It has been roughly a year-and-a-half since we first sat down to chat with our friends at NHL Ties. And boy, has a lot happened in the time since then.
The cravat-obsessed Twitter account grew during its second hockey season, garnering national attention and expanding its empire. Yours truly has kept in close contact with the operation during that time—I have garnered a couple “3 Stars On The Night” honors, gone “on strike” and subjected one of my colleagues to almost nightly tie ridicule.
Now, NHL Ties is taking on a whole new venture: Heading up a charity, in conjunction with the league. The account is giving back with the Game-Worn Ties Auction, which has them teamed up with the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.
— NHL Ties (@nhlties) October 18, 2015
The auction goes live on October 21, and will be hosted on NHL.com
That’s big league stuff. Did the operation out of Washington ever think that hosting something so big was possible?
“We’d be lying if we said we never imagined it,” NHL Ties CEO, Patrick, told me. “But it was always one of those ‘flight of fancy’ types of thoughts. We would start giggling after even mentioning it to each other as a ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’”
The auction wasn’t an overnight idea, he told me, but rather something that has been evolving since their “Knotty Cup” competition last year. They credit San Jose Sharks broadcaster Jamie Baker with first mentioning a ties-for-charity gig, and teaming up with the Hockey Fights Cancer initiative. The actual auction concept first hit NHL Ties after an on-air shoutout from broadcaster Brian Duff and analyst Brad May during a Buffalo Sabres game. The two mentioned that “fans had been asking for the ties off their necks that night.”
“That’s when it hit us—(teams) auction game-worn items, let’s see if we can do game-worn ties!”
So started the push at the tail end of last hockey season to see if there was enough interest from some of their favorite tie-wearers would be interested in donating to the cause. Not surprisingly, the response was a positive one.
“We were shocked by how fast followers responded,” he said modestly. “More so, how many members of the hockey media world chimed in saying ‘sign me up!’”
In fact, some of the league’s most recognizable broadcasters and media members have mailed in autographed neckwear to be part of the auction.
— NHL Ties (@nhlties) July 28, 2015
So, what kind of stuff is being auctioned off anyways?
“Dave Stubbs from the Montreal Gazette has donated a bow tie, and a pocket square which he had signed by some Montreal Canadiens players. All of the San Jose Sharks on-air talent jumped in offering to donate, and legendary (retired) Dallas Stars play-by-play voice Ralph Strangis ponied up some from his collection, including the tie he wore the night he emceed Mike Modano’s number retirement ceremony in Dallas.
“(The list) just goes on and on from there. Brian Duff wrote fantastic histories for each of his donations. Ryan Boulding donated the first tie he bought. Brodie Brazil donated the tie he wore on his first ever San Jose Sharks broadcast. John Lu from TSN Montreal donated a bow tie he wore for Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference semi-finals…”
That was from before the 2015-16 season even started. As of a couple days before the auction went live, NHL Ties was set up for three waves of different apparel to be auctioned off.
Suffice to say the auction promises to be a success. Which brings up the question: If all goes as planned, will NHL Ties make the Game-Worn Ties auction more than a one-and-done?
“We’d love to have this Game Worn Auction become an annual event,” Patrick said, before light-heartedly adding: “Hopefully we don’t screw things up too much with this one that NHL / NHLPA never returns our emails or phone calls next year! (Laughs)”