For regular readers of TheHockeyNews.com, it’s probably becoming obvious that my tastes outside of hockey tend to be a bit out of the mainstream. (Ken Campbell likes to tease me that my story ideas inside hockey are out of the mainstream, too, but hey, it keeps things interesting, right?)
So when I manage to find a cross-section between sport and subculture that intrigues me – Lil Jon as an Atlanta Thrashers fan, Drew Stafford hanging out with metal band Mastodon – it’s an exciting day.
Back in late June, I had the good fortune of representing THN at the NHL draft in Montreal. If you’ve ever been to Montreal, you likely had a good time. And though I didn’t hit up St. Hubert’s chicken or a crust punk show, I did uncover an unexpected gem during some of my downtime.
Walking into a hip clothing boutique downtown, I stared at racks of fun hats and shirts I would totally buy if I wasn’t so cheap. Then a particular yellow shirt caught my eye. It featured a black triangle in the middle containing the phrase “Die, Chara, die.”
Could that be…Zdeno Chara, towering Boston Bruins defenseman? The shirt certainly had the color scheme right, but hockey and hip clothing stores rarely mix. I looked to my left and saw another T-shirt with a French slogan that loosely translated into “One Kostitsyn is good, but two are the best!”
This was no coincidence. I had stumbled upon the Rated Rookies hockey line. And it was cool.
Started up by Kelly St-Pierre, a lifelong Habs fan and veteran of the clothing industry, and Jeremy Wirth, a transplant from France, Rated Rookies has one set of hockey-themed shirts with another on the way. The name of the clothing line even has a hockey tinge to it, but came to the pair by chance.
“Somebody called us (Rated Rookies) and we’re French, so we didn’t know what it meant,” St-Pierre said.
Nevertheless, the name fit and while the label is not limited to hockey shirts, the sports line seemed like a natural outlet for the 26-year-old St-Pierre.
“I wanted to make shirts for myself and my friends to wear to games,” she said.
As a Montrealer, the Habs passion was instilled early.
“It’s all Patrick Roy’s fault,” St-Pierre said. “He’s the guy that made me fall in love with hockey.”
The fact the Canadiens have re-ignited their intense rivalry with the once-again powerful Bruins only made the design choices easier for St-Pierre. The Chara shirt is the best seller from the hockey line, but surely bruiser Milan Lucic deserves a good-natured hate shirt from the Montreal faithful now, doesn’t he?
“That’s exactly what we’re doing next,” St-Pierre laughed. “We hate him more than Chara. (Lucic) is next on the list, but I’m trying not to put any bad words on the shirt.”
This season will be particularly interesting in Montreal, since a few former stars have latched on with division rivals: Alex Kovalev will be returning to the Bell Centre in an Ottawa Senators jersey, while Lucic sparring partner Mike Komisarek is now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. St-Pierre anticipates two different receptions.
“I don’t think we’ll boo Kovalev, though we’re still booing Daniel Briere for not signing here three years ago,” she speculated. “It’ll be more against Komisarek. Ottawa’s not that bad, but signing with Toronto? You don’t do that.”
And though St-Pierre caught grief from friends – and even Wirth – when the Canadiens went down in a smoldering wreckage against Boston last year, the Rated Rookies second hockey line has a T-shirt response for fans of the Bruins, Leafs and all other teams out there:
“We have more Cups than you.”
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.