Winnipeg Skate Manufacturer Purchased by U.S. Sporting Goods Firm

23 November 2016

By his own admission, he never reached the Olympics or the World Cup Circuit, but he did make it from Sargent Park to the Calgary Olympic Oval and trained with the likes of Michael Ireland and Jeremy Wotherspoon.

However, while he was skating, Van Horne was also studying and tinkering.

“I was never really comfortable in my skates, they just never fit me properly,” he said thoughtfully. “So when I was about 14 or 15, I started designing skates. While I was training in Alberta, I started studying my skates closely. I’d take them apart and put them back together. I completely deconstructed the skate and came to realize there was a better way to do this.”
A Better Speed Skate

Van Horne, 40, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomechanics from the University of Calgary and eventually did his Masters thesis on the mechanics of the skate push. While he was at it, he figured out a way to build a better speed skate.

He became so good at building skates – something that he started in his parents garage at age 15 — that a number of national short-track team members started wearing his boots. By 1996, he’d started a company that made speed skates. By 2002, he was able to take on the hockey business.

And yesterday, that small Winnipeg business that turned out high-quality speed skating and hockey skates in a small warehouse on Waverley St., was sold to U.S. Sporting Good manufacturer, True Temper.
True Temper Sports

“True Temper Sports, a leading developer and manufacturer of hockey, golf and lacrosse products has announced the acquisition of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based hockey skate manufacturer, VH Footwear Inc.,” said spokesperson Lauren Carr, in a media release from the companies head office in Memphis, Tenn. “The terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition will add exciting, innovative technology to the company’s advanced research and development portfolio and expand TRUE Hockey’s reach into the important skate category.”

“There is a need and an appetite for a new brand in the skate category, probably more so than any other time in the history of the hockey industry,” said Jeremy Erspamer, President and CEO of True Temper Sports, in a written statement. “This is a strategic acquisition for our company and provides an immediate growth platform for our burgeoning TRUE hockey business both at the retail level and within the professional hockey ranks globally. This should also be further evidence to hockey players worldwide, our valued retail partners, and the hockey industry as a whole of our continued commitment to enter new product categories with game changing, performance enhancing technology.”

Manufacturing stays in Winnipeg

As part of the agreement, True Temper Sports will continue to manufacture VH skates in Winnipeg, Canada. All employees of VH will be retained, and there are plans to expand the footprint in Winnipeg – both in terms of facilities and people.

“We are thrilled to be embarking on this new phase with TRUE Hockey,” said Van Horne. “It was mandatory to us that the manufacturing and people involved with our company remained in Winnipeg and that we teamed up with a company that shared a like-minded approach as it relates to innovation and a performance-driven product. It was obvious early on in our discussions there was synergy between both groups and an opportunity to create significant product innovation by bringing the talented group of engineers from both companies together.”

Both TRUE and VH currently distribute their hockey product lines globally and are used by elite level players of the game around the world.

“This is extremely exciting for both TRUE and VH,” said Garth Smith, VP of Sales and Marketing of VH Footwear Inc. “We will certainly continue to strengthen the marketplace relationships currently in place while expanding our presence globally, and are committed to continuing to deliver best in class product to our current and potential new clients.”
‘It’s not a box’

As a speed skater, Van Horne has taken a different approach to building skates.

“I didn’t come at it from a hockey perspective,” Van Horne said. “I was a speed skater and I wanted to figure out how to make hockey players skate better. So in 2002, while I was finishing my degree, I started working in hockey skates. Since then, what we’ve developed is a different skate. The skates that are generally made today use old-world technology. They’re a box and you put your foot into the box.

“We build skates from the inside out. The first thing we do is fit the boot to your foot and then build the skate, layer-by-layer, around it. Our parts aren’t stitched together. It’s a one-piece skate. When you put it on, it’s made for your foot. It’s not a box.”colin-wilson-in-vh-skatesIt’s why a growing number of NHL players now wear VH Footwear skates – the ones with the four white bars on the boot – and why the reputation of VH Footwear Skates is growing throughout the hockey community.

It’s a safe, comfortable, hand-made hockey skate built by a speed skater and his small staff in a warehouse on Waverley that isn’t easy to find.And if that doesn’t scream, “Winnipeg!” I don’t know what does.