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Steve Davies has brought back Canadian brands Hespeler and Winnwell in his business career

For three decades, Steve Davies has made a career out of raising heritage hockey brands from the dead. He started with Hespeler in the 1980s and ‘90s. Now it’s Winnwell Clean Hockey Inc., which the entrepreneur bought in 2004. Mr. Davies jumped at the chance to breathe life into another Canadian heritage brand.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

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New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash, right, wears Winnwell gloves. The hockey equipment company is having a big challenge with marketing. NHL players are not as accessible for marketing purporses as before, and the league – which is dominated by massive brands such as Bauer and CCM – requires payments if players are to wear the Winnwell brand.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

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“It’s not how good you can make a product any more, it’s whether you can afford the on-ice licensing fees,” says Mr. Davies. For Winnwell, which has a staff of eight and earned $8-million last year, the costs are prohibitive.

Winnwell Clean Hockey Inc.

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Instead the company has earmarked the $150,000 it would have given to the NHL for content marketing instead. Winnwell has produced YouTube videos geared toward newcomers to hockey, showing how to put mesh on a hockey net, lace up skates and take wrist shots.

Winnwell Clean Hockey Inc.

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For Winnwell, growth means learning to compete in the new hockey landscape. “This is a privately held ice hockey company run by my family,” Mr. Davies says. “The real challenge for us is to [convince] consumers that we know hockey.”

Winnwell Clean Hockey Inc.

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Steve Davies in his office in Mississauga, Ont. How can Winnwell broaden its customer base without spending big marketing dollars?

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

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