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Young entrepreneurs score big with hockey venue

by Archives November 13, 2007

What do you get when you combine entrepreneurial skills, a passion for hockey and a bit of luck? In the case of 22-year-old Jordan Topor and 24-year-old Josh Naygeboren, you get Le Rinque, Montreal’s first venue dedicated entirely to ball and roller hockey.
The idea to open Le Rinque came to Naygeboren when he found himself turning away teams from the ball hockey league he ran last year, due to a lack of gym space. He figured that if he had a place of his own, he wouldn’t have to worry about renting out space, and could create an environment better suited for playing hockey.
Naygeboren then approached his girlfriend’s business savvy brother, Topor, with the idea. “He came to me with the idea of opening a facility with real boards and real glass for ball and roller hockey, which would include a sports bar and where we could host events, which is exactly what it turned into,” says Topor.
Topor, a student at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, has known for a while that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and immediately agreed.
The fact that hockey was involved didn’t hurt either. “I couldn’t make it to the NHL to make it my career, but I still found another way to make hockey my career.”
Once Topor had agreed, the duo had to conduct significant research to ensure that their business venture would be successful and that they would receive financial support. They ended up finding a rather large niche in the market.
“We saw that there were over 300 ball hockey teams in Montreal, with no place to play in the winter months except gyms, and we figured that if we built a high class facility for them to play in, they would jump on board and that is pretty much what has happened,” says Topor.
Le Rinque opened its doors on Labour Day weekend and prides itself on being a high-class facility. The actual rink is _ the size of an NHL rink, and boasts special flooring, as well as top quality boards and glass. “We wanted to create a feeling of an actual arena, not just a place to play ball hockey in,” says Naygeboren.
Every day, Topor and Naygeboren go out of their way to ensure that every detail is taken care of. This includes making sure that there are two referees every game, that there is a score keeper, that the changing rooms are clean and that every games’ statistics are posted online.
“Seeing your stats online and bragging to your friends about it has to be the best part,” says Matthew Greenstone, who plays roller hockey at Le Rinque.
Players at Le Rinque are between the ages of 18-30, and there are 50 teams registered. As of now there are no players under 18, but Le Rinque is becoming a popular spot for kids’ birthday parties, and Topor and Naygeboren are in the midst of organizing a summer camp.
The business partners are also making use of the large space to host parties. For their latest event, a Halloween party, they hired a professional DJ, and used special lighting to create a club-like atmosphere.
Last but not least, a hockey venue isn’t complete without a restaurant and sports bar. “Hockey players drink beer and that’s a known fact,” says Topor.
The restaurant and sports bar features five HDTVs and is already drawing in a large crowd for Montreal Canadiens games. “The city is hockey crazy, and people are always looking for new places to watch the games,” says Topor.
Le Rinque pulls out all the stops on game nights. Sirens go off when the Habs score, the waitresses are decked in Habs paraphernalia and prizes are given away.
“The atmosphere is amazing on game nights,” says Brandon Kader, who doesn’t play hockey at Le Rinque but comes to watch Canadiens games.
The restaurant and sports bar serve other purposes as well according to Topor. “It’s great to see two teams who just battled their hearts out playing ball hockey, come in here and have a couple of drinks together.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” agrees Naygeboren.
The young entrepreneurs have a lot on their plates. “Without even noticing it, we’re putting in 50 to 60 hours a week, and I still go to school,” says Topor. How do they manage?
“A Blackberry helps,” says Topor. “As do post-it notes,” says Naygeboren, who has them scattered all over his desk.
Despite a hectic work schedule, Topor is committed to completing his education. “If it gets too hard and I have to drop a class then so be it, but nothing is going to stop me from getting that piece of paper to put on my wall.”
The fact that there are no other venues in Montreal for Le Rinque to model itself after, poses a challenge. “Every situation is trial and error, we have to be our own models,” says Topor. To minimize problems, the twosome made a point of writing a rule book, before Le Rinque was even built.
Le Rinque is experiencing rapid success but the ambitious partners aren’t satisfied just yet. Their ultimate goal is to open a sports complex which would include an ice hockey rink, a ball hockey rink, a soccer field and a general training facility.
They also hope to popularize the sport of roller hockey in Montreal and across Canada. “Roller hockey was extremely big in Montreal during the 1990s. There was even a roller hockey team called the Roadrunners,” says Naygeboren.
“The game is huge now in the States and we want to bring it back here.”

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