Date:  Source: Elite Edge Hockey

By Brooks Bratten

Remember the feeling of walking into a toy store as a kid? A couple hundred hockey players got the chance to relive that sensation to start their week.

Participants at the 2019 edition of the Elite Edge Hockey Showcase – hosted at Ford Ice Center in Antioch, Tennessee – took part in the Bauer Experience on Day One, an opportunity to try out new gear and get fitted by the legendary hockey company.

It’s become a staple of the Showcase that annually hosts young hockey players from across the country and around the world looking to move to the next level. Their skillsets are elite, but comfort is key, too, and Bauer is passionate when it comes to ensuring players have the right fit to be at their best.

“This game is getting faster, kids are getting stronger, you want to make sure you’re protected well and it just makes being on the ice that much more enjoyable, too,” Bauer’s Tim Gentile said. “We’re trained to fit in Bauer protocol, so that’s where we come into play and players love that part.”

Sticks and skates, helmets and padding, even goaltender equipment – it’s all here for players to hold in their hands, try on for size and even take it for a spin out on the ice.

“Nowadays, the game is expensive, so we give a chance for kids to try before they buy,” Gentile said. “We give them an opportunity to go out on the ice and see what works for them.”

There is education that comes along with that for players as they learn exactly how a new helmet should fit or what flex they should have on their stick. But Gentile and his team aren’t just here to be teachers.

“I tell the kids, ‘We’re here to learn just like you guys are,’ so we have some consumer insight, maybe some products that might come to life someday,” Gentile said. “We’re showing off the gear here and just getting to see what the trends are. This is a unique market for us. We don’t really come out this far too often, but to come out here, it’s a great market to be a part of.”

The Bauer 3D Skate Lab is always a highlight of the experience in Nashville. In just a few seconds, a player can get a 3D image of their feet along with a recommendation of size and type of skate that would provide the best fit. Combine that with a chance for participants to try out the sticks and curves used by their favorite NHLers, and the chore of finding the right equipment doesn’t seem like work at all.

And as enjoyable as the experience is for the customer, the feeling is mutual for the experts.

“We want to be here. We want to be in the market showing that we’re here and giving back to the kids,” Gentile said. “We want to educate them and we want to be a friendly brand, to let everybody know that we’re here to help them be the best player they can be.”

Just like anyone practicing their craft, the proper tools are necessary for the task at hand. So, whether that’s the sniper streaking down the wing trying to pick the top corner, or the goaltender who has no desire to let that happen, Bauer feels they can play a role in helping those goals come to fruition.

It’s about making a connection, too, and seeing players come to know and trust their gear as they try to advance to juniors, college and beyond is certainly gratifying.

And who knows, maybe someday it’ll be the curve of a current participant the next generation is dying to try out.

“When we leave here, my goal is if I ever hear a kid say, ‘Remember that time we went to Elite Edge, we had that Bauer event here, the guys were here and we got to demo some sticks, how cool was that?’” Gentile said. “That’s a win for us to hear something like that. It’s great for us to be a face in the market, not just a company that’s never seen. We want to be out there giving back to the game.”