For this Q&A we have tabbed Keith Perera from Warrior Hockey. Keith handles the stick business for Warrior and can be found on Twitter @warriorstickguy. His Q&A gives some very cool insight to his role with Warrior, some interesting pro requests and where Warrior’s unique graphics and nicknames come from.
Great Skate: Your Twitter account says you’re the “Warrior Stick Guy”. More or less that sounds like just about every hockey player’s dream job. Tell us a little bit about your day-to-day work.
Keith Perera: Stick Guy is a moniker I stole from an old colleague at Mission Hockey. He actually had “Stick Guy” on his business card! I was the “young skate guy” at the time, so I always remembered it. My day-to-day in simple terms is planning out the product line for future global releases, working with the development team on future technology, crafting the story behind every technology and informing the sales and marketing groups on our stick product and direction. PMs also work closely with our dealer base and players to come up with new products or technologies that are not currently met in the market. Making better products to make players better is our main objective.
GS: As a guy born in Montreal, raised in LA and now working in Michigan, what type of hockey background do you have?
KP: I have a very unique hockey background. I was born in Montreal where my passion for hockey developed. I moved to LA at a young age, a couple years after the Gretzky trade, and experienced the hyper-growth of our game through ice and roller hockey. I started working in a hockey shop at 16yrs old, managed it through college, and got a job at Mission Hockey’s Warranty Department after college. Worked my way up the ranks to Skate Product Manager (PureFly) and had a short stint in the golf business before landing at Warrior where I began as PM for Sticks/Protective/Goalie. It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors along the way. Our industry is a great one.
GS: Lefty or righty?
KP: Right Handed but I shoot Lefty.
KP: I’m using an old Toews Pro pattern…like if E28 and W03-Kopitar had a baby. When using retail pattern, I float between Kopitar and Kovalev…I’m not very good, so I always blame my sticks
GS: Velvet Grip, Nipple Grip or basic finish?
KP: I’ve always been an Innovative guy, from the beginning when we used to sell them in our store …so I love the old Polarfibre grip feel. But these days I use a Matte clear finish with diamond texture (have I mentioned yet that I love my job?).
GS: Do you work with NHL professionals too? If so, what are some of the crazier requests you’ve gotten from the pros you work with.
KP: I do work with Pros sometimes. Warrior has an amazing team of Pro Reps that have the relationships and are very skilled at figuring out what a pro player needs for their sticks. Most of my work is done from the standpoint of guiding the Pro Sales Team on direction for what we showcase in pro to help promote our new retail sticks at any given time during the season. Craziest request: Without a doubt – Ryan Smyth asking us to make a graphite blade “look like wood”…I call it “flesh blade”- it’s kinda gross.
GS: Who is/was your favorite NHLer to work with? Who was the toughest?
KP: It’s a tie: Best two guys ever… Nicklas Lidstrom and Teemu Selanne for skates. Selanne is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met and Lidstrom is purest form of class. Toughest…no comment.
GS: What struggles, if any, have you dealt with working for a company that – when Warrior first jumped into hockey – may not be considered a “traditional” hockey manufacturer?
KP: Great question. The biggest challenge for Warrior, is what I call, the “post-launch hangover”. We blew out the doors with an amazing marketing buzz and on-ice product recognition (bright colors/crazy graphics) and it really helped us become the fastest growing hockey brand in this industry’s history. After that, Dealers and Consumers wanted more from us and needed a reason to buy Warrior for performance and less for standing out in a crowd. In the last two years, we have been working very hard to give that reason to the consumer. Our product line has become very focused, very simple, and very high in performance. Gone are the Dragons and Kroniks. I can honestly say that Covert and Dynasty lines of product are the very best Warrior/Innovative have made in relation to performance, game-improvement and durability – ever.
GS: Warrior has two very cool sticks on the market, the Covert and the Dynasty. Which suits your game best, and why?
KP: I know this is a total bail-out move, but I like both for very specific reasons: The Covert’s low kick is ideal for me since I take mostly wrist shots in my beer league. I love the feel of the True1 construction. I like the Dynasty’s AxySym since I can really feel the recoil power on slap shots during our company morning skate. In a more relaxed environment, I have the time to wind up for a slap shot and it feels amazing. Again, I’m not a very skilled player, so I need all the time I can get!
GS: Both stick lines are full of groundbreaking features, which stood out to you the most during the development process and now that it has hit the market?
KP: Dagger Taper for me is probably the tech that stands out the most. It’s a very simple visual and tangible concept that takes advantage of our manufacturing ability to achieve the very best performance gains for a player. True1 allows Dagger Taper to really flex down in the area where, in the past, fuse joints used to be. We took that “dead flex area” and made it active and lively which most players need. Dagger allows flex with very little effort; a true game-improvement feature that we were fortunate enough to get a patented. The feature that is the most “under the radar” is probably TwinSpar. Adding those two carbon structures to our blades has made huge improvements on our blade durability and pop-life…it’s a great under the hood feature that most people enjoy the benefits of but rarely actually see.
GS: I personally love my Dynasty AX1, what has been the type of feedback you’ve been getting on both the Covert and Dynasty?
KP: The Covert has been a joy. The performance benefits to players and the quick-release has been awesome to see, especially for players using DT4 and DT5. The Dynasty was a huge surprise for me. I honestly didn’t expect so many people to love the feel of the mid-kick and how smooth the stick is to load and release. It’s really a great time at Warrior.
GS: I noticed Mikhail Grigorenko of the Buffalo Sabres using a white Covert. Will more colors be available to the retail market, or is that a custom option only?
KP: More colors will be available in our retail line with the intro of our New Covert later this year (more info to come later). Right now, an all-white stick similar to Grigo is available on the customizer.
GS: Going back to the Dolomite and some of Warrior’s earlier stick models, you guys have always had some cool nicknames and artwork for the features you develop. Who comes up with the taglines and logos for these?
KP: It’s a collaboration between myself and our stick designer, Isaac. He has been with Innovative/Warrior since the beginning of both companies and has been amazing to work with…he’s a technically and aesthetically creative force. We are both a little quirky and it certainly shows in some of the graphics we worked on in the past. Our graphics now have become a little more simplified from far, but if you still look closely we always sneak some unique details in there (mid kick logo is a great example). We are Warrior, always will be…so we embrace being different and having fun all the while building legitimately high performing product and technology.
GS: Both the Dynasty and Covert unveiled some very cool features to the stick world. What can we expect from Warrior in the coming months and years?
KP: I was just saying this to one of our sales guys…it’s a very very exciting time at Warrior. We have built an amazing product foundation with Covert and Dynasty. We have learned a lot along the way for what our consumer expects from us and how we can deliver product that will always challenge that. Our company was started in a Princeton University dorm room, by a kid from Michigan who thought that the Lacrosse industry was too old and “too set in their ways”. He made a Titanium shaft that shook the industry and changed the game…that spirit lives in everything we do.