It is a rare opportunity in this lifetime to get a chance to meet someone you can truly respect, and when those instances do arise, they leave a very tangible mark on you.
Our modern society is obsessed with results, and we live in a time where the ends very much justify the means, regardless of implications.
Bearing that in mind, true passion has almost become cliché as everyone who claims to have passion does so to conceal an almost total lack thereof.
Though this article very loosely relates to the NHL, I feel it is a story that truly defines what hockey is about, and more importantly so, exemplifies how determination and ingenuity can positively affect the game we love.
In the sleepy town of Walpole, Massachusetts, about 45-minutes from Boston, tucked far back in an unassuming red brick business park about a 10 minute drive from Gilette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots are the offices of Farrell Sports Concepts.
Subtlety notwithstanding, the building is almost an ironic juxtaposition to the unbridled creativity contained within the walls.
Started by Dan Farrell in 2001, the vision he had was quite simple: build a shoulder pad that reduces weight, increases range of motion, and most importantly, offers more protection for a game that gets faster and more aggressive every year.
He accomplished this by going to the pros and major junior players before he even began production to get their input on what makes a good pair of shoulder pads.
This, combined with a concept created by Farrell, referred to as Kinetic Energy Compression Chamber Technology where small foam cubes with a hole in the middle accept and disperse impact across the four sides of the cube evenly, allowed the company to manufacture what may be the most revolutionary innovation in protective gear for hockey since the introduction of foam.
Now, Farrell Hockey enjoys a strong reputation among major junior players, pro players, university players and trainers all over North America.
I recently had the opportunity to meet Dan Farrell, and get the tour of his facilities before joining him and a few of his Farrell counterparts to catch a few games at the Chowder Cup tournament, an annual showcase of some of the best junior age players in North America.
In meeting Dan,affectionately nicknamed 'Sniper' by his friends and players he meets, I was genuinely surprised by how unassuming his appearance is, about six-feet tall, slight framed with glasses and eyes that let you know that at any given moment he's working something out in his head.
As for his personality, he is the very essence of an extrovert, very animated and vibrant, but most surprisingly without a hint of arrogance or self-satisfaction, regardless of the fact he makes his living doing something many hockey fans could only dream of.
In walking around the offices with him, the walls were adorned with posters of CHL players, mainly of the Lewiston Maineiacs, a team Farrell has had a very strong relationship with due to their proximity to Walpole, their recent standout graduates are David Perron of the St. Louis Blues and Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings.
Dan excitedly spoke of the new products and ideas, as well as of the game in general. One cannot help but get caught up in his energy when he speaks.
Walking around the offices was like walking around any hockey players dreamland—hockey on every wall, a lounge with a big screen TV, leather couches and a pool table, three office sized rooms spilling over with gear, a full sized warehouse complete with an area designated strictly for shooting pucks around and also a basketball net.
Even Sniper's office is a monument to all things hockey and/or Boston, including pictures of one of many New England Patriots players sporting elbow pads Farrell designed, a Good Will Hunting poster, and a stack of DVD's, some more notable titles that I saw included Slap Shot, Miracle and Mystery, Alaska.
During the tournament, watching Dan bounce around, talking to players and asking them their thoughts on the new sticks and gloves he recently released was almost awe-inspiring, for the simple fact that he is Farrell, they are wearing his name and ideas which they spent money for, and rather than resting on his laurels, he actively asks people for advice/feedback/comments to further improve his products.
I mean in this day and age, where do you see that?
It's like the president of Nike coming up to you and asking if a) you like their shoes and b) if there's anything you would change about them so they can work on that.
The level of interactivity Farrell customers enjoy with Sniper is most likely unparalleled anywhere in business as he makes himself readily available on facebook, myspace, through the companies website, he even has his personal cell phone number listed in his facebook profile so that anyone on his friends list can text him or call him should they feel they need to reach him, seeing as that he doesn't turn down anyone's request, it goes to show exactly how available he makes himself.
A further testament to his character occurred during the first game Team Farrell played in the tournament against a team from New Jersey.
The fans were just as vocal as the players to say the least and as the game progressed, emotions ran high.
In the third, there was even chirping between the two benches, which Dan happily involved himself in to defend his players.
Team Farrell won the game and it was a begrudging handshake at the end, but everyone went their separate ways.
Out in the lobby while we waited for some of Farrell's players to come out, the New Jersey team walked by to their bus, Dan made a point to say to all of them that they played an excellent game, but more amazingly so, singled out one player who he had exchanged words with during the game and actually apologized to him for any possibly hurt feelings.
So what is the point to this article really?
It's not an advertisement, or a pitch or a gimmick; essentially, this is the expression of amazement by a hockey fan that something so unadulterated can still exist in the corporate over saturation that we call hockey in this day and age.
So, if you own a sports shop, or know anyone who does, have them have a look at Farrell gear, if for no other reason than to support the underdog in the advertising driven realm of sports marketing.
Find Farrell online at www.farrellsports.com, also on facebook and myspace.