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Remembrance Day, Friday, November 11, 2016
Posted: November 02, 2016

Friday, November 11, 2015


Juno Beach - June 6, 1944 (Photo courtesy of Ian McLean)

 

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When the Fastest Man on Two Wheels Was on a CCM Flyer
Posted: October 09, 2016

 
From top left: Willie Spencer as a 15 year-old amateur, as the 1922
American sprint champion and as a promoter at Maple Leaf Gardens

Born November 11, 1895, in Manchester, England, William Gerald Spencer moved to Canada with his parents at the age of three. In 1910 he took up bicycle racing as a 15-year-old amateur. Blessed with a competitive edge and a keen sense of drama, by the time he was nineteen, it was said Willie Spencer had three things in life: a fiancé, $800 and a younger brother (Arthur) who had just won the Canadian Amateur Cycle Championship.

Arthur’s title and Willie’s confidence convinced the boys they could win big money by turning pro in the States. So, much to the chagrin of Willie’s girlfriend, in 1915 the Spencer boys took Willie’s money and headed to Newark, New Jersey, the North American centre for six-day bicycle racing.

 The move paid off in 1917 when Willie won his first six-day race in San Francisco, CA., and Arthur won the American Sprint Championship, defeating perrennial champion Frank Kramer. Unfortunately, Arthur’s success did little to endear him to the American racing fans, who, seeing their beloved champion dethroned, hollered insults and catcalls at the Canadian rider, even going so far as to shower him with bags of peanuts, folded programs and empty water bottles.

It was a display that prompted Canada Cycle & Motor to send a letter to the newspaper admonishing the perpetrators: “Fans be fair, and watch Arthur’s attempts. Can’t you see he is fair, always on the square and trying? He proves his gameness by having a try in spite of all the booing and hissing.” [1]

Nor did Arthur’s victory stand him in good stead with racing promoter John Chapman. When Spencer asked for the same purse as Kramer would have gotten, Chapman balked at the demand, informing Spencer that nobody knew who he was.

As Australian racer Alf Goullet recalled it:Arthur beat Kramer often that season. He accumulated the greatest number of points to take the crown. Everyone knew that one day someone would beat Kramer. Arthur Spencer finally did it. He was the new national professional sprint champion. But Chapman wouldn’t even give Arthur a contract for a single race. [2]

Spurred on by the hard time shown his brother, the 6 foot, 215 lbs. Willie Spencer stepped up and challenged Kramer to a grudge match. With most opponents considering Kramer to be unbeatable and avoiding his heat if at all possible, Willie created a sensation in May 1918 when he actually asked to ride against the American champion.

“I think he is the easiest man in the outfit to beat,” said Spencer. “He may have all the rest buffaloed, but he hasn’t got me.” [3]

Hearing of Spencer’s remark, an irate Kramer immediately demanded a $300 winner-take-all match race against the Canadian upstart. Willie Spencer seized the opportunity and beat Kramer in two straight heats.

   In August of that year the US Army drafted Willie for six months of military service. After his release from the army in January, Spencer continued racing, clocking victories around the world. During the 1919 racing season Willie Spencer won 18 of 23 match races in Philadelphia.

Despite his success, or because of it, Willie continued to encounter opposition south of the border. In June 1919, accused of using rough tactics against Kramer, he was suspended from racing at the Newark Velodrome, an action that again prompted CCM to come to their defense.

“It looks as if the Spencers, like other Canadian riders before them, have been up against a pretty hard proposition at Newark. It has been rumoured that a certain clique of riders constantly work together to block and pocket any rash outsider who comes up against them. As a rule they get away with this, but if the outsider makes the slightest endeavour to retaliate, he is immediately punished.” [4] 

Ever the opportunist Willie Spencer used his ban in Newark to head to Europe, where his self-assurance and determination once again served him well. When promoters in Paris failed to come up with the kind of money Willie wanted, he turned to the local press.

