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Hockey Skateboards started with the focus on two guys, Donovon Piscopo and John Fitzgerald. In the words of Anthony Van Engelen: “If you skate with those dudes, they are so gnarly… it’s kind of brutal, kind of like Hockey.”
AVE says the idea for Hockey came about in the months surrounding the time he, along with longtime friend and teammate, Jason Dill, left Alien Workshop to start Fucking Awesome as a ‘proper’ brand. A sister company just made sense. FA had of course been around for years prior to this, but that’s a story for another post.
It would be remiss not to mention Benny Magliano’s input in steering the direction of the brand from the outset. Benny had previously worked with Jason Dill and Anthony Van Engelen, during their time on Alien Workshop, as a filmer. As AVE told Free: “Benny Magliano works for us now… he’s the one that made the Hockey thing. He also does a lot of Hockey artwork too.” Benny is the creative force behind those short clips Hockey regularly release to announce new Hockey clothing and skateboards.
Hockey launched in April 2015 with a four and half minute self-titled promo video starring John and Donovon, though if you pay attention you can see AVE switch flipping in the background of one of Donovon’s clips. AVE had hit both John and Donovon up a year before Hockey launched asking them to be a part of the company. “Our plan was to ride spray painted boards for a year.” Donovon told Grey.
Things happened quite quickly though. Having left Workshop the guys rode FA boards for a short while, before, in John’s words “it just started happening”. “It happened within the blink of an eye. It was fucking crazy” Donovon remembers. Which, with the benefit of hindsight, shouldn’t really have been much of a surprise. Dill and AVE were, and arguably still are, icons - it would have been a surprise if they’d not succeeded. Though of course, it’s easy to say this looking in from the outside.
What sets Hockey, and of course FA, apart from many companies - though we aren’t saying they’re alone in this - is the way they’ve developed an authentic style or ‘aesthetic’ which reflects, relates and is informed by the riders they’ve chosen to represent them. To refer back to the Benny Magliano clips we mentioned earlier, each is tailored to the individual they feature and reference the product they’re advertising. Though it never feels like an advertisement, rather friendly propaganda of winks and nods, references which reward the devoted and keen-eyed. They exude personality without feeling contrived.
With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of our favourite video parts from the current Hockey roster. As of today that is John Fitzgerald, Donovon Piscopo, Andrew Allen, Ben Kadow, Kevin Rodrigues, Caleb Barnett and Diego Todd.
Alien Workshop: Life Splicing No. 006
The majority of peoples' first exposure to John Fitzgerald, at least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, would have been via Slap Magazine’s One In A Million. For those unfamiliar, it was a kind of skateboarding reality show - hopefuls would compete in tasks with the overall winner being awarded a sponsorship from a major company. John appeared in and won the 2010 version of the show, which also featured Chris Milic, Nik Stain, and Forrest Edwards.
For his troubles, he won a sponsorship with Zero Skateboards, the company his good friend Donovan Piscopo was skating for at the time. Later, Donovan met Dill and AVE in New York City and made the decision to quit and ride for Alien Workshop. John would skate with the guys too, and eventually, the logical step was made and he joined the Workshop too.
This brings us to Life Splicing, a fairly groundbreaking series at the time. Kevin Duffel of TransWorld described the series thusly: “Alien’s recent Life Splicing clips haven taken the dime-a-dozen video platform of the meat grinder known as the Internet and transformed it into a full-on fine art gallery.”
Arguably it is through these Life Splicing videos that we first see the beginnings of Hockey’s visual identity. The series was put together by Benny Magliano, and if you watch them back with this, and Hockey, in mind, you can see the similarities. It is, of course, natural to expect the direction of Hockey to somewhat be informed by Alien - a company that meant so much to Dill and AVE. And whilst Life Splicing came at a time of decline for Alien, it is, at least visually, arguably the beginnings of what we now understand as Hockey.
Nike SB: Chronicles Vol. 2
As we’ve mentioned previously, Donovon spent a bit of time on Zero - appearing in their 2009 release Strange World in a part shared with Jamie Thomas and Elissa Steamer - before accepting an offer from Dill and AVE to join them on the Workshop. It’s easy to see why they’re such big fans. Donovon’s skating has the hallmarks of AVE’s power, and he brings a level of finesse to everything he does. Not always taking the obvious approach, particularly when it comes to more challenging spots.
This part from Chronicles Vol. 2 is Donovon’s first full part in a video. Whilst it contains nowhere near the amount of artistic, considered production as you’d find in a Workshop or Hockey video, Donovon’s skating leaves a lasting impression. The Devo song definitely helps in that regard.
Thrasher: Prevent This Tragedy
Andrew Allen joined Hockey after ten years on Anti Hero Skateboards. Whilst he was heavily involved in the teams’ output over the years, and had a host of pro boards, it was a sponsor he had seemingly outgrown. Having moved to Los Angeles, away from his 1-8s Bay Area home, he found himself skating more and more with AVE - the move to Hockey made perfect sense.
Prevent This Tragedy, for most people, was the first real glimpse of Andrew’s skateboarding - though he’d been on the scene for a while at this point. It’s difficult to describe Andrew’s approach to skateboarding better than the opening clip of this part.
/M\ by Cooper Winterson
Ben Kadow joined the Hockey ranks around the same time as the aforementioned Andrew Allen. Both were officially announced via the Hockey II edit, which features some excellent Ben Kadow facial expressions.
Ben was one of the few kids from Supreme’s ‘Cherry’ that didn’t get on Fucking Awesome, instead, he ended up with Brian Anderson at his promising, but ultimately short-lived company, 3D. Still, being on a team with BA and Austyn Gillette is some achievement in and of itself.
Cooper Winterson’s video, /M\, is above all a good laugh to watch. From the 8-bit style Jerry Was a Racecar Driver intro to Ben’s part, the playful opening line of his section proper, and the El Toro ender, which never fails to raise a smile. We’d recommend seeking out the rest of the video if you’re unfamiliar, there are parts from Sage Elsesser and Aiden Mackey. It’s not on YouTube anymore due to copyright infringements, but some basic googling will give you the full thing.
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This clip for Converse, filmed by Ben Chadourne, is perhaps the most quintessential of Kevin Rodrigues’ video outings. It’s high on quality, that heelflip, in particular, is a thing of beauty. And illustrates a quality that Kevin shares with some of the greats. He’s able to show his audience just enough to illustrate his undoubted talent, but also never giving away too much, always leaving the viewer wishing there was more.
Indeed, this controlled approach to his output is one of the reasons he gave for opting to leave Polar and join Hockey. In an interview with Benjamin Deberdt for Solo, he spoke about his disinterest in marketing himself on social media. “The pressure and that guilt I was feeling just weren’t worth it. I tried to reach an agreement which was no more money and no more pro board, but he (Pontus Alv) didn’t like the idea.”
In the same interview, he mentions his own lack of productivity, though arguably this is in part what makes his skateboarding so special. In allowing us only short, but memorable glimpses of his ability, we’re always left wanting more. Something which, particularly in the age of constant media streams, makes him special.
Caleb Barnett and Diego Todd
The two most recent additions to the squad. Caleb Barnett’s tall powerful style is most obviously comparable to Brian Anderson, his debut in Hockey III is always worth a re-watch. Diego Todd, too, appeared in Hockey III, though only for a moment. The way he somehow managed to pretty much come from nowhere is no mean feat in today’s digital age.
We’ve not really seen enough of either of these guys to pick out a favourite part, though the Blood Orange music video featuring Caleb is worth a few minutes of your time.
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