Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ladd's stick, Buff's skates can now be yours

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IF you've ever wondered what it's like to skate a mile in Dustin Byfuglien's skates, you're about to get your chance.

The Jets Gear store at St. Vital Centre has received its first shipment of game-used equipment from the Winnipeg Jets. Now on the shop floor or hanging on the walls are sticks, gloves and pants from a variety of players, including Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian.

"This sets us apart from every other store in the city. If you want pro Jets gear, we're the exclusive outlet for it," said James Scott, the store's manager.

He said the equipment, despite having been used by professional players crashing into each other and the boards at top speed, is in very good shape.

"A lot of it looks like it was used for a couple of shifts. A lot of the players switch up their sticks halfway through a game," he said, noting some of the sticks are in pristine shape.

Scott said a shipment of skates is expected shortly, too. Pucks used in NHL games at the MTS Centre are also for sale and are expected to be "very hot" items, Scott said.

"A lot of people are looking for the official game puck. It's very hard to come by. Now a lot of people will be able to purchase the real deal," he said.

It used to common for fans to snag pucks during games when they were shot or deflected into the stands. But the league mandated protective netting be installed at the goal ends of every team's facility following the death of a 13-year-old girl at a Columbus Blue Jackets game in 2002. Now pucks hit the netting, causing a stoppage in play, and bounce back on to the ice.

Scott said he has about 70 sticks and 25 pairs of gloves, all of which will sell for between $150 and $295. The pucks will retail for $40.

Pretty much every kind of protective gear used by the team will be made available to the public.

"Everything except jocks," Scott said with a laugh.

Scott Brown, director of communications for the Jets, said True North Sports & Entertainment did something similar with equipment from Manitoba Moose players in previous years but on a smaller scale.

The team decided to make Jets equipment available for sale in response to strong demand from fans.

"I think there's a big thirst from the public to be able to have a game-used stick that's not snapped in half. If it's available to us to sell in an acceptable form, it makes good business that we would do that," he said.

The Jets Gear store works in conjunction with the team's equipment managers and players in sourcing equipment, Brown said.

"No player is obligated to give up something they don't want to give up," he said.

Arguably the most sought-after piece of equipment -- player jerseys -- will not be for sale. The NHL, not the team, controls what happens to them, Brown said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2011 B1

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