The fate of four Total Hockey supply stores in the Twin Cities is uncertain after their Maryland Heights, Mo.-based parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.
The retailer operates stores in Burnsville, Edina, Maplewood and Minnetonka — all of which opened in 2010 and 2011 — as well as 28 other stores and three distribution centers in 11 other states. It is not clear whether or when any of those stores might close, and whether the company could be sold to Massachusetts-based Pure Hockey.
All four stores in the Twin Cities were open for business as usual on Thursday.
An assistant manager at the Burnsville store who declined to be identified said he and others heard about the bankruptcy filing on Thursday morning, and were told that the store would remain open during normal hours. Other local store managers and assistants referred questions to corporate headquarters.
In a statement, Total Hockey CEO Michael Benoit listed a combination of reasons for the bankruptcy filing, including one of the warmest winters on record in 2015, adverse Canadian exchange rates, the collapse of key vendors and a difficult integration of the Players Bench Corp. acquisition last year.
Total Hockey was founded in 1999 as a spinoff from a general sporting goods company, and expanded from the St. Louis area to Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Philadelphia and other key metro areas. In 2012, it entered the fast-growing lacrosse equipment retail market with the launch of a website and several lacrosse stores.
The company reported 2014 revenue of $60 million and 2015 revenue of $63.5 million.
The action was filed Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis, and Total Hockey listed assets of $10 million to $50 million and liabilities of $50 million to $100 million.
Total Hockey affiliate firms Players Bench Corp. and Hipcheck LLC also filed for bankruptcy.
Benoit said last summer when Total Hockey acquired Denver-based Players Bench Corp. that the deal would add eight stores and 200 employees to the 600 who already worked for his company, making it the largest chain of hockey retail stores in the U.S.
Last month, Total Hockey's board hired Lee Diercks, a partner of Clear Thinking Group LLC and an expert on turning around stressed businesses, as its chief restructuring officer.
Diercks said in court documents that Total Hockey's comparable store sales were positive every quarter until the end of 2015, when sales dropped more than 8 percent in the fourth quarter. That slip continued into 2016, when comparable stores sales have been off about 5 percent.
Diercks said that over the past five months, the company has reduced staff by 20 positions, trimmed management compensation, redirected marketing away from television and print to digital, and renegotiated shipping and other contracts to save the company about $2.5 million annually.
The bankruptcy filing will let the company sell its assets. Diercks also said in court documents that Total Hockey has entered into an asset purchase agreement with TSG Enterprises LLC, or Pure Hockey, a Massachusetts company with more than 40 specialty goods stores. The sale would be for about $22.5 million, according to Diercks.
Benoit said in a statement that the company has been working in recent weeks to ensure the best outcome for creditors, customers, employees and suppliers.
"Total Hockey is asking for the court to approve a sale process that would culminate in an auction the last week of July," he said.