This past Tuesday, September 15, the NHL and Adidas made an official statement that they would be entering into a seven-year partnership beginning with the 2017-18 season. This will make Adidas the official provider of the uniforms and licensed apparel for the National Hockey League.
Now this change is not as dramatic as it may seem. Reebok, the official provider since 2005, is a division of Adidas. For the past five years however, Reebok has been moving more aggressively into the fitness market and away from sports apparel.
One concern that this change has brought to the forefront is whether or not NHL jerseys will soon be sporting advertising. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says no. Bettman states, “The fact of the matter is we are not currently considering putting advertising on NHL jerseys.” Whew! For now anyway; but let’s not miss the word “currently” that was woven into that statement
There is no doubt that there is money to be made by adding advertising to jerseys. Does adding yet another revenue stream for the team owners justify altering the last true vestige of the game however; the player’s uniform? For me, the answer is a resounding no. Here’s my opinion why.
In collegiate, as well as major league sports, corporate influence has grown to enormous proportions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The revenue supports the teams, helps with the building of bigger and better arenas, and ultimately helps the communities that house the teams. Yet at the same time, how much is too much? When does the event move from being a competitive challenge, a clash of wills and skills, a fan event, to just being one long, drawn out commercial.
When attending a hockey game, look around. Every inch of the boards within the rink is advertising for pizza, insurance companies, and auto dealerships. The backs of the tickets often have ads and coupons. The intermission entertainment between periods is sponsored. The giveaways are sponsored. Promotions supplied by local companies fall from the rafters or are handed out at the door as you enter. The in-arena announcers have their various plugs they have to throw in for someone with the money to make it happen. Even the arenas bear the names of the top dollar provider: the Air Canada Centre, Honda Center, United Center, and on and on. What has happened to just watching the game? That’s why we go, isn’t it?
I attend a lot of AHL games. In the AHL, advertising is allowed on the jerseys. It is not uncommon to see Cintas or Amway patches on the upper chests of the jerseys.
There just seems to be something tacky about it. It reminds me of the sponsor patches on my little league uniform when I was 10.
I want to see the jerseys of the NHL stay pristine. It’s just one small thing to ask isn’t it? I want to see the Winged Wheel, the Maple Leaf, the Blackhawk, and the Star. I want to see a big C for the Captain and a proud name and number displayed on the back. That’s all. I don’t want Jonathan Toews or Pavel Datsyuk to skate past me only to think, “Hey, I need to grab some Slim Jims at the grocery store.” This is their uniform, the colors they wear into battle. Let’s make sure we preserve this one little piece, just for us, just for the game.