Sportscraft Source for Sports – An Important Piece of NL Sports History

Posted on August 11, 2022

The end of June usually marks the beginning of VHG summer night skates, and this year is no different. Grabbing odds and ends is part of the gig – markers, white boards, and in today’s case – a referees jersey. I’ve donned the stripes on many occasions, but the uniform was usually owned by long-time colleague and former Baie Verte Minor Hockey Association legend Curtis Clarke (miss ya Clarkie). I needed to become my own Zebra.

Where I spent numerous afternoons as a child, stick-handling ball hockey balls in the narrow hallways

Even though Steph Delaney has been good to me at Sport Chek (thank you always), I decided to swing over to Ropewalk Lane to “Wayne’s” to grab a refs jersey. Wayne – to those of you who don’t know him – is the gentleman that you’ll see virtually every time you’re at Sportscraft Source for Sports. If you asked 100 hockey guys in St. John’s, they’d say that Wayne probably had a dress shirt tucked in and a pair of tan pants on at the store today, because he’s worn something along those lines since before I was born (ironic that – in the above photo – he has exactly that on. I downloaded the above photo after I started typing, which goes to show that Wayne is the epitome of consistency). Wayne is a legend – through pandemics, changing consumer trends, the online shopping craze, the dot com bubble, the housing market collapse, and being in one of the most difficult places on planet earth to find parking for (back in the Water Street days), Wayne Crocker (and his sons Mark and Doug) have managed to successfully run a sporting goods business that has captured the hearts and minds of generations. Yes, generations.

The Crocker’s haven’t been successful because of fancy marketing campaigns, analytics, or search engine optimization. Sportscraft doesn’t have Tik Tok – or at least I can’t find them on there – and doesn’t have a behemoth social media following. The Crocker’s success is summed up by the photo above… in-person interaction. A sense of belonging. A personal touch.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where – within 5 paces of the main entrance – I haven’t been greeted with a “hey Andrew” from one of the Crocker’s. It’s like they all have a photographic memory of every customer that has ever been inside their four walls. For those of you out there taking business courses in university, I’d recommend checking this store out because it is a real-life example of how a personal touch makes a difference. Yes, a mass e-mail with your name at the top may come across as ‘customer engagement’ to some, but at Sportscraft, I’d say the Crocker clan can tell you what type of stick I liked back when I played senior hockey. Or the skates I bought when I played U18 with the Leafs. Or a story about my dad, or my brother. The definition of marketing is building strong customer relationships, and the Crocker’s do that with everyone who enters their store. If you don’t believe me, go in there Monday through Friday and I bet one of the 3 are there talking to a customer about the latest baseball game that happened at St. Pat’s, the Herder Finals, or the growth of female hockey in the province.

The Crocker family exudes the most important aspect that businesspeople need to be successful – passion. They all know the products – Mark handed me a softball bat today and started talking about the historical logo on the bat like he was reading the facts off a Google search engine. I yelled out to Mark as I was leaving to say good bye, and didn’t receive an answer back. As I was getting in my truck, Mark poked his head out the door and waved – a little detail, but a big impression.

You may say to yourself ‘well you’re a big hockey person and you spend a lot of money there’, but the truth is, I don’t. In the grand scheme of things, I am a small fish at Sportscraft. Outside of a Christmas gift(s) for the VHG staff and some odds and ends, I may represent 0.000001% of Sportscraft’s revenue in a calendar year. My skates and 2 of my last 4 sticks were ordered directly through CCM. VHG gets all of its clothing through Sarah Bartlett at Island Wide Promotions and have no intention of leaving as Sarah has been very good to us over the years. But at Sportscraft, even a small customer is an important one.

Some parts of me still miss the old Water Street location, even though their Ropewalk Lane store is far superior in every way. Sportscraft has been on Ropewalk Lane for at least 10 years, but I can still picture the old store layout. Entrance to the left of the cash. Walk straight through the door and there was a wall/mini hallway of hockey gloves and some fishing gear. Veer right and walk straight down the hall – sticks on the left-hand side, goalie gear hanging from the ceiling or along the back wall. Skate and shoe/cleat rack along the opposite wall from the sticks, with clothing racks in the middle between the skates and sticks creating two corridors. Baseball gloves/accessories right in front of the cash. Back in those days, Sportscraft maximized every last ounce of retail space because they only had about 500 square feet of it. It’s a good thing the Crocker’s weren’t claustrophobic, because the old store was like a phone booth. I can still remember the Randy Pearcey Hockey School poster plastered to the door back in the ’90’s, back when local private hockey businesses weren’t in the dozens.

To any young, aspiring businesspeople out there – if you take anything away from the Sportscraft experience, it should be that in a world that converses in snap scores and goods being delivered by unmanned aircraft, there is still a place for brick and mortar stores that differentiate themselves on CRM. That and linesman jerseys are cheaper than refs jerseys. Who knew arm bands were so expensive, even with inflation?

Until next time,