“That afternoon,” recalled Willie, “I went down to a newspaper and found a sports writer who could speak a little English. I showed him my clipping book and told him I was here to ride in the Velodrome. I also told him that the opposition paper was going to use my picture (which it really was, although nobody knew it yet). And they photographed me from all angles.” [5]

With the next edition of both newspapers carrying front page photos of Willie, the promoters who had initially brushed him off now rushed to offer him a contract. Willie Spencer left Europe that year as the world indoor champion, and in 1920 headed to Australia where he set the world sprint record of twenty-five seconds for the quarter mile.

 
 Willie Spencer lines up against New Zealand champion Phil O'Shea in 1925 at
Athletic Park in Wellington, N.Z.

Back in the States, however, Willie was still unable to come to terms with Chapman. Known as the "Czar of Cycling," John Chapman served as vice-president and general manager of Madison Square Garden, as well as the Newark Velodrome. While Chapman offered Willie $300 a race, Willie wanted $500. When Chapman failed to come up with the additional money, Willie headed back to Europe. In 1921 he returned to Paris where he won 15 of 22 races.

When Willie eventually returned to the States to compete, he captured the American Sprint Championship title in 1922, 1923 and 1926. At the time CCM was quick to point out that Willie's “championship bicycle was not made to order for him, but is a regular store model which other riders may obtain at a very moderate price, considering its championship quality.” [6]          

Commuting between Paris, Berlin and New York, from 1923 until 1927 Willie Spencer and his CCM Flyer broke five world’s records and captured three American championships, but was never able to overcome the bad blood that existed between himself and Chapman. As a result, Spencer eventually took matters into his own hands.

  In September 1927 Willie drew $10,000 (in $50 bills) from his bank account and began to visit the homes of noted bicycle racers offering them contracts and cash bonuses to ride for him rather than for Chapman. By Sunday morning he had signed up twenty of America’s best cyclists, who, like himself, were fed up with the treatment accorded them by Chapman. That morning, with little to no sleep, Willie went to the Velodrome where he won the five mile race. When he went to collect his prize money at the box office, however, he discovered management was on to his endeavours.

“They paid us riders and then closed the Velodrome. It never opened again,” said Willie. [7]

In all, Willie lured a third of the riders away from Chapman’s National Cycling Association, incl. top American riders Jimmy and Bobby Walthour. “Willie’s outlaws,” as they as they were dubbed by the American press, were led by a brash Canadian redhead by the name of Torchy Peden.

In the end, however, Chapman retaliated by banning Willie’s racers from riding at his venues including Madison Square Garden. With Chapman in control of most of the American racing facilities, in 1928 Willie headed back to Canada where he began to sponsor races at Toronto's Mutual Street Arena and then at Maple Leaf Gardens.  

The same competitive spirit that drove Willie as a racer continued to motivate him as a promoter.

“Competition has given me something I wouldn’t sell for a million dollars: the will to win in everything I take on. I have found that second place is no good to me, in business as in racing,” said Willie. [8]

Over time there were those who worried about Spencer’s almost complete control over six-day bicycle racing in Canada. Dubbed the “boss monopolist,” Willie paid the riders, chose their teammates and, according to the hushed voices of some, told them who was to win.

Willie Spencer died October 2, 1963, at the age of 67. By that time he had returned to the States, where, in 1947, he became an American citizen. In Canadian Cyclist's ranking of the "Top 25 Canadian Cyclists of the Century" Willie Spencer was ranked number 5. In 2005 he was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame. A champion the world over, Willie Spencer had been among the first to bring the CCM name to prominence.

  
   1925 CCM Flyer, similar to Willie Spencer's, featuring a Major Taylor
  stem, star racing pedals, banjo-type chain adjusters and striped
wooden rims.

 

[1] “Art Spencer Again Beats Frank Kramer,” VIM, Vol. 4, No. 2, October 15, 1917.

