The bane of hockey button repair in Florida

Having hockey in Florida is a blessing. Having several well-stocked pro shops to buy gear in Florida is a blessing. Getting your gear repaired, however, causes me to curse.

Part of all of this is simple geography. Though I have a rink and a pro shop about 30 minutes away, both the rink and myself are far enough away removed from the bulk of the rinks in Tampa Bay where services are more readily available.

Even when I lived in Maryland, it was a challenge to find the right person to fix hockey equipment that had plenty of life. I still had to drive an hour away for certain repairs. Fortunately, I worked an hour away, too.

I hope you like equipment minutia because this is going to be a thousand-word ride on the bane of buttons.

The most challenging repair to have done down here seems to be suspender buttons. It would be great if I didn’t need to use suspenders but between not having an ass and having a gut, the pants slide down when playing. Can’t wear them too tight either, or else I can’t breathe.

I sold these Mike Smith Lightning pants after I found out they lacked suspender buttons.

I sold these Mike Smith Lightning pants after I found out they lacked suspender buttons.

I actually sold off a pair of Lightning pro-return goalie pants because I realized after I bought them they didn’t have suspender buttons. Knowing how hard it was to get that installed, I didn’t want anything to do with them.

When you’re a kid, the guys at the shop always tell you to remove your insoles from your skates to prevent rust, mold and boot breakdown. They should have engrained a message about removing suspenders, too. It was never a habit for me to remove them, mainly because it can be a pain in the ass to get the button through the tight rubber loop again. It still is for at least one of my pants.

What happens is that these buttons, which are installed as rivets, rust. They will either break off or rust through the fabric and fall out.

The first try to fix it yourself is by going to Jo-Ann Fabrics or a similar store to find these buttons, sometimes called bachelor buttons or jean buttons. That attempt failed. I hammered them in crooked and they wouldn’t stay in. I also needed a washer, too, to help it to stay. I gave up after a while and just connected both loops on one existing button on the right side until that fell off.

Of all things, that is what partially motivated me to go back to goaltending because my pants were still holding up. Turns out one button is literally hanging by a thread.

I couldn’t find anywhere online to order replacement buttons. The type you need that will last are attached to a square of fabric or in a V-shape that can be sewn onto the pants. The local pro shop would order them for me, though.

I blame some of these on me not being handy enough. I can sew a few simple things and have a needle my mom gave me that could work, but I have this in my head that I need something that is machine-quality so that it won’t rip off. As much as my employer thinks I am a robot, I’m not.

I actually ordered this from the pro shop last year or even two years ago and they either never came in or called me. This time it took three weeks for them to arrive. For whatever reason, they can’t do a single special order where I can get it mailed and I’ll pay. They put the order in with some other stuff they needed in the shop, thus the long wait.

Once I got it, it turns into a game finding someone who will install them. The shop doesn’t do it. I think the Brandon rink does, but that’s a hassle for me now. (The Brandon pro shop also does some goalie gear repair. Saw a guy drop off his kid’s catcher and they were willing to fix the binding.) The Ellenton shop doesn’t have a relationship or a recommendation with a go-to repair guy, which would help tremendously.

Anyway, the go-to places are usually a cobbler, a tailor and a luggage repair shop.

I lugged both my player and goalie pants along to a small shoe repair shop in downtown Bradenton. He’s able to do my player pants but not the goalie. See, certain machines have a lift to them to sew. The player pants, he explained, didn’t have padding where he needed to sew–the goalie ones did.

He sent me off to a place down the street that did muffler and upholstery repair, which is the strangest marriage of repair services I ever heard of. He was closed Friday, at least I think he was just closed for the day. He might be out of business.

This morning I found an upholstery repair shop tucked away in a Sarasota industrial shop that was open–they normally aren’t on Saturdays. I walked into Tepe’s and asked if he could do it. He took one of the pieces back with the pants to see if his sewing machine was able, came back successful. He did the other one just fine and it cost me $10 and I didn’t have to wait a week or more for it to be done. He didn’t even know what they were and had a big smile on his face holding them up when I told them they were goalie pants for hockey.

This has taken more than a month to get figured out and completed. My player pants should be finished by next Friday. I hope.

Asides from pants, I had goalie leg pads repaired twice before–twice in Maryland and once here in Florida. The guy in Ellicott City, Maryland did shoe repair and did an awesome job sewing a new strap on my old Vaughn Visions (Byron Dafoe’s Boston graphic). However, he more than a month, if not more, to get to them.

These TPS IceCaps I bought could use some work, but I don't care anymore.

These TPS IceCaps I bought could use some work, but I don’t care anymore.

Here, I had to go to some luggage guy  in Tampa who does these guys regularly for my Vaughn Velocity pads that I’ve since sold. His turnaround time was around two to three weeks, which is understandable because it had to be done by hand.  I highly recommend him–it’s called Luggage Service, 4121 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa. He also sells new and lightly used/repaired luggage and travel accessories.

Those old TPS Ice Caps I just bought a couple weeks ago to get back in goal need a few repairs, but I’m not really in the mood to get those things fixed. At this point, play in them until I get money to buy a brand new set, then repair them to sell.

I’m willing to go to Tampa for goalie pads repair, but something as simple as buttons on pants shouldn’t be a trek across Tampa Bay.

The silver lining is that I’m waiting for a cut on my foot to heal along with my shoulder to feel better after a tetanus shot, so I’m not in a rush to play.

Well, physically in a rush–my mind still wants me back on the ice. Enough so, I needed to bitch about buttons.


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