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Tackla pants popular with NHL stars: manufacturer eyes contracts for team jerseys.

When the 19-year-old hockey sensation Eric Lindros takes to the ice as a Philadelphia Flyer this season, he will be taking a piece of Thunder Bay with him, so to speak.

Like Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr and Essa Tikkanen, Lindros will be wearing the popular Tackla hockey pant manufactured in Thunder Bay by Thunder Sport Inc., a company owned by 27-year-old Robert Coffey and Tackla Canada.

"The players are coming to us," explains Coffey. "Once Lindros was signed with the Flyers, he called and ordered his pants for this season."

The Tackla hockey pant was developed in Finland 15 years ago, but Coffey acquired the rights to manufacture it in North America and Japan in 1990. The pants are worn by about 40 per cent of the players in the National Hockey League. Thunder Sport has even sent a pair to Wayne Gretzky.

"We're working on him, but we won't pay a player to wear our product," explains Coffey. "It is considered to be the most well-made protective hockey pant on the market costing between $120 to $280.

Thunder Sport is producing about 400 units per day, about 60,000 this year, and is exporting half of the total.

Coffey started Thunder Sport three years ago after buying the former Nygard International plant and hiring its 14 employees. Sales have increased 10 times since then, and the company's staff has been increased to 70 people.

While half of Thunder Sport's total production is the Tackla hockey pant, the company also manufactures leisure wear for Nygard International as well as high-quality hockey jerseys.

"We can't keep up with the demand for the jerseys right now," says Coffey. "Instead of silk screening, we use a specialized machine where the ink impregnates the jersey so it never fades, cracks or washes off and, at the same time, it is completely breathable."

Thunder Sport makes jerseys for the Canadian Olympic hockey teams, the Thunder Bay Flyers and the Metro Toronto Hockey League, and it has plans to go after the NHL once its current jersey contract expires.

In addition, Coffey hopes to extend the production season by getting teams to place orders in the spring or fall. This year Thunder Sport will produce about 30,000 jerseys.

Nygard, meanwhile, recently acquired Walmart and JC Penny as customers for its leisure wear. Thunder Sport is manufacturing ladies' dress pants for Nygard at a rate of about 600 per day, with plans to increase that to 1,000 per day by September.

"We always go with our eyes open for opportunities, and we have been able to tap into some unique markets," says Coffey.

"Our biggest promotion is our products that the NHL players wear."

Thunder Sport has concentrated on the manufacture of clothing, while employing a company in Toronto for the marketing of its products.

Coffey admits that training has been a challenge with the dramatic growth of his company.

"We've had lots of growing pains and manufacturing can be difficult with the GST and free trade," he adds. "After all, we sell labor, so there is no GST credit."

Coffey started in the family business, Andrew Coffey's Gentlemen's Apparel, and served on the marketing board for Levi's before entering the world of textile manufacturing.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:National Hockey League; Thunder Sports Inc.
Author:Papino, Robin
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Words:540
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