[2] Peter Joffre Nye, The Six-Day Bicycle Race: America’s Jazz-Age Sport (San Francisco: Cycle Publishing, 2006)

[3] “Willie Spencer Defeated Kramer,” Toronto Star, May 27, 1918 

[4] “Art Spencer Again Beats Frank Kramer,” VIM, Vol.4, No.2, October 15, 1917.

[5] “The Formula For Fame,” VIM, Vol.37, No.1, 1950.

[6] “Willie Spencer Wins Cycling Championship on CCM Flyer,” Toronto Star, August 18, 1922. 

[7] “The Formula For Fame,” VIM, Vol.37, No.1, 1950.

[8] “The Formula For Fame,” VIM, Vol.37, No.1, 1950.


 

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Posted: October 07, 2016

Thanks to everyone who keeps the

history and heritage of CCM alive!! 

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An interesting look at the CCM story
Posted: September 14, 2016

 

Book Review: Canada Cycle & Motor: The CCM Story

By David Wencer

 

Canada Cycle & Motor: The CCM Story
By John A. McKenty
Epic Press, 2011

For many generations of Canadians, the letters “CCM” conjure up strong memories, either through the bicycles and sporting equipment made by the company, or through the employment of friends and family.

John McKenty’s book tells the history of CCM, from its complicated origins during the late nineteenth century bicycle craze, through its forays into automobile manufacturing and hockey equipment, until its ultimate demise in the 1983. At times, CCM was an innovator and an industry leader; in other years, it was a struggling competitor, plagued with labour disputes and a poor reputation. As someone with little personal knowledge of CCM, I found this book to be an engaging profile of the company’s fortunes (and misfortunes), as well as an intriguing look at some of the changes in Canada through the twentieth century. CCM also has a strong Toronto connection, with its manufacturing operations based for many years in the northern end of the Junction, and later on in Weston.

This book features many images, the most interesting of which tend to be the old CCM advertisements. Like McKenty, I have found advertisements to be an excellent means of illustrating a narrative, as one does not have to navigate the copyright issues that can prevent the republication of photographs or newspaper articles. The advertisements are not, however, mere illustrations; in themselves they are valuable parts of Canadiana, and present a side of the company’s story which can be easier for everyday readers to relate to than, say, corporate structure or sales statistics.

That said, this book is not an advertisement for the company. While there is certainly a whiff of nostalgia about parts of it, McKenty is intent on presenting CCM with a sense of balance. I have read histories of other companies which read like protracted, indulgent advertisements, dwelling on the glory years and refusing to say a bad thing about the company or its associated personalities. Sometimes, a company history is written by a nostalgic ex-employee who fills a jumble of casual and irrelevant anecdotes with company jargon and slang, with the end result making little sense to anyone who didn’t work there and know the people being written about. McKenty’s narrative, however,  is well-balanced and presents a complicated subject in an engaging and accessible way. Rather than focus on one specific aspect of the company, he gets into the owners, the employees, the products, and the customers, indicating how each influenced the other. The result is an interesting book which looks at several different facets of Canadian history including labour relations, marketing, and popular culture, demonstrating how varied aspects of Canada’s past came together in CCM.

What I found particularly interesting is McKenty’s willingness to point out some of CCM’s villainy. I do not know enough of the facts to know if he is pulling any punches, but there are times in Canada Cycle & Motor: The CCM Story when CCM seems to be severely mismanaged, or when it seems to treat its employees quite shabbily. When the company is managed well, CCM seems to be symbolic of local and national pride; when the quality of products is poor, the company seems like an embarrassment.  And when the company is neglected and the employees made to feel the burden, CCM comes across as an enemy.

The book is self-published through Epic Press, which may account for a few of the typographical errors and a handful of awkwardly written passages, although none of these are so major that they really detract from the narrative. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call these elements “charming,” but they do remind the reader that this book is, like so many books on the history of Toronto, effectively the product of a single, dedicated researcher.  And, unlike so many other self-published Toronto history books, there is a sizeable section of endnotes where one can find McKenty’s source material.

