Like many of us Sawyer Hannay admits he didn’t truly appreciate the beauty of his hometown until he was a young adult living away in Austria in 2012 where he had signed a contract with the Red Bulls. That’s when the former Mooseheads defenceman came up with the idea to start representing the country life of his beloved rural New Brunswick.
“Moving to Halifax when I was 16 and then to Austria when I was 19, I was kind of forced to adapt to different cultures and growing up where I did I think I took it for granted until I was out in the real world,” he said.
“That’s when I really realized where I was from and the culture I grew up in was as great as it was.
“When I was in Europe I wanted to think of a way that I could represent it and show how proud I was of where I was from.”
Those thoughts got the ball rolling for what has since become a clothing line called Country Liberty which represents the way of life in Kent County, New Brunswick.
Hannay, now a member of the St. Thomas Tommies, sat on the idea until he was playing for the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL in 2013-2014 when he decided to give his cousin Tye Hannay a call to see if he would join him as a business partner.
“When I moved to Fredericton that year we actually brought the idea to life.”
The apparel has become a hit from coast to coast with social media playing a big role in its success. The Country Liberty Instagram account (instagram.com/countryliberty) is chalk full of pictures of people displaying their country pride all over the world.
Sawyer and partner Tye were unsure of how the product would be received by the public but have been pleasantly surprised with the results.
“When we started I mean we only ordered 12 T-shirts and were half nervous that we wouldn’t move the 12 and two of them were for us,” he laughed.
“Those sold right away though and we progressively ordered more and more and more and now we have a good following and there are a lot of people involved that are excited about it.”
The Country Liberty products are sold at a store called Surf’s Up located in Rexton, NB but Hannay said they’re just scratching the surface of what they want to do.
“We’re still very new and very fresh so we’re building our website as we speak now and once that’s up and running anyone can buy and order from anywhere.”
The economics and business student at St. Thomas University said shipping is available now through social media sites if people reach out to the company on those sites.
Twitter – Facebook – Instagram.
Hannay still cherishes the years he spent playing for the Mooseheads and living in Halifax. The young entrepreneur suited up for the Herd in 160 regular season games, racking up 411 penalty minutes and 15 points while becoming a mainstay on the blue line until he was traded to Victoriaville as a 20-year-old.
“I loved my days with the Mooseheads.
“I highly doubt there’s anyone who leaves that program regretting their time spent there, I loved it. Halifax will always be a home away from home for me and I’ll always be proud to say I’m a Mooseheads alumni.”
He said he still follows the team closely.
“As far as junior hockey is concerned they’ll always be my team and the team that I root regardless of where I am or where I’m living. I can’t thank the organization enough for my experience.”
Halifax selected Hannay in the 6th Round (106th Overall) in the 2009 QMJHL Entry Draft and the defenceman was able to witness both hard times and good times as the team went through a rebuilding process on the way to a Memorial Cup Championship in 2013. He explains the lessons he learned during the lean years on the ice.
“We weren’t a very good team in my first year and we lost a lot of games but I learned a lot about life and about myself and how far I could push myself.
“As we got better throughout the years I think I appreciated winning a lot better because I knew what it felt like to lose. That’s a lesson I’ll carry with me through all of my endeavours.”
Hannay was unfortunately the odd man out in terms of overage players in the Memorial Cup season and was shipped to Victoriaville for a pair of draft picks. He said he had good communication with General Manager Cam Russell and took it all in stride.
“Cam has been a great guy to me. We’ve had a great relationship since day one and I mean he did everything he could for me throughout my entire career with Halifax and right up until I got traded.
“It’s a hard game as a 20-year-old in terms of spots in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and I completely understood that and Cam understood that. We were on the same page the whole way through. We’ve been in touch a number of times since and have a good relationship to this day.”
Hannay has had plenty of life experiences in his 22 years and maybe none more exciting than getting drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 7th Round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
“It’s a day I’ll never forget. Ironically it was also my high school graduation so it was a big day. I still remember when my phone rang and they called me up, it’s just a memory I’ll get to keep with me forever.”
With his positive attitude and budding business it appears there are many more big days to come for Sawyer Hannay.