Industry Profile: Robert Heller, H-Box Hockey
In a day and age when video games seem to have cornered the market on entertainment for kids, it might seem surprising to discover the same excitement and action in a game with no buttons, flashing lights, batteries or power cord.
The H-Box Pro Portable Hockey Box has bucked the couch potato trend and is quickly growing in popularity with kids of all ages.
H-Box’s best attribute may be its simplicity; it’s a scaled-down hockey rink measuring 70 inches long and 35 inches wide with walls five-and-a-half inches high.
Players use specialized fiberglass sticks without blades and a regulation ice hockey puck to play one-on-one games. Adding to the challenge, players must stickhandle the puck through gates at the red and blue lines, making the contest more about skill than power.
Manufacturing of the H-Box (HBoxHockey.com) was recently moved from Canada to the United States by International Sports Corporation in preparation for mass production. Santa Clarita resident Robert Heller, CEO of International Sports Corporation, spoke recently with California Rubber about what makes the H-Box so unique.
California Rubber: Where can fans find H-Box Hockey?
Robert Heller: You can learn all about box hockey on our Web site, and you can buy H-Box there or on Amazon.com. Fans who attend NHL games may see them, too; we have eight NHL teams that use it as part of their fan appreciation and community outreach programs. A number of youth hockey programs have also purchased an H-Box, and they use it to keep kids active and teach skills when they’re off the ice or between games at tournaments.
CR: How did you get involved?
RH: I first got excited about the H-Box when I went to a hockey day event in 2012 in British Columbia and saw mobs of kids and adults around the eight hockey boxes on the floor of the Richmond Olympic Oval. It was very clear that the kids really loved H-Box, and their parents and grandparents enjoyed it, too. I’m a Hockey Canada certified coach, so I was thrilled to be asked to head up the International Sports Corporation team and bring H-Box to the U.S. and increase its exposure in Canada. The best part for me is seeing how much grandparents love giving H-Box for Christmas.
CR: What have been some of the biggest challenges for the company?
RH: We have a terrific, high-quality product, but that’s not enough. We have to work hard on the business of keeping it affordable by reducing the costs of manufacturing, packaging and shipping. That said, we want to keep our manufacturing in the U.S. We recently arrived at a great price point with three stick length options that please our customers. We’re working hard on getting the word out about how much fun H-Box is and what a great alternative it is to video games.
CR: What do people like so much about the H-Box?
RH: It’s beautiful and it’s a unique, challenging game; it’s ice time off the ice. People have become so used to sitting down and being entertained. Having the opportunity at home to jump up and get your blood racing with challenging stick work is wonderful. With H-Box, people find out they’re a lot more competitive than they think. It’s a fun, high-speed, all-out game that encourages competitiveness.
CR: Can the H-Box be used for skill development with youth players?
RH: Absolutely. One of the best features is that the H-Box has rounded corners, so you can’t really trap the puck and take a rest while you play. From tap off to goal, it’s full throttle. H-Box sticks have rounded ends rather than blades, making it more challenging to control the puck. You have to keep your arms and hands moving constantly. You also have to be strategic about where you hit the puck, so it really helps develop hand-eye coordination and is excellent for improving stick work.
– Greg Ball