Todays Sports Babe of the Day is the mastermind behind the popular hockey lifestyle clothing company, Sauce Hockey. Eric was kind enough to give the wonderful girls at Babes Dig Balls an insight into his personal life as well as development of his company and philanthropy. During his college years while working in a retail hockey store, Eric noticed a void in the hockey clothing market; giving Eric a vision of his soon to be large dream. The company has grown considerable since 2009 when it all began, while giving back to the hockey comment through The Healthy Scratch Foundation. The Sauce Hockey crew teamed up with NHL’er Paul Bissonnette to develop a charity giving underprivileged children and adults a chance to be apart of the game. Playing the sport himself, Eric explains the hockey lifestyle as a “very unique culture…it’s more than a game, it’s a way of living life.” Before I give too much away about Eric, skip down to the interview below:
19 Questions with Eric Kleineck:
1. At what age did you start playing hockey? How long did you play the game?
I started playing hockey later than most. I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and we did not have an ice arena close to us. When I was in high school the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL came to town with a new arena and that’s when I started shooting pucks over the net into the glass and haven’t stopped since.
2. Up until this point, what is your proudest achievement in both your career and life?
I try not to make a big deal out of achievements and awards for myself personally. The various achievements make me more proud for our team, who is so talented. It’s good for them to get the recognition they deserve. We’ve won a print award for our bi-annual look book, we were selected as a partner for Wayne Gretzky’s Fantasy Camp, been featured in ESPN The Magazine, The Fourth Period, The Hockey News, and other various magazines and we’ve had numerous pro athletes and celebrities wear our clothes because they like them, amongst other things. For me, I treat each day as a new opportunity to make a difference in the hockey world and help people in the community. Our goal is to give back, create, inspire and advance our industry. We call it the #saucelife. Those are the things that I get a thrill out of.
3. What gave you the idea to come up with a hockey inspired lifestyle designer clothing company?
In college, I was working at a retail hockey store and saw a void in the market. Hockey was lacking fashion-forward, design-driven clothing that was simple, but still told the story of the greatest game on earth. We wanted to create a lifestyle brand that didn’t’ scream hockey all over it, and we were cautious of alienating people outside of hockey in hopes of eventually turning them on to the sport. We felt we had a team that could offer something fresh, something unique and leverage our hockey contacts to build the brand. The brand continues to evolve every day.
4. Who was your role model growing up?
My role models growing up were my parents. My mother is the most un-selfish, caring person I’ve ever met. She would do anything for us and she always put other people first. My father is the hardest working man I’ve ever met. He taught me how to put on my work boots and work tirelessly til you achieve your goals. I learned from an early age that nothing is handed to you, everything is earned thru hard work. I would not be where I am today without my parents.
5. How long did it take for the company to really take off? When did you really start to notice professional athletes and TV personalities publicly wearing and supporting the company?
We started in 2009 with 6 shirts and 2 hats, shipping out of our garage, we had a shitty website and large dreams. It took us a couple years to really hone our craft and we focused on getting better every single day. In 2010, we joined forces with Paul Bissonnette and started selling to retailers around the world in 2011. Every year we’ve grown exponentially. It’s been a fun ride to this point, but this is just the beginning!
6. When did you decide include Phoenix Coyotes player, Paul Bissonnette into the mix?
We partnered up with Biz in 2010 after he had a little Twitter controversy and shut his account down for a period of time. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever met and certainly the funniest person I know. We’ve had some great times together. Not even Walt Disney could script some of the things I’ve seen or been apart of with Biz.
7. Your team and NHL’er Paul Bissonnette founded sauce Hockey’s philanthropy, The Healthy Scratch Foundation. What exactly is the foundation all about and where did the interest in raising awareness and money for this particular cause come from?
When we founded Sauce Hockey, we wanted to be able to put ourselves in a position to be able to help others and give back to the community and the great game of hockey. Along with Biz, we founded The Healthy Scratch Foundation to help our efforts in this. The goal for The Healthy Scratch Foundation is to give back to underprivileged kids and adults and get them involved in the sport of hockey. Not only is hockey a great sport and keeps people active, but also it instills awesome life lessons and builds character.
We have done a couple fundraisers and events and we’re looking forward to really getting this going full steam ahead soon. On top of our HSF initiative, we’ve helped raise over $40K for spinal cord research and accidents, helped the Boston Marathon Bombing victims, and brought a couple hundred homeless people to their first NHL game to get some entertainment. We look forward to be able to help more good causes that we are passionate about in the future.
8. Explain the hockey lifestyle to our readers…
Hockey has a very unique culture. The sport of hockey really is more than just a game, it’s a way of living your life. The friendships made, the stories told, the missing teeth, it really can’t be replicated. It’s hard for people outside of hockey to understand, but the people in it, get what it’s all about.
9. If we were to look at your top 3 songs played on your iPod, what would they be?
- Needtobreathe – Devil’s Been Talking
- Noah Guthrie – New Beginning
- Matthew Mayfield – Take What I Can Get
I don’t listen to mainstream music very often. The commercial side of the music industry tends to neglect honest, passionate musicians, so I tend to listen to the people grinding it out in the corners who have a great story to tell.
10. How would best you describe yourself in three words?
11. Would your friends agree with the last questions? If not how would they describe you in three words?
Not sure, maybe they’d say I’m quiet, creative, passionate.
12. Is there any other profession you could see yourself in?The easy answer is to play in the NHL. It truly is a fantasy world for those guys to earn a great living to play hockey. I would have loved to be a musician, but I have a terrible voice and can barely play the guitar.
13. Are you single, dating, or locked down? What is your perfect ideal woman?
I am happily married. Surprised she is still with me, cause I am weirder than a football bat.
14. What is your idea of an impressionable first date?
It’s been so long since I’ve had a first date, so I live vicariously thru my buddies. Love hearing their first date stories in the locker room. The material is always priceless.
15. What is one thing that can turn your mood around instantly?
Good music or going to the rink.
16. Do you have any pets?
I’m a big fan of dogs. I have 2 dogs.
17. Do you have a favorite quote/motto that you take to heart?
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. Ant that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
18. Do you need any models? I’m sure some of the Babes Dig Balls girls are free!
Absolutely. We’re always looking for creative, smart, and fun people to work with for various things. Lets do this!
19. Who would you feature as our next SBOTD?
My buddy Trevor Gretzky is a real gem.
Thank you Eric for taking time for this interview with us here at Babes Dig Balls!!!