While the title and subject matter may suggest an attempt to appeal to those with an interest in business or industrial history, the accessible language and varied subject matter make Canada Cycle & Motor: The CCM Story an interesting look at Canadian popular culture, and indeed a look at a side of Toronto life that doesn’t always get written about. My favourite features are the plentiful advertisements, along with some of the descriptions of cycling culture. This includes not only the late nineteenth century cycling boom, but also a look at some of the racing heroes of the 1930s. If you’re curious about this aspect of the book, I would very much suggest starting with McKenty’s CCM website  , in particular the archives section, which includes a look at type of stories which appear in the book.  He hasn’t given everything away on the website, and of course the book’s real strength is tying all these anecdotes into a complex narrative.

The above is printed with the kind permission of David Wencer and taken from his website – This Strange Eventful History (http://davidwencer.wordpress.com/)

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NEXT UP!
Posted: June 27, 2016

 

 

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COMING SOON! TWO EVENTS! SAME WEEKEND!
Posted: May 12, 2016

 

 

 

Mississippi Mills Vintage Bicycle Show:  Saturday, June 25, Almonte Community Centre, 182 Bridge St., Almonte, Ontario.

Mississippi Mills Community Bicycle Movement will partner with Causeway’s two cycling social enterprises, Cycle Salvation and Right Bike, to present the 1st Mississippi Mills Vintage Bicycle Show, an exhibition featuring replica bikes from the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology and artifacts on loan from private collectors from across the region.  Bicycles on display will range from those pre-dating the Penny-Farthing to classic Italian ten-speeds of the 1990s.

Why not take this opportunity to share your own collection, meet with other collectors from the National Capital area, participate in a bike-part swap, and enjoy a screening of Marinoni: Fire in the Frame, a film about the Montreal-based frame builder and bike racer, Giuseppe Marinoni.  Director Tony Girardin will be on hand for a Q&A. Owners of Marinoni bikes are strongly encouraged to exhibit!

If you would like to become an exhibitor or find out more details, please contact Jenny McMaster atjmcmaster@causwayworkcentre.org

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2016 Winter Swap Meet - This Coming Saturday!
Posted: January 30, 2016

2016

CANADIAN VINTAGE BICYCLE SHOW

WINTER SWAP MEET

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20

 

Pleasant Valley Church

100 Market St. South
(just south of the casino)

Brantford, Ontario

7 am – 4 pm

 

Admission $5 ($10 for vendors)

 

For further info contact Jamie  

mcyes1@hotmail.com

Happy New Year to all CCM Vintage folks out there. I have decided albeit a little late to have the CVBS Winter Show & Swap here in Brantford on Saturday February 20/16, as a place to show a few bikes, sell some bike treasures and have a visit with other collectors and like-minded people, a low key fun day to help us through this relatively tame winter we are having this year. The venue is the same location as always 100 Market St SOUTH JUST south FROM THE CHARITY CASINO. It will be from 7am-4pm.The site is under new ownership and is being converted to a banquet hall from the previous church. This year we will utilise the front glassed in showroom for the event. Please bring any tables & chairs that you can and I will see if I can also locate a few. Great chance to maybe find that part you need or the one you have been looking for. Admission is 5$ general and 10$ for vendors or whatever you can afford to donate to the Stedman Community Hospice here in Brantford. Thanks for your continued Support each year. The 2016 15th Annual CVBS & Swap is back again at Heritage View Farm by popular demand on Sunday June 26/16. Start to Spread the Good Word out there on both events and I look forward to seeing many old and new faces alike, bring a friend or two, new blood is always welcome, any questions please let me know.

