NEW YORK — The line to meet and get an autograph from Mike Richter stretched around clothing racks, down the stairs and to the front door of the new NHL Shop at 1 Manhattan West Plaza on Friday.
Richter, the former New York Rangers goalie, was the special guest at the grand opening of the NHL’s flagship store that has relocated with the League’s New York City corporate headquarters from Sixth Avenue near Radio City Music Hall to the vibrant and still growing Manhattan West section of midtown, located between Ninth and 10th avenues and 31st and 33rd streets, one block from Madison Square Garden.
“What a beautiful store,” Richter said after signing autographs and taking pictures non-stop for 90 minutes. “I loved the old store, but this whole location, it sort of feels like a nice refresh. You think of the NHL, it has new media partners, a new season, we’re all trying to get off on the right foot without any COVID affecting it and this location is such a substantial part of Manhattan and New York City, so it’s spectacular for us to hit the refresh button and have a nice new store. The whole feel of it is newer, fresher, cleaner and hopeful.”
The new NHL Shop features more than 9,000 square feet of space spread across two floors. It’s nearly twice as much space as the old store, said Brian Jennings, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of marketing and chief branding officer for consumer products licensing.
A feature of the new store will be a 60-by-80 ice rink in the center of Manhattan West’s public plaza that will be open from November to April and will allow for public skating and a host of NHL-hosted special experiences, including a long-term goal of having players and teams visiting to conduct clinics and hold autograph sessions.
“We want the store to be this beacon for all hockey fans to celebrate the game,” Jennings said. “Be inspired, learn a little bit about the game from the Hockey Hall of Fame and whatnot, and ultimately the product. We have the balance and making sure it’s a commercial venture.”
Jennings said the new store features a more spacious personalization and customization area from what the old store had.
The Hockey Hall of Fame will be providing memorabilia for an exhibit on the second floor.
There are also broader broadcast capabilities, including telescopic high-definition cameras.
“In the NHL broadcast meetings last week I mentioned to the regional networks as well as our national partners, ‘Please, use this,’ ” Jennings said. “We’ve already had outreach. The Vegas Golden Knights want to do a Spanish radio broadcast from the store. [Sportsnet’s] Christine Simpson wants to do a feature on women’s products in the store. NHL Network wants to do some really fun content. Even out of just one quick presentation people were all of a sudden realizing, ‘Hey, let’s utilize this space and do something a little bit unique, out of the norm.’ “
Richter said he expects foot traffic from Madison Square Garden to hit the new store too.
“For the players to eat down here and live down here, it’s a whole area that you used to just drive through,” Richter said. “This is a pretty special area. It’s well known. As people start to experience it, it’ll be much more appreciated. This area has totally changed the West Side. It’s a destination now and I love that hockey is right in the center of the whole thing.”