SBJ/Sept. 23-29, 2013/In Depth

Siren sounds for passionate hockey fans

Fan Fever finds a sweet spot among NHL fans with its Goal Light series of licensed products

Like a police car, it has a rotating red light on top and an ear-splitting siren.

It’s a pizza cutter, a bottle opener, an alarm clock, a key ring and a pen.

It is the Goal Light line of products from Fan Fever, a relatively new company that has captured the unrivaled frenzy and joy of an NHL goal in a series of licensed products. It’s a way for hockey fanatics to relive their favorite NHL moments by using products that include the red light and cacophonous horn that celebrate a home team’s goal in every NHL arena.

The Goal Light started as a single model with a hockey puck remote, but can now be found on everything from pens to bottle openers.
Photo by: Fan Fever
Eric Stoneman is the father of the Goal Light and its product family. Stoneman grew up in Dyersville, Iowa, site of the “Field of Dreams’’ diamond. Still, his treasured childhood memories weren’t of baseball but of watching the nearby Waterloo Black Hawks of the U.S. Hockey League.

With a family die-cast business (Ertl) that licensed many of its top sellers, Stoneman was already considering some form of NHL licensing. During the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 championship run, he had rigged a simple red light bulb in his basement to celebrate every important goal. Soon enough, his internal goal light went on: the Goal Light could be a consumer product.

Leaning on his experience in offshore manufacturing and toy/novelty distribution, Stoneman added sound and a puck-shape remote. A sample was finished within six weeks.

After selling an unlicensed version for a year, an NHL license was granted in July 2011, when the product debuted at the annual NHL Exchange Licensing show in Toronto. Now the product comes with team logo stickers and includes the distinct goal horn sounds from all 30 NHL arenas.

The Goal Light is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” products, started by a hockey aficionado for his fellow
fans. They noticed quickly: Sales have quadrupled since the product launched in late 2010. While last season’s lockout and the loss of 41 percent of the regular season crushed NHL sales for some league licensees, Fan Fever’s business rose 30 percent.

The Goal Light and its associated products have become enough of a staple that they are sold by large retailers — including Kohl’s, Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods — along with nearly every hockey retailer of note, from Total Hockey and the NHL Store in New York City, to NHL.com, Hockeymonkey.com and Purehockey.com.

Gunzo’s, a chain of hockey specialty stores in Chicago, was the first retailer to stock the Goal Light. Buyer Greg Kostner saw a prototype at a sports bar during the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup run. The retail product was available by the time the 2010-11 season started, and Gunzo’s took that first Goal Light out of the box and put it by the front cash register. Customers couldn’t stop playing with it.

Now, many of the store’s hockey-centric customers consider the Goal Light as essential a part of watching a Blackhawks game on TV as having a beer or two nearby.

“People recognized the goal horn from the United Center and loved it right away,” Kostner said. “It’s just very unique. How many other products make you instantly think of hockey and the elation you feel when a goal’s scored?”

That feeling is a formula for sales success.

“It’s a product every hockey fan loves the minute they see it, and it just screams ‘NHL hockey,’ so we love that,” said Dave McCarthy, NHL vice president of consumer products marketing. He said the Goal Light is one of the top-selling nonapparel items on NHL.com and at the NHL Store.

The original Goal Light with the hockey puck remote retails for $49.99. The alarm clock sells for $35.99, the bottle opener for $15.99 and the key ring for $9.99.

Anheuser-Busch has started selling its own version of the goal light.
The home Goal Light has already been copied and one-upped. Last year, Budweiser Canada began offering a $149 goal light that syncs to consumers’ favorite teams via an Internet connection and ignites when an actual goal is scored. The Budweiser Red Light was launched in Canada with a Super Bowl ad, and Anheuser-Busch has found it impossible to meet demand.

In some cases, the appeal of Fan Fever’s Goal Light has extended beyond hockey. Stoneman has heard of teachers using it in classrooms to note a particularly astute response from a student.

“We didn’t know how broad its appeal would be,” he said.

Broad enough that there are also Goal Light toy hockey sticks; hand-held Goal Light “torches” for fans to hold aloft; a string of Goal Lights (a la Christmas tree light strings); and nightlights, the only Goal Light product without sound. That’s in addition to the pens, pizza cutters, bottle openers and alarm clocks.

Given his die-cast background, Stoneman also took a Zamboni license and is selling lights and diecast products with Zamboni/NHL indicia along with a Zamboni tent for kids. As for future products, Stoneman is considering a product for which an NFL license would make sense, along with adding other hockey licenses.

“The Goal Light products just bring people closer to the game,” Stoneman said. “Any product that does that will find an audience. And so it has.”


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