Best Regards,

 Jamie

 
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So What Happened After '83? (Part 2)
Posted: December 31, 2015

In April 2004 Massachusetts-based running shoe giant Reebok International Ltd. agreed to pay $204 million in cash and assume $125 million in debt in a deal to acquire The Hockey Company, the company which had evolved from the sporting goods division of CCM. In the year prior to the deal, The Hockey Company had reported revenues of $239.9 million and sales in 45 countries. The acquisition was meant to complement Reebok’s successful apparel business which supplied uniforms for the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. It also enabled Reebok to double the market share of its nearest competitor Nike and its Bauer subsidiary. 

In 2005 the newly-formed Reebok-CCM Hockey Inc., the world's largest designer, manufacturer and marketer of hockey equipment, launched its new line of Rbk hockey equipment and sticks. To ensure the line gained instant market credibility, the company signed an up-and-coming young star by the name of Sidney Crosby to endorse it.  

 

That same year the company built a massive head office (the size of ten football fields) in Montreal where they employed about 420 of the company's total global staff of nearly 960 workers. The $20-million facility housed a research and design centre, a laboratory, an on-ice field-testing program, product management and development  services, a worldwide distribution centre, as well as a marketing department. The centre was also home to a specially-made robot designed to test hockey sticks and a mini cannon that fired pucks at helmets to check their strength.

  

The new facility in Montreal was to be operated in conjunction with the company's already existing production plants, including that in St. Jean, Quebec, where 120 people were employed making skates and various pieces of hockey equipment, the Cowansville plant where 90 employees produced Rbk and CCM branded hockey sticks and the Saint-Hyacinthe facility where 140 people produced the jerseys worn ny all 30 NHL teams. Meanwhile helmets were made in Edmundston, N.B. where 60 workers were employed. In Europe facilities were located in Finland where 100 people were employed and in Sweden where an additional 116 people were involved in the manufacture of hovkey equipment under the CCM, Jofa and Koho brands. Additional sales offices were located in Toronto and Germany.

In August 2005, it was announced that the Adidas Group of Germany had bought Reebok International for $3.8 billion. Meanwhile the recently launched Reebok-CCM hockey line continued to be endorsed by NHL stars such as Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, while the company remained the exclusive licensee of uniforms for the NHL, the Canadian and American hockey leagues, national teams around the world and several National Collegiate Athletic Association teams south of the border.

  

Despite its size, the picture was far from rosey for the company. In March 2008, Reebok-CCM Hockey Inc. announced it was phasing out its stick-making facility in Cowansville, Que., and transferring production to its plant in St. Jean. It was a move that meant 90 layoffs and had been necessitated, according to the company, by a serious drop in the demand for wooden hockey sticks. The stick-making operation from Drummondville, Que., had already been moved to the St. Jean facility during Christmas of 2002.

"Indeed, players, whether amateur or professional, now overwhelmingly prefer one-piece composite sticks for their lightness and responsiveness, which has resulted in an approximately 30-per-cent decline in demand for wood sticks in North America since 2004," said Dany Paradis, vice-president of human resources and continuous improvement at the time. (Montreal Gazette, Feb. 9, 2008)

At the same time the Adidas Group announced that 83% of its total apparel volume was now being sourced from Asia, with another 12% from Europe. North America accounted for only 5% and most of that came from Canton Massachusetts.

  

By now 75% of the company’s hockey equipment was also being sourced from Asia. In 2010 after four years of making hockey helmets and plastic components in the Maritimes, the company closed its operation in Edmundston, New Brunswick, abolishing 40 jobs.

Then in November 2011 came the worse news yet for the company's North American workers. It was announced that 85 of the 120 employees at the St. Jean plant would be losing their jobs because of the continued outsourcing of production to Asia. 

"Our competitors all manufacture their products in Asia,” said René Habel, vice president of operations Reebok CCM Hockey. “This is what led us to consider the transfer of our activities in countries where costs are lower."

For the workers it was an all too familiar refrain. Although Reebok-CCM tried to indicate its long term commitment to stay in Quebec, the writing was both on the wall.  

