Judging from the modest exterior of Kenesky’s Sport and Cycle on the corner of Barton and Wellington Streets in Hamilton you would never know that you were visiting the Sistine Chapel of hockey equipment. But from the 1950s to the 1970s every goalie in the NHL wore Kenesky goalie pads lovingly hand crafted by Emile “Pop” Kenesky who died in 1974. Joel Hulsman, who worked at the store from age 12 and who bought the store in 1985 recalls, “Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuck—they’d be sitting on the steps on a Saturday morning waiting for the place to open so they could get a repair done. In 1922 Pop Kenesky invented the cork covered softball and in 1928 he invented the basic design for a goalie pad that is still in use today. “Pop was well respected and he worked hard,” said Joel, “at his peak he made 300 pairs of pads a year”. Demand was so great that many potential customers were turned away. A pair was once shipped overseas on the Hindenburg in the 1930’s. Other netminders who used Kenesky pads included Ron Hextall, Johnny Bower, Ken Dryden, Al Bester, Gump Worsley Turk Broda, and Ed Giacomin. “it wasn’t just NHL goalies who came in here,” said Joel, “we had NHL forwards and defencemen as well.” Keneskys has kept pace with the times in the face of competition from sports equipment chains. The internet is a big part of their strategy now. “We are a destination,” says Joel, “our customers come from Kitchener, Fort Erie, Toronto even overseas—I deal with buyers in Abu Dhabi, Switzerland and Japan. Still the business is very competitive, “the web is a big piece of the equation now,” says Joel. He also is glad he bought the property and a number of other properties in the area, so he is not paying rent. For the 100th anniversary the big celebration will a major Celebrity Golf Tournament On July 15 at Knollwood in Ancaster.The tourney is already Sold out.
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