Online store sells vintage Toledo Goaldiggers memorabiliaWritten by Kevin Moore | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo has a strong attachment to hockey.
Since the Toledo Mercurys first took the ice in 1947, the city has hosted six hockey franchises. A glance at the banners hanging from the rafters in the Huntington Center will reveal that Toledo’s various hockey team incarnations have produced a number of champions.
For Toledoans who grew up in the ’70s or early ’80s, the Toledo Goaldiggers, a franchise from 1974-86, represent a nostalgic and successful era for Toledo hockey. The team had six appearances in the International Hockey League finals and four championship titles. David B. Hamilton, a longtime hockey fan, can remember enthusiastically watching the Goaldiggers as a teenager. This summer, he founded Toledo Retro Hockey, a vintage sports apparel company and digital photo archive as a way to honor Toledo’s hockey history, particularly the Goaldigger era.
“I had been thinking about starting a sports apparel line for a long time,” said the corporate salesman-turned-entrepreneur. “But I wasn’t sure what that would be until the holidays last year. I wanted to see if I could find any Goaldigger apparel and discovered that aside from a few items for sale on eBay, there wasn’t much out there.”
Hamilton spent the next several weeks conducting online research to locate the owner of the Goaldiggers’ trademark, Classic Sports Logo of Garland, Texas, and in February he began negotiations for licensing. When the two parties reached an agreement nearly three months later, Hamilton set himself the task of finding vendors and designers who could not only create quality sports apparel on par with NHL or college athletic clothing (facilitated by SP Apparel of Québec) but also accurately reproduce the team’s vintage artwork.
“One of the biggest challenges with this was design,” said Hamilton. “Everything was hand-cut back then. They didn’t have PDFs. But now everything is produced digitally so I hired a graphic artist to re-create the Goaldigger artwork in the various formats I needed.”
Hamilton’s initial vision for Toledo Retro Hockey was to only sell Goaldigger T-shirts and hoodies, but he quickly realized there was strong enough interest in vintage hockey to branch into other areas of merchandise like hats, replica jerseys and souvenir pucks. “I was a little surprised with the reception. I wondered if anyone would remember the Goaldiggers,” said Hamilton, who created a Facebook page for Toledo Retro Hockey on July 4 and activated the company’s website a month later. “But there are Toledo hockey fans all over the place! Toledo Retro Hockey currently has over 1,300 fans on Facebook, and I’ve sent orders to 16 states all the way from Maine to Alaska.”
Now that he is able to wear the Goaldigger apparel he was unable to find online last Christmas, Hamilton receives several comments when wearing his merchandise in public. “When I started my firsthand market research, I found that people over 40 would notice what I was wearing, stop and say, ‘Wow! That’s old.’ Those under 40 typically just walked right by. But as the number of fans on Facebook grows, I see the demographic is getting younger and younger. Young people are taking an interest in retro hockey, and bringing this vintage brand into the 21st century was one of my goals.”
The “second prong” of Hamilton’s plan for Toledo Retro Hockey was to preserve Toledo’s hockey heritage for the next generation as well as for those who lived it. Toledo Retro Hockey’s website contains a historical photo collection of the Toledo Goaldiggers as well as the Toledo Blades and Toledo Hornets. Many of the images have been provided by vintage hockey collectors from across the country and even former players. Also featured prominently on the site’s homepage is an excerpt of the documentary “Toledo Hockey History,” courtesy of WGTE. Featured in the short clip are the “Miracle on Main Street,” when 10,000 fans crowded Toledo’s streets following the Goaldiggers’ unexpected 1975 championship win, and an interview with Mike Eruzione, who, after leaving the Goaldiggers, went on to play for the victorious 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Looking ahead to 2014 and beyond, Hamilton hopes to grow the website’s digital history collection. He would also like to expand Toledo Retro Hockey’s merchandise selection to include Toledo’s other historic hockey franchises and possibly open a bricks-and-mortar storefront. Hamilton believes there is enough interest in Toledo’s vintage hockey for him to do so.
“Toledo is a blue-collar town with long winters,” he said. “We’re used to a ‘rock ‘em, sock ‘em’ style of physical hockey. It’s what we’re used to, we love it and it’s here to stay.”
For more information about Toledo Retro Hockey, visit www.facebook.com/ToledoRetroHockey or www.toledoretrohockey.com.