Another strategic priority for Reebok-CCM Hockey is to continue to pursue a movement away from own manufacturing to sourcing goods. In 2011, for example, the transfer of helmet production from North America to China was finalised, and the transfer of high-end skates production from Canada to Thailand in 2012 was also announced. Manufacturing activities will be maintained mainly to develop and manufacture performance products for pro level athletes.
(Adidas Group 2011 Annual Report)

Although Reebok-CCM Hockey is currently working hard to capitalize on the legendary history of the CCM name, it is a bittersweet turn of events, for the fact remains that in Canada the brand now exists in name only. Nothing that carries the familiar three letters is made anywhere in the country.  

 

 

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Happy New Year
Posted: December 29, 2015

All the best in 2016!

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So What Did Happen After 1983? (Part 1)
Posted: November 28, 2015

By the end of the 1970s the boardroom (and courtroom) battle for control of CCM, waged between Norton Cooper (owner of the Seaway Hotel chain) and Ben Levy (owner of Levy Bros. Auto Parts) had left the venerable company in a precarious state.

Its fate was all but sealed in 1978 with the departure of Ben Virgilio who had made a valiant attempt to turn the company around, but was less-than-pleased to discover that the company's newest owners, the Cummings family of Montreal, had little to no intention of putting any new money into the operation, choosing instead to seek financial assistance from the the Ontario government, an institution reluctant to get involved in private enterprise, even when the fate of a Canadian institution, such as CCM, hung in the balance.

As a result, by 1982 the situation at CCM was grim to say the least. Not only was the company saddled with an inefficient plant, costly labour rates and out-dated equipment, it was being brought to its knees by high interest rates and a large debt load. With an operating loss of $4.3 million expected for 1982, the company’s liquidation value stood at close to $12 million less than its total debts. The end was inevitable.

It came on October 13, 1982, when what had once been a proud Canadian enterprise was placed in receivership. The pain of the company's demise reverberated throughout the Canadian business community. While some of its competitors had watched its accumulating difficulties with a certain degree of satisfaction, there were others concerned about the effects CCM's failure would have on the industry as a whole.  

Following a meeting on October 30th at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, a moratorium was placed on all company payments to secured and unsecured creditors, while efforts were made to find a buyer for the crippled operation. It proved to be a difficult task. CCM's market share for both bicycles and sporting goods had plunged to such a degree that takers were few and far between.

One company that was interested was Cooper Canada Ltd., at the time Canada's largest manufacturer of sporting goods. The Cooper family hoped to integrate the CCM skate-making operation into their Toronto plant. In the end, however, their $5,000,000 bid would not be enough.

On December 8, 1982, Quebec Industry Minister Rodigue Biron announced that the assets of CCM had been bought by Procycle of St. Georges, Quebec.

The sale of CCM and the loss of its jobs to a Quebec company brought a swift and heated reaction from United Auto Workers' Administrative Assistant, Robert Nickerson, who wrote to Ontario Premier William Davis decrying “poor management by the CCM corporation and profit gouging by the previous owners, the Levy brothers,” who it was pointed out still owned the actual plant in Weston. (Robert Nickerson to Hon. William G. Davis, January 10, 1983, Canada Archives, File 23 - 100 - C23) 

Despite the best efforts of both the government and the employees to come up with a solution, Premier Davis argued that, in the end, there simply was no investor ready to continue the bicycle operation in Ontario. As a result, according to Davis, the interim receiver had little alternative but to accept what appeared to be a reasonable offer from Procycle.

At the time, Procycle, a company that had been importing and assembling bicycles since 1971, paid $8,000,000 for the assets of CCM, later selling much of the inventory to a dealer in London, Ontario and moving what equipment it could salvage from the Weston plant to Quebec.

