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Undercover Pro

Wednesday, 29.02.2012 / 3:00 PM / Features
By Derek Jory
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Undercover Pro

You look a lot like Manny Malhotra.

I get that all the time.

The premise was simple. Shoot a Sport Chek commercial where Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra works as an undercover sales representative at Sport Chek for an hour shift at the Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver.

At 3:35 p.m. last Friday, Malhotra, dressed in a collared black Sport Chek uniform, standard issue, disguised only with a nametag that read ALEX, went to work trying to sell Canucks jerseys and merchandise, all 20 per cent off that day.

At first, it was smooth sailing.

“Where’s the baseball gloves?” asked one customer, unfazed by the camera nearby shooting their interaction. Malhotra, having studied the layout of the store, pointed him to the left, adding, “Have a great day!”

Tom Deprophetis strolled up to “Alex” next and he was swiftly met with a sales pitch. “Are you ready for the playoffs? All Canucks gear is 20 per cent off today you know, and we just got these Malhotra jerseys in stock.”

The clueless customer went on to tell Malhotra the tale of a jersey purchase he made during the playoffs last season and that, as a matter of fact, he had Malhotra and 27 put on the back because of the forward’s tireless work ethic.

Then the light bulb went off and Tom put two and two together, the Malhotra look-a-like selling Malhotra jerseys was Malhotra.

Then the real fun began.

Passersby were doing enough double takes to keep a chiropractor in business for years; they were reading the nametag, but they weren’t buying it. They weren’t buying Malhotra jerseys either; the disbelief of meeting Malhotra was too overwhelming.

This was the third Undercover Pro commercial Sport Chek was shooting and the other two didn’t go down like this. In Toronto Clark MacArthur worked an entire shift without really being harassed and Nick Foligno blended right in at Sport Chek in Ottawa.

Malhotra is no MacArthur or Foligno, the mass gathering of Canucks fans waiting for autographs proved that.

On to Plan B: Malhotra is put to work.

In an effort to keep the shoot rolling after the undercover angle was all but over, Malhotra was tasked with skate sharpening, merchandising, shelf building, he worked the register, swept up and walked the floor.

He even made an announcement over the PA system.

“Just a reminder to all of our Sport Chek customers that Canucks gear is 20 per cent off today only and fortunately we do have #27 Malhotra jerseys in, fresh off the presses, haven’t had them in for a while. As a reminder, 20 per cent off all Canucks gear. Thank you.”

Malhotra actually worked at Sport Chek in Mississauga, Ontario, for a short while. It wasn't his calling. Despite that, Malhotra is smooth enough to sell ice to Eskimos and that was on display as he toured the store.

Well, not at first.

“Don’t forget to check out the Canucks gear during your visit today,” he said to an elderly couple along the shoe wall. “We just got Malhotra jerseys in, hot ticket item, they’ve been tough to keep on the shelves.”

“Thank you,” replied the woman, before questioning “Mal-who?

Malhotra’s magic worked on Aaron and Lisa Krahe, an Australian couple in Vancouver for the Canucks game against the Toronto Maple Leafs a night later.

Aaron and Lisa actually planned an entire three-week holiday around the game; these Canucks fans didn’t want to miss seeing their team in action for the first time any longer.

What these Canucks fans missed was clueing in on the fact that Malhotra had talked them into purchasing some swag.

“It took me back,” laughed Malhotra. “Towards the end I realized there’s a lot of waiting in this and a lot of being on your feet. I did enjoy the interaction with people, that was a lot of fun.

“I think that’s one thing that’s great about Vancouver, you meet so many great people from so many areas of the world. It was good to get different people’s perspectives on hockey and what they thought of it. It ranged from who are the Canucks to die-hard fans.”

Was “Alex” surprised he was so heavily recognized, despite the thorough disguise?

Not even a little.

“When I’m standing in front of my jerseys in a sports store, I think I had a pretty good chance of getting recognized,” Malhotra laughed.

The Undercover Pro Sport Chek commercial can be seen exclusively on Canucks.com and sportchek.ca beginning next week-ish.