Until I became a member of Stanley Cup of Chowder, my infrequent visits to Canadian Tire stores were strictly limited to practical searches for motor oil, tools, and the occasional odd camping accessory. As a result of my broadened horizons, however, I found myself strolling through the store in Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland as we waited for the ferry back to Nova Scotia, and set my sights on finding any NHL licensed merchandise. This is a treat for me, as I seldom see any Bruins merchandise in stores here at home in the States, usually just boring tee shirts, beer sleeves, pins, and disposable cigarette lighters.
Make no mistake, at any Canadian Tire store there is always an entire sports section filled with hockey equipment of all kinds- jerseys, pads, sticks, skates, goalie gear, pucks... and in sizes for youth and adults of both sexes. Their commitment to the sport is unwavering, and the local preference in Port Aux Basques was apparently for the Canadiens and Maple Leafs team merchandise. I recall hearing an interview in which Chris Kelly reported stretching his local store's generous return policy as he moved through his youth hockey years, returning broken stick after broken stick for exchange until the exasperated store staff returned his money and invited him to take his business elsewhere. But looking for NHL merchandise in the sporting goods section is no challenge. I pressed on into automotive, where I found puck sized cling magnets to decorate cars in both Canadiens and Maple Leafs logo motifs.
Continuing on into the toy section, there were small, blond plush teddy bears sporting team sweaters of the Oilers, Senators, Canadiens, and Maple Leafs, and on the neighbouring shelf sat a lonesome box of O-Pee-Chee hockey trading cards, which had sadly been discounted for quick sale in the off season. I was frankly surprised to see the Oilers logo so far east, but later that morning in the parking lot of the Tim Horton's directly across the street from the Canadian Tire, we parked next to an electric utility truck which coincidentally had an Oilers hockey gear bag stuffed in the back seat of the crew cab.
Our final chance to shop Canadian Tire was in Woodstock, New Brunswick, where the expansive sporting goods section offered the usual Canadiens, Senators, and Maple Leafs jerseys, but in addition to those were a selection of both red and white Team Canada jerseys. On a whim, I continued into the pet supply section, where my search was rewarded by finding the one singular item that left me howling with laughter -- a Toronto Maple Leafs dog sweater. And it was not a size intended for a sturdy, large dog, either. To add insult to injury, it was a very small size, almost apologetic-- clearly intended for some toy breed.
Some firms diligently protect their brands by carefully selecting what sort of merchandise will sport their logo. Others (such as Harley Davidson... cough, cough) prostitute their logo onto everything from playing cards and shot glasses to women's g-string underwear. And now I'm sure the thought of some spindly-legged teacup Chihuahua in a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater will cause me to laugh next time I see their team take to the ice.