It’s been something that fans have been dreading, but it appears inevitable at this point. Just two months ago, it was reported that Gary Bettman and NHL owners had decided against allowing corporate sponsors to have real estate on NHL jerseys. Hockey fans breathed a collective sigh of relief. However, buried in that report, was this ominous quote:
“Gary (Bettman) and owners like the money, but they don’t want to be first out of the box with this in North America,” the person told TSN. “They’ll wait for the NBA or baseball to do it and then be second or third.”
Just a few months later, it appears that Bettman’s patience has run thin, as this bombshell was dropped earlier today:
NHL COO John Collins: Jersey sponsorship in the NHL is both “coming and happening”.
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) November 6, 2014
It doesn’t say when it will happen, but considering none of the other Big 4 American sports has made an announcement about it, it appears the NHL will be the pioneer. It was projected that each team could earn an additional $4 million dollars for having a sponsor’s logo on NHL jerseys. One key date to remember in this timeline is that the NHL’s contract with Reebok runs out in 2016. One would have to think that in the next jersey deal, with Reebok or another company, corporate sponsorship will absolutely be included in the terms.
NHL Jerseys & Corporate Logos: What Will It Look Like?
When the topic of corporate sponsorship of NHL jerseys is brought up, fans immediately think of the gaudy jerseys of the Swedish Hockey League and SM Liiga. They have multiple logos plastered all over players’ jerseys, pants, helmet, and even socks. You can barely even make out the team’s actual logo.
However, this is unlikely to be the case with NHL jerseys. The NHL has been able to grow significantly in recent times without corporate sponsors plastered all over their jerseys. So, when it does happen, it’s likely that change will come very subtly and slowly. I don’t imagine NHL jerseys will ever look like their Swedish counterparts, but if they do, it won’t be for a long time.
A second image fans may think of is European soccer jerseys, which feature a corporate logo as the largest and most prominent part of the jersey. Chevrolet, for example, paid $560 million for the right to put their logo on Manchester United’s jerseys for seven years.
This look is also unlikely for the NHL. The economics and popularity of soccer are very different than the NHL, but even so there is a big difference between what you would get on a jersey for paying $4 million compared to $80. Each team’s individual logo will almost assuredly remain the largest, most noticeable part of the jersey.
One step closer to the NHL’s likely look is jerseys in the KHL. They feature small logos on the front and sleeves of the jersey, one on the back under a player’s number, some on the helmet, and one on a player’s pants. Compared to Swedish jerseys, they look much cleaner and retain most of the “original” look.
Even this is likely more than what the NHL will start out with. My guess is that the NHL would start out specifically with sponsors on jerseys, and then move on to pants and helmet in the future (if they ever do at all, which I don’t think they will). The most likely scenario is actually one we’ve already seen in the NHL.
The NHL has allowed teams to place a sponsor’s logo on their practice jersey in recent years. It is typically a small logo on the front of the jersey, opposite of where the captain’s letter would be.
In this scenario, the design of the jersey is more or less undisturbed. The captains are still able to place their letter on the correct side, and the team’s logo remains the focal point point of the front of the jersey.
If I were to put money on it, I would say the jerseys will look somewhere in between practice jerseys with small corporate logos, and what the KHL is doing. It certainly will not be as bad as jerseys in Sweden, and will almost assuredly have fewer than in the KHL picture above.
What do you think NHL jerseys would look like with corporate logos on them? Send me a tweet @BSchoeninger17 or comment below.
Bill Schoeninger is a Philadelphia Flyers writer and current Boston University student studying business. Coming to THW from Hometown Hockey, Bill follows and writes about the Flyers, Boston University Terriers, and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @BSchoeninger17