By Ben Karkela
Photos by Amita Manandhar
The Fargo-Moorhead area produces hockey players in great numbers. Hockey thrives along the Red River where long, cold winters dominate the climate.
The Hockey Zone in Moorhead offers the expertise and equipment that hockey players demand. People come from throughout the greater Fargo-Moorhead region to find their hockey needs. The location at 415 Main Ave. makes the store accessible and easy to find.
Co-owner Rory Sandvig, a former hockey coach, now provides players with the necessary equipment.
Former coach keeps players sharp
Rory Sandvig opened The Hockey Zone five years ago. At the time, he coached the Moorhead Spuds, a powerhouse hockey team in hockey-mad Minnesota. He stepped down as head coach after the 2007-2008 season to give his full attention to the store. He currently operates the store with co-owner Chip Ammerman.
Sandvig still regularly attends Moorhead home games and remains good friends with Moorhead head coach Dave Morinville. Most players on Morinville’s team shop and get their skates sharpened at The Hockey Zone.
"We guarantee the best skate sharpening," Sandvig says.
If a player is not satisfied with the way his or her skates have been sharpened, Sandvig says The Hockey Zone will sharpen the skates again for free.
Sandvig sharpens a pair of skates (top) and inspects the edges (bottom). If the blades are not the correct dimension, he sharpens them again.
Caring for the customer
Customer service takes priority at The Hockey Zone. When a customer talks to a salesperson, the customer can expect to be guided to quality equipment at the best possible price. That’s because employees don’t work on commission. That means employees will not try to sell a customer the most expensive equipment if the customer doesn’t need it.
"We try to put people in the correct product," store manager Jesse Gordon said.
People can buy their equipment anywhere, but Sandvig believes the personal care employees give customers is what separates The Hockey Zone from other hockey retailers.
The Hockey Zone also offers a skate lease program. The program allows parents to lease skates each season so they don’t have to buy an expensive new pair of skates for their growing child or children each year.
A wide variety of skates wait to be leased.
A vast selection of equipment
Hockey is a complex sport. Even the equipment can be complex, not to mention expensive. A player first needs the basics: skates, a stick and a puck. What else might a player need? A helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, hockey pants, shin pads, mouth guard, tape, a uniform and skate guards are all needed for most hockey players.
All employees know the products they sell very well — usually because they’ve used the products on the ice. The Hockey Zone takes pride in having a knowledgeable staff that can give customer answers they want.
"We try to hire hockey guys and turn them into salesmen," Sandvig said.
The Hockey Zone sells everything from stick blades (top) to shoulder pads (bottom).
Former players return
Over the years, Moorhead produced multiple top hockey players, many of them coached by Sandvig. In the summer, former players who come back to town make sure to stop by the Hockey Zone to get their skates sharpened. National Hockey League players such as Matt Cullen and Brian Lee stop by as well as a number of Division I players such as Chris VandeVelde and Jordy Christian.
Many of the players skate and train all summer, so keeping their skates sharp is essential to keeping their game even sharper.
Sandvig surveys the store while manning the register.