On Thursday morning, Rasmus Dahlin saw social media posts featuring custom SkateSkins that Barrett Hayton wore during warmups before the Arizona Coyotes’ game against the Dallas Stars.
It was a meaningful gesture and a moment of remembrance for Matt Shott and Leighton Accardo, who both held special meaning to the Coyotes and passed away after battles with cancer, and for Dahlin it was an indicator that he asked, he would also be able to wear a custom look for a special occasion during warm-ups.
So he reached out to Matthew Keeler and Nick Ciavarella, who run SkateSkins in Buffalo, and asked if they could organize something for Sabers players in honor of longtime retiring broadcaster Rick Jeanneret and called his last game on Friday. night against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Keeler, who does most of the design work, spent all of Thursday evening working on a design with Jared Halt. On Friday afternoon, around 3 p.m., he delivered them to Dahlin’s home in Buffalo. That evening, several players wore the skates in honor of Jeanneret.
It’s been a landmark week for SkateSkins, a nearly 2-year-old brand that creates and sells reusable decal graphics to customize skates. It officially went from a passion project for Keeler and Ciavarella to NHL ice.
SkateSkins made their professional debut last spring at the 2020 IIHF World Championships with a trio of Latvian players wearing custom designs. Since then, popularity has skyrocketed. They received team orders from the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins and the PHF’s Buffalo Beauts, while the Golden Knight mascot wore custom SkateSkins during the glitz and circumstance of a pre-game show at Vegas.
The Golden Knight mascot was the soft launch in the NHL, while Hayton became the first NHL player to wear them in warmups this week against the Stars.
The Coyotes were one of the first teams interested in SkateSkins after seeing the custom AirJordan skates Keeler and Ciavarella created with sneaker artist Dakota Wiley in early 2021. Keeler and Ciavarella then met with the brand manager Coyotes Alex Meruelo Jr. and Public Relations Manager. Rico Ripoly back in February 2022 to discuss introducing the product to NHL ice. This set in motion plans for Keeler and Ciavarella to work with Hayton and Coyotes forward Loui Eriksson on custom designs.
Hayton’s SkateSkin was a mix of personal style and an homage to Shott and Accardo. Shott died after a long battle with cancer in December and was a key figure in the Arizona hockey community and the Coyotes’ director of amateur hockey development. Accardo was inducted into the Coyotes’ ring of honor in 2021. She was the Coyotes’ 9-year-old Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador who signed a one-day contract with the team and died in 2020 hours before the Coyotes don’t plan on having it. on the ice before a game once again.
Keeler and Hayton discussed various elements of the design throughout the process, with a focus on honoring Shott and Accardo, who both feature prominently on the outside of the skate.
Eriksson wore a pair of SkateSkins commemorating his 1,000th NHL game in the Coyotes’ season finale on Friday night. As part of the design process, Eriksson sent photos of her tattoos with the names of her four children to Keeler, who worked to include them in the design.
The next step for SkateSkins, which Keeler and Ciavarella run under the umbrella of a company called Just Dishin, is to get them onto NHL ice after warm-ups. At this point they do not have NHL approval for use of the game, and use during warm-ups had to be approved by the league, but player interest creates demand that the league not will soon be able to ignore.
Keeler and Ciavarella met players in Vegas during the NHL All-Star Game in February and several expressed interest in the product and got their own designs. Others reached out separately, and the number of calls increased after Hayton’s Dallas pregame look made the rounds on social media earlier this week.
When they launched SkateSkins, initially showing the product on social media like Instagram and TikTok, Keeler and Ciavarella noticed a heavy dose of negative feedback and detractors. These types of comments have been drowned out over the past two years, and overall they say the company has increased sales by 50% in each of the past two years.
In addition to sales growth, utilizing the proceeds after an NHL opener is the next big hurdle.
“Hopefully soon,” Keeler said. “The players are ready to show their personality with this. I hope they let them.”
The Krug family looking for another title
Torey Krug continues his pursuit of a championship next week when the St. Louis Blues open the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Minnesota Wild, and he hopes to join his brother, Adam, who has already started celebrating.
Adam is the coach of Adrian College, which won the NCAA Division III championship this spring with a 5-2 win over Geneseo in March. The team has won 31 consecutive games after losing the first game of the season.
For the brothers, who are eight years apart, hockey is a weekly, if not daily, conversation.
“We talk often, we break things down and we discuss the game,” Torey Krug said. “We’ll talk about my game, our power play and how things are going. I like to watch as many of Adrian’s matches as possible, so we’ll talk about his matches as well. It’s fun to put on the coaching hat a bit.
For Adam, it was his first chance to win an NCAA title in two seasons after COVID canceled the last two Division III national tournaments. Last season, without a national championship to play for, Adrian was able to schedule games against Division I opponents looking for matches and against the United States National Development Team in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Those contests, Adam Krug said, were a bit of a launching pad for Adrian at the start of the season and the only game they lost, on opening night, came with some of Protocol’s best players. COVID.
Adrian’s success has put Adam Krug in an interesting place in the coaching world, as the college hockey ranks are about to go through a wild coaching carousel.
Renowned positions are now open at Boston College, Boston University, and Michigan State. Adam already has a connection to Michigan State — Torey played there — while the fallout of who gets the job from BC and BU could create other desirable openings in Division I. Adam is confident, but coy about his intentions. He is happy with Adrian but is also not shy about stating that he is willing and ready to progress in his coaching career.
Torey, on the other hand, is a much more energetic pitchman for his older brother.
“He should be a Division I coach,” Torey said. “No doubt about it.”
Jersey Announcement Update
The St. Louis Blues became the fifth team to reveal a publicity sponsor for the jersey on Thursday, announcing that Stifel had signed a 5-year contract with the team. The patch will be on home and away uniforms.
The Washington Capitals (Caesars Sports Book), Columbus Blue Jackets (Safelite), Pittsburgh Penguins (Highmark Blue Shield) and Vegas (Circa Sports) have already announced at least one partner. The Capitals and Golden Knights will have different road jersey ads, which have yet to be finalized as NHL rules only allow teams to sell sports betting jersey ads for domestic markets.
NHL teams have a choice of where to place the patch, and so far all five teams have made the decision to put it on the chest rather than the shoulder. This was planned because the concept of a shoulder patch was more of an add-on to the deal than a way to find flexibility for some more traditional teams that didn’t want a sponsor on the front of the shirt.
(Pictures: Matthew Keeler and Nick Ciavarella/SkateSkins)