Former Okanagan Hockey Ontario (OHO) student-athlete Zechariah Thomas and his company Swift Hockey are set to appear on the season 18 premier of the hit Canadian TV show Dragon’s Den.
Thomas spent the 2018/19 season with OHO, their first in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL). The Oshawa, ON defenseman would record 12 points in 15 games with the team that season. He would go on to spend one season playing junior hockey in the U.S.A. before returning to Canada for three seasons of junior, including two games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
But it is off the ice where Thomas has found immense success. “The beginning of COVID when there wasn’t really hockey, I kind of decided to do a little research, get into some different type of businesses, e-commerce and drop shipping types of businesses,” said Thomas. “So, I started selling teddy bears and everything and it went really well from there, and then when I had the opportunity, I decided to start Swift Hockey.”
Thomas created Swift Hockey with the goal of making quality, affordable hockey sticks. With the cost of an ‘elite’ senior stick from major brands like CCM, Bauer and Warrior hitting highs of $400, Swift Hockey has found a way to offer consumers a much more affordable option, one that is NHL Certified, with their prices ranging from $110-$150.
“The bigger companies are really price gouging on their sticks and it’s unaffordable for anyone to really play hockey,” added Thomas. Thomas has found a reliable manufacture based in China that allows him to keep his prices low, though he notes his lower-mark up compared to the major brands is what sets him apart. This lower mark-up is something Thomas plans to keep in place even as the brand grows.
To date Swift Hockey has sold roughly 3,000 sticks, with the majority being in the Durham, ON region, but the company has reached European, and American markets. Thomas attributes part of his reach in the market to his time at OHO.
“My time at OHO was 5 years ago now, I still have friends from that team. It really helps build the business itself and give it a good launch having people supporting me from Quebec, from the USA, from France, from Europe, all over the place everybody’s supporting me.”
“It is always great to see one of our alumni succeed in the game of life. During his time at OHO in 2018/19, Zechariah was a key contributor to our program throughout the year and the contributions from him and his teammates in our inaugural year are always remembered. We are proud of Zechariah and look forward to continuing to watch and support him reach his goals,” added OHO General Manager Paul Pascuzzi.
Playing for OHO in its inaugural CSSHL season, Thomas also learned the ins-and-outs of how a business operates.
“I really saw a lot with the way the program should run a little bit on the business side, because I was able to see all their flaws and strengths because it was their first year. I really, really loved my experience at OHO. My coaches were great, I still have some coaches that I still talk to this day that coached me back then, it really showed me life away from home. When we traveled to BC, PEI and all those places, I was really able to see different parts of the country that I never saw before, and it really got me ready for junior also.”
While sticks are currently the main focus of Swift Hockey, Thomas mentioned the desire to expand the business with goalie sticks, skates and other gear, aiming to make the sport affordable for everyone.
“Ultimately the dream and goal are to make hockey more affordable, and sticks are one of the biggest, biggest, biggest factors in hockey not being affordable. I really do want to compete with other companies, maybe make the other companies go down in price, and I really want Swift Hockey to take control of the market.”
You can catch Thomas and Swift Hockey on CBC at 8:00pm EST on Thursday, September 21, 2023.