Colorado Avalanche: The Future of Advertisements on NHL Jerseys

Sep 9, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Team Canada forward Matt Duchene (9) battles Team USA defenseman Jack Johnson (3) for the puck in the first period during a World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Team Canada forward Matt Duchene (9) battles Team USA defenseman Jack Johnson (3) for the puck in the first period during a World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament game at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

The fact that there are ads on the World Cup of Hockey jerseys shouldn’t surprise Colorado Avalanche fans, but it should infuriate you.

The Colorado Avalanche have six players representing — and doing very well — at the World Cup of Hockey.  Each national squad features a new a set of Adidas uniforms.  Accompanying the uniforms, is another novelty for NHL fans: advertisements.  Each shoulder of the game worn jerseys features a small patch bearing the symbol of a company, SAP.  

SAP is a software company based in Germany.  In February of 2015, the NHL and SAP officially announced a multi-year partnership, in which SAP will be providing the league and fans with a platform to access a variety of advanced stats. 

For years, ads have been featured on jerseys of European leagues, and even on some team USA jerseys in international competition.  It was only a matter of time before ads appeared on NHL-sanctioned jerseys.

This likely begins with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.  Bettman, who became NHL commissioner in 1994, after years working as senior-vice president and general counsel for the NBA, is a businessman first, and a hockey fan second.  

In his tenure, he has overseen three lockouts and still kept his job. What’s more, this past January, Bettman was signed to a contract extension lasting until 2022.  

While Bettman consistently is booed at any public appearance, and is generally disliked by hockey fans, he has a firm grip on his job.  It simply comes down to money.  NHL fans clearly do not respect Bettman as a leader of the league, but he has consistently been able to lower costs and increase profits for league owners. At the time of his becoming commissioner in 1992, the NHL’s revenue numbered  $732 million whereas in the 2014-15 season it hit $3.7 billion.

Quite simply, Gary Bettman makes money for the league, and this is why he’s retained his position through three lockouts. Money is also the reason why there will be advertisements on the World Cup jerseys.  In fact, the whole World Cup tournament is just another money grab, disguised as a celebration of the game.  

For years, Bettman has been pushing to disallow NHL players from participating in the Olympics, despite the fact that the majority of NHL players want to be able to be involved.  Once again, his motivation is protecting the financial interests of the owners.  Not only do the Olympics bring in no profit for the NHL, they disrupt the season and create the risk of injuries to star players. Never mind the history and integrity of the Olympics and the pride that comes with participation– at the end of the day, the games are a financial liability for the NHL.

Enter the 2016 World Cup. Bettman knows that the fans won’t be happy if NHL players are barred from the Olympics, so the World Cup is being offered up as a distraction.  By creating a new and exciting international tournament, Bettman can pacify the rabid and loyal NHL fan base.  Most importantly, the World Cup is an NHL sponsored and created tournament, meaning that the profit goes exclusively to the league and its partners.  It’s all about money.  

In a recent interview, Bettman stated that putting ads on NHL jerseys wasn’t even in the “same universe” as putting ads on World Cup jerseys.  While this might pacify the fears of some fans, the fact that he’s willing to place ads on any hockey jersey at all tells me that there’s nothing out of bounds.   

At the moment there’s no way to know if or when ads could appear on NHL jerseys.  However, we could look to the 2017 season as a possible opportunity for Bettman to introduce ads on jerseys.

The 2017-18 season marks the beginning of an NHL partnership with Adidas, who will replace Reebok as the manufacturer of NHL jerseys.  Adidas also makes the current World Cup jerseys.  Given that there are ads on World Cup jerseys, it’s reasonable to think that they could also appear on the Adidas NHL jerseys.   This could also be convenient for Bettman, who could use the introduction of new Adidas jerseys next year as a way to also introduce advertisements.

As a hockey fan, I’m disgusted to see my sport take another perilous step into blind consumerism.  I’ve always felt that what separated hockey fans from others sports fans is that hockey is built on tradition, integrity and honor.  Advertisements are inherently contradictory to all of these qualities.

It’s bad enough to see ticket prices raised every year at the Pepsi Center and then be charged $15 for a Coors Light and a hot dog.  It’s bad enough to see advertisements all over the arena, the boards and the ice.  Imagine having advertisements on our jerseys.  

I’m just grateful that my best memories of the Colorado Avalanche: Peter Forsberg winning the Art Ross trophy, Adam Foote’s last NHL shift, Patrick Roy’s fight with Osgood, and Joe Sakic passing the Cup off to Ray Bourque aren’t tarnished with images of advertisements on their jerseys.  Just imagine, Ray Bourque triumphantly lifting the glistening Stanley Cup, while tears fall down his face and onto the Coors Light and Conoco advertisements on his shoulders.  

As a society we’re so used to advertisements and consumerism that maybe this doesn’t matter to many of you – but it matters to me.  I love my team and my sport too much to not be enraged by the direction Bettman is taking hockey.   I can’t bear the thought of seeing the Colorado Avalanche and Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Erik Johnson finally lifting the Cup together in jerseys covered with advertisements.  

Of course, ads on jerseys are no certainty, but a conversation between fans needs to begin before it’s too late.  As long as Bettman is in charge of the NHL, money will be the driving force behind.  Hockey is too important to me to let money destroy it.  

Next: Avs Not Messing Around at World Cup

One key feature of the ads on the World Cup jerseys is that they will only be on the game worn jerseys, and not on merchandise.  Bettman and Co. are betting that you won’t care enough to notice, or that our insatiable consumerism will allow us to overlook this psychological ploy and keep buying whatever the league throws at us.  I pray that hockey fans see past this and recognize what a disgrace this is to our sport.

So, if you are surprised that there are advertisements on World Cup jerseys, you shouldn’t be — this has been coming for a long time. And if you are a hockey fan, you should be angry.