Kenesky's sports to close at the end of December after 100 years

Kenseky’s sports store was a revolving door of loyal customers saying goodbye to a Hamilton hockey staple on Friday.

Site to be turned into multi-storey medical centre, says shops co-owner

Co-owner Joel Hulsman says he'll have sharpened his last pair of skates come the end of December. (Jeff Green/CBC)

Kenesky's sports store was a revolving door of loyal customers saying goodbye to a Hamilton hockey staple on Friday.

"It's been crazy," said the shop's co-owner Joel Hulsman of the customer outpouring after the news broke Thursday.

After a century of service on the corner of Barton and Wellington, in the central city, Kenesky's will be shutting down operations at the end of the month.

Kenesky's impact was felt at every level of hockey, all the way up to the NHL. In the late 60s and early 70s, every single goalie pad worn in the NHL came from the store's then-owner, Emil "Pops" Kenesky. Elite goaltenders would wait over a year for a set of leather pads stuffed with deer hair.

Padded history 

Hulsman, who has been with the shop for 48 years, said Kenesky's goalie school will continue to run and they'll continue to manufacture goalie pads.

But the storefront is gone. And the property, which was sold back in July to Tim Horton's co-founder Ron Joyce, will be turned into a multi-storey medical centre, Hunsman said.

Hulsman has known the end was near but decided that now was the best time to close the shop. He said that while he's looking forward to moving on, that last day of December will be difficult.

"I'm certainly not counting down the days. That's going to be the saddest day of my life," said Hulsman, who's worked there for nearly half of the store's existence.

Hulsman said that owning a physical hockey shop just isn't a viable option anymore now that so much can be bought online.

But is he open to relaunching Kenesky's as a web store?

"Hell no, man. I'm done with retail."

Former NHL goaltender Ray Emery took the cup back to his former employer's shop after he won it with the Blackhawks in 2013. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Most recently, Kenesky customers Ray Emery and Darnell Nurse have played at the games highest levels. Emery, now with the AHL's Ontario Reign, was an employee with the Kenesky Goalie School in Burlington. When he won the Stanley cup in 2013 with the Chicago Blackhawks, Emery brought the trophy back to the shop.

Now the mission for Hulsman is to continue manufacturing pads, with the hopes of getting back in stores relatively soon, and the distant goal of NHL goaltenders once against donning Kenesky.

"That's going to take a lot of money and a lot of time," he said.

Future Plans

 With so many historic monuments inside Kenesky's, Hunsman said there's plans to preserve some of that history.

A wall autographed by NHL superstars such as Ken Dryden will be donated to the Hamilton Sports Hall of Fame. The store's sign will be going to United Trophies.

The rest? Hulsman plans to take some goodies back to his home, including a set of goalie pads from 1975 and autographed pictures from all of the success stories to come out of Kenesky's.

Those memories, for Hulsman, will be the most lasting impression on the shops co-owner moving forward.

"Every day was a success, seeing the hundred years was awesome – especially all the kids who have worked for me and went on to do amazing things. It's been the best 48 years of my life."

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