about neck guards?
BM: It is one of the few items that is not mandatory everywhere in hockey. Their purpose is to protect against abrasions and cuts. If they are worn properly, they protect. Modifying them does not respect the rules nor protect.
THS: When you size young players for shoulder pads, what is key to know?
BM: Unlike years ago with the big cumbersome style, we evolved. Today the styles are made with soft more pliable material and they now have the protective shoulder patches on them.
THS: Is the idea to buy to fit for immediate use?
BM: This is one of the pieces that can last 2 seasons or so. When you buy a piece, you get what you can tolerate and then as you grow out of them you can change. It is dependant on the growth of the player at certain ages.
THS: For elbow pads, is the focus still on making the hard plastic pads for the elbow?
BM: There is talk about the protective piece for the elbow becoming more like sponge. For now, the hardened cap is to protect against falling on the ice.
THS: I noticed a change in the design in the elbow pad.
BM: The other part is length. Years ago gloves became shorter so the change in elbow pads compensated for the shortened design. The reason is that players want the flex in the wrist so manufacturers design the elbow pad to protect further down the arm.
THS: Moving on to gloves, do players like the shorter ones?
BM: Players are understanding the risk of injury with the low gloves so there is a slight move to longer ones. There is also the slash wrist guard you can get that has a reinforced piece of plastic in them. They are like wrist bands.
THS: How should gloves fit?
BM: It is tough to tell on young players. They don’t say much or know what to say. A test is to have them stand with their arms by their side and if they fall off the hands, they are too big. Again, it is best to try on a few models. We also get them to hold a stick with the gloves on.
THS: Pants today have a belt. When I played, it was shoulder suspenders. Does the belt really work?
BM: You’re dating yourself when you say suspenders. [chuckle] Pants were designed like a barrel and would hang on you. Today, they are designed to fit snug. They fit on the hips. The belt is more of a security to keep tight around the waist.
THS: Are pants that are too short a problem?
BM: It’s not good. With pants, you must protect hips, kidneys and tailbone. If they are too short then you run the risk of exposure on the thigh which is muscle. It is not too bad. Leaving the lower back and mid section open is definitely prone to an injury.
THS: How critical is the length of the shin pad?
BM: Well this is more relative to the style of play of the player. If it is too long, every time you skate it rides up the leg causing discomfort. The more agile forwards prefer the shorter one to allow for the movement of the feet. Covering the knee cap is most important.
THS: What is the pros and con when buying new versus used?
BM: The same rules apply. Buying equipment that is fitted correctly is the most important thing.
THS: Does that mean it is better to buy some used?
BM: Not necessarily better. When you buy knew you can find equipment that is not worn and will eventually fit to you rather than you fitting to a formed piece.
THS: What about warranties or protection policies?
BM: New products always come with a limited warranty. It might be 30 days or 90 days, whatever it is you do know that the company stands behind it. When you buy used you have no idea the history of the piece of equipment. You are relying on the store selling it to know how protective the piece can be. You may also fall into the subject of liability in case of an injury.
THS: When buying for younger players, is it not more feasible to buy used?
BM: Well it is definitely an economical issue. Make sure the piece is in good condition. For skates as an example, make sure there is blade on the runner. Make sure that the eyelets are not broken. When you buy used, you need to remember that you could be buying somebody else’s problem.
THS: What is your opinion of buying on the internet versus buying from a bricks and mortar store?
BM: I would be very suspicious with skates. You need to know how they fit, what is the comfort like and you may want to compare brands. You are not going to be able to do that online without paying for shipping back and forth.
THS: But what if they come to a store like yours and try on all pieces of equipment and then go online to buy. Can they buy all pieces on the net?
BM: They ca n buy most pieces on the net. You cannot buy the current pro models on the net. This is how the manufacturers protect their pro dealers. They are their elite retailers. It allows them to sell the product lines. The internet store can offer last season’s elite model but not current season.
THS: For you personally, what do you look for when you buy equipment?
BM: Since I still play, I buy comfort.
THS: Anything you want to leave our readers with?
BM: Parents - listen to your child. They know what is comfortable. Children - this is not a fashion show. It is about protecting yourself. You do not need to have the most expensive equipment. You need to have properly fitted equipment.
THS: Brendan, thank you.
BM: My pleasure.
Visit Mullins Sports on-line.
Learn more about Equipment
Read more on Equipment in our Source of Knowledge section.
Shop the SOURCE to find solutions to your hockey needs!
Manage, organize and ease your team’s needs.
Get your Team Management System!
- Discover the 12 Steps to Successful Team Management
- Learn tips from a proven system
- Save time by using the season forms and communications