In the Beginning
Hockey has always been an important part of Fred’s life. He played the game from a very early age. First it was road hockey with frozen horse apples and then ice hockey on the frozen creek at the golf course using his much older brother’s skates. He played Moose Jaw Minor Hockey from Pee Wee to Juvenile followed by several seasons in Assiniboia and Gravelburg before giving up hockey because of damage to his knees. He also refereed Junior and Senior games in Moose Jaw.
The move to Kitimat to run the arena in 1973 provided an opportunity to stay involved with hockey in another way, and that was by making sure that Kitimat had the best ice possible. He was successful in that and often helped other arenas that were having ice problems. He would solve problems by answering questions over the phone or by going to the arenas in person. He put on several ice-making clinics in the area.
During his long experience with hockey and arenas, Fred had seen countless injuries caused by players crashing into a hockey goal net held rigidly to the ice by metal posts. Several players, including some in the National Hockey League, such as Metro Prystai, Serge Savard and Bill Clement, had their careers shortened due to collisions with rigid metal goal frames.
Attempts by others to find a solution to this problem were unsuccessful. Devices which addressed the safety aspect, such as the Megg-nets, a system that used magnets to hold the net on the ice, released the net far too easily. Players could push the net off its supports with little effort and cause numerous frustrating delays in the game.
In 1984, the District of Kitimat was looking for a safer goal anchoring system to replace the metal posts. Fred, concerned about the problem of player safety for some time, had been looking at what was available and was not satisfied with anything on the market at the time. He began working on a better system. Realizing a flexible peg was needed, he started experimenting with eight inch lengths of rubber fire hose. Although the hose worked well, the rubber stiffened up in colder temperatures and would freeze into the ice. To overcome the freezing-in problem, Fred cut down the full length of the hose and poured in hot water to release the peg. He knew the idea of a flexible peg was good, but he had to find a better material.
Fred and his wife, Sheila, set out to find such a material during their holidays in the summer of 1984. He checked throughout western Canada for what he wanted without success. He was about to abandon the project when he came to one last manufacturer. As he entered the office, there on the desk was a piece of the exact material he wanted. At that point he had molds made for the 8” X 1 5/8” peg and had the manufacturer make up several sets for testing. They proved to be precisely what he had in mind.
Knowing there was a need for his product everywhere hockey was played, Fred decided to market the pegs and a new net design he had. With this in mind, he found a patent lawyer to do a patent search. He began the patenting procedure in November, 1984, and was able to use “Patent Pending” in his advertising. He received the patent on July 22, 1986.
The first pegs were a translucent red in colour. Some buyers called them “licorice sticks” and an early distributor wanted to list them simply as “Flexible Goal Pegs” in his catalogue. Fred was insistent, however, that they be called Marsh Pegs to ensure that people ordered his product and not a generic, copied peg. He was right: the name “Marsh Pegs” is well known in the hockey world and people request his pegs by name.
It wasn’t long before Fred realized that something for measuring the exact strength of the pegs was needed. The fact that if his wife could bend the pegs they were too flexible wasn’t a scientific enough method of measurement. Fred and his son Kelly quickly developed an apparatus for measuring the pound torque required to bend the pegs, and the manufacturer used that as their guide.
At first, the 8”X 1 5/8” peg was the only size Fred made, but soon he realized there was a need for the other sizes to fit existing floor inserts. He needed pegs that were 1 5/8” outside diameter at one end to fit into the net but had them stepped down to 1 3/8” to fit existing 1 ¾” inserts. Sometime later he began receiving orders for pegs to fit the existing 1” inserts installed for the Megg-nets so he had a mold made for a13/16” Marsh Peg. Several years later the NHL requested a special longer and stronger Marsh Peg for their games, and Fred had the 1 7/8” Marsh Pegs made.