Walk through the doors of the South Windsor Arena and you automatically feel like you’re part of a big hockey family. And the Grigorian family wouldn’t want it any other way.
A staple in South Windsor, Conn., for the past 39 years, the rink, restaurant and retail store are more than just another local business. It provides the pulse of the sport in the heart of this rich Connecticut hockey community.
“We like to think of ourselves as more than just a hockey warehouse and retail store,” says Hockey 1 co-owner Steve Grigorian, who runs the store with his brother Lenny.
“We have an arena right next door, a restaurant, which is the oldest in South Windsor, and we have tried to make it a destination where people can come play hockey, eat some good food and buy some great equipment.”
Opened by their father in 1971, the Grigorians have invested their own blood, sweat and tears into turning Hockey 1 into one of the preeminent hockey pro shops and mail order companies by catering to everyone from the novice player to the budding professional. Powered by the staff’s passion for the sport and outstanding customer service, Hockey 1’s goals are simple; Do it with heart.
“Everyone that works for us has played, coached, refereed or still plays hockey. They know exactly how to help our customers with that same passion and heart for this game, which is really the most important facet of our store,” says Grigorian who has spent his fair share at a rink as a hockey dad.
“For us, the customers and this community are the most important piece to the puzzle. We like to do all that we can to give back to them. That is what we strive to do everyday. “
The quest to give back kicks into overdrive every June when a huge 50-by-50 foot circus tent dominates the property that sits off a busy South Windsor street.
Beginning this Friday morning, June 10, and running through Sunday afternoon, Hockey 1 will launch its eighth annual tent sale that attracts hockey players and their parents from all over New England and as far away as New York.
“We started this venture of a tent sale as a way to give back to all of our customers and a way to pick up during our slower months,” Grigorian says of the sale that brings in more than 1,000 people over the course of the weekend.
“We put everything on sale, new and old equipment, and open our doors up for people to get an all access experience, including speaking with manufacture reps and a chance to take a look at some of the next season’s gear.”
Players ranging from Mites to Midgets and beyond get a chance to do more than just check out the new equipment — they get to try it out on the ice to make sure it suits their game.
“If you have your eyes set on a $200 stick or a pair of $600 skates and you have never tried them before, how do you know that it is worth the money?” asks Grigorian, whose tent sale is the only one in the country that allows players to test equipment from manufacturers before they purchase it.
“So we open the ice up and let people make sure it is the right fit for them with the help of those manufacturers reps on hand. There is nothing else like it.”
And while hockey is still their livelihood, the Gregorians derive their real profit from the sense of community that lives within the walls of their rink and pro shop.
“This sale brings people who drive two hours from New York and they run in to people in the hockey world that they know,” Grigorian says.
“It shows how close we all are in this hockey community. Blood related or not, we are all a family and that by far is my favorite part about this business.”