With the report that the NHL may sell advertising on the jerseys for the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, the idea of ads of any kind on regular NHL jerseys someday is a hot topic. It was a topic that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hit head on during a visit to Vancouver to take in the Canucks game Friday night.
During his news conference, Bettman was asked about the possibility of adding advertisements to NHL jerseys.
“My view is, I’m in no rush to put advertising on our sweaters,” Bettman said (via the Canucks). “I think we’ve got the best jerseys in all of sports. I like the history, the traditions, I like the way they look and I’ve repeatedly said we wouldn’t be the first. You’d probably have to bring me kicking and screaming.
“World Cup, international competition, I don’t know. We may take a look at it. It might be a valuable opportunity, but the World Cup jerseys don’t have the same legacy, as far as I’m concerned, that our regular jerseys have. It could happen for the World Cup, it might not. But it’s not anything we’re focused on doing for the league itself.”
I’m not sure hockey fans in Sweden would agree about their yellow Tre Kronor jerseys not having the same legacy as say, the San Jose Sharks, but you can understand the commissioner’s point on that one. Many of the league’s most prominent teams are long-established brands and the jerseys are a big part of their identity, if not the biggest.
The NHL is a league rooted in tradition with a large base of fans that could easily be described as traditionalists. Any kind of change usually brings push back and with the jerseys being such a huge part of the game’s history, particularly among older franchises, any alteration to that particular item could create some serious outrage.
Money talks, though. If it one day proves that the league’s franchises are leaving too much money on the table by not adding advertisements to jerseys, there may be more of an appetite to try them. That appetite would only increase if another North American professional sports league took the leap to ads on jerseys and had success generating revenue. It doesn’t sound like something that will be happening in the near future, though. So you can put those pitchforks and torches away for now, folks.