 

Although they now owned the rights to the CCM name, Procycle had no immediate plans to market a new line of CCM bicycles. According to Raymond Dutil, president of the company, consumers were likely to resist paying a higher price for CCM bicycles when they had become leary of the quality.

 

“Basically, I bought the company's assets for the parts, which we need in the winter," said Raymond Dutil, president of Procycle. (Jack Willoughby, "CCM"s Failure Could Cost Ottawa Almost $13 Million to Cover Loans," Globe & Mail, February 28, 1983.) 

 

By March 1983 the once state-of-the-art plant in Weston stood empty and abandoned. It remained that way for the next there years until April 1986 when Greenspoon Bothers Ltd. began its demolition. A portion of the 13.2 acre site on Lawrence Avenue became a strip mall featuring another Canadian icon Tim Horton’s.

 

  
Above: Ammadio Velocci supervises demolition of the CCM plant on Lawrence Ave.
Below: City of York Mayor Alan Tonks and town staff take a final walk around the site.

 

Shortly after its purchase of CCM, Procycle sold the sporting goods division of the company to David Zunenshine, a Montreal real estate developer, who owned GC Knitting a manufacturer of polyester hockey jerseys, located in St. Hyacinthe, Que.  With the purchase of the CCM hockey line, including the still popular Tack skates, Zunenshine renamed his company Sport Maska and became an instant player in the world of sporting goods.

 

In 1985 Zunenshine acquired yet another financially struggling company this time the St. Lawrence Manufacturing Co. the primary supplier of skate blades for CCM. Zunenshine shortened the company’s name to SLM Canada and expanded its product line. Because the purchase of the St. Lawrence Manufacturing Co. had given Zunenshine more manufacturing capabilities and plastic injection capacity than the required, the company began to make toboggans and plastic sleds.

 

In 1988 to offset the fact that much of his company's business was seasonal Zunenshine acquired Coleco Industries, a toy manufacturer that produced swimming pools and other plastic playthings for children. Like Zunenshine's other companies Coleco had been a state of bankruptcy at the time of the purchase. In 1990 bought another financially struggling toy company this time the U.S. based Buddy L Corp., a long-satnding maker of metal trucks and cars.

 

To raise capital for its various endeavours in November 1991 SLM Canada went public as SLM International with its headquarters now in New York. By February 1992 company stock had increased by 71%. The company seemed to be on a roll. 

 

 

By 1994, however, SLM's high-flying days were over as rising advertising costs and a large debt overshadowed its ever increasing sales. The problem was compounded in September of that year when Zunenshine's real estate company was forced to file for bankruptcy. SLM stock once trading at over $30 was now worth less than $7. As a result, in October 1995 SLM filed for bankruptcy protection with a debt of $184.6 million.

 

In April 1997 SLM emerged from bankruptcy with Gerald Wasserman, a former NHL back-up goalie and retired chartered accountant living in California, as its new CEO. With a reputation for turning companies around and a five year contract, Wasserman immediately began to consolidate the SLM operation, closing down many of its facilities and moving its head office back to Montreal from New York.

 

In the the fall of 1998 SLM became the largest producer of hockey equipment in the world when it acquired the Montreal-based Sports Holding Corp., a leading sporting goods manufacturer whose brands included Koho (Finland), Titan, Jofa (Sweden), Canadien and Heaton. The newly-formed company had world-wide sales of over $200 million.

  In March 1999 SLM officially changed its name to The Hockey Company with headquarters in Montreal and warehouses and manufacturing facilities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. In totla The Hockey Company ran 12 different operations, including stick-making facilities in Cowansville and drummondville, Que. and a hockey apparel factory in St. Hyacinthe, Que. The heart of the operation, however, was its 138,000 sq. ft. facility in St. Jean-Sur-Richelieu, a half-hour drive southwest of Montreal, where a workforce of close to 300 made hockey skates, sticks, helmets and other equipment for some of the best hockey players in the world. For the moment at least it seemed part of the CCM legend would live on. (To be continued.....)

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