The Vancouver Tim Hortons Ikea Canucks

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“Mommy, who is Mr. GoodYear?”

This week word got out that Gary Bettman and the NHL turned down the idea of putting ads on NHL jerseys in order to create more revenue. This is good news, because it means we won’t be confusing a corporate logo for a name bar anytime soon

The bad news is that some sports marketing experts scoffed at the idea that jersey ads are not in our inevitable, Skynet like future. In their world, Terminator 2 shows up to stop Judgement Day, except he’s wearing a Nike jacket and holding a Louis Vuitton purse (let’s assume he hides his gun in there). In case you want a stark reminder of what that future could look like, read past the jump (see what I did there?)

One quick look at the Jersey Hub reveals this gem of a jersey from the HC White Tigers.

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My first reaction is “Burn it. Burn it with fire.” My second reaction is “No, seriously, BURN IT.” That thing is a disgusting mess of a jersey. It is so bad that the URL for Jersey Hub doesn’t stand out as being weird, it looks like it is belongs on the jersey. Also, why does Home Credit need three ads? Could they not come up with a nice vertical logo to put on there? Why must this exist in my world of hockey? It almost looks like white tigers are deathly afraid of being encircled by advertisements.

This is the end game for any discussion of fears about advertisements on jerseys. What will start off as subtle advertising will end up with jerseys that look like your ad blocking software failed you, and now pop ups are appearing faster than you can close them. That any concession made to put one small ad on a jersey…

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Will end up like this:

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“The Canucks proudly introduced Bo Horvat as the newest Burger King Captain of the Canucks. No word on who his Jr. Whoppers will be.”

And that end game is my major problem I have with the idea of ads on jerseys. Look, I’m not stupid. I know money and greed rule the actions of the corporate world of which the NHL is firmly planted in. I know that $120 million dollars or more of potential ad revenue is eventually going to be too much to resist for rich guys who for some reason feel the need to be just a bit richer. I also know currently advertising is already on the jerseys in the form of Reebok’s stupidly large jersey size tag (“It’s just showing the size, wink wink!”) and that the Vancouver Canucks Orca logo was basically advertising Orca Bay. 

The thing is, at least those were subtle or in the case of the Orca, didn’t look like an open door to advertisement jersey hell. Reebok, sure, they make the jersey, fine, get your clumsy ad on the jersey. I honestly wonder what that marketing meeting must have been like for Reebok when they came up with it.

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But anything more than that, and it becomes not just an eye sore, but it kind of hurts my soul a bit. Sure, it’s probably the romantic in me speaking, but half of loving sports is because of the crazy, unbridled emotion that comes with it. Nathan Lafayette didn’t set out to ruin my life in 1994 when he hit the post, but crazy emotions make it fun to think so. Yes, Messier was only mediocre in Vancouver and probably doesn’t warrant the high level of hatred I have for him, but that’s what sports is all about. Filling in the gaps of logic with wave after wave of craziness.

That is why the logical person in me knows the NHL loves making money, but the emotional part of me is begging and pleading with them to just leave the jersey alone. Yes, go put your ads on the boards, and fine, cram a few more ads on the ice. Show your commercials repeatedly during broadcasts, and have your commentators talking about Kraft Dinner. Just leave the jersey alone, that’s all I ask. Let me pretend, for just a few moments, that greed isn’t behind every decision the NHL makes. Let me pretend, for just a few moments, that the players on the ice truly do play for the logo on the front, and not the name on the back. When Sestito scores a goal and starts pumping the Canucks logo on his jersey, it stirs up feelings of pride. If Sestito scores a goal and starts pumping the Subway logo on his jersey, it stirs up feelings of sadness, and a bit of hunger.

I equate it to movies, in a way. Yes, we all know movies are fake. Harry Potter is not a biography. But movies do their best to put up the illusion of believability so we, the audience, can get lost in the story they are telling. It’s fun to watch Harry Potter try and stop evil wizards with his wand made of dragon bone and unicorn feather, that’s fun, that’s compelling. It loses all of its charm when Harry Potter has to stop the bad guys with his Nerf foam baseball bat and is a stark reminder that what we are watching is not real. 

And that is what the jersey ads will mean to me. It will be just another reminder that the purity of the sport I love is mired in a world that just wants money, all of the money. Again, I might be naive in this. Many people will probably not care at all about the jersey ads. After all, they already do it in Europe, and we’ve seen changes in hockey before that buck tradition and caused people freak out, but then calmly accept it a few months later. Hell, I won’t stop watching hockey if they put ads on the jerseys, who am I kidding? All I am saying is it will legitimately bum me out if it ever comes to this. It’s tough enough at times to enjoy hockey without letting cynicism take over, it will be just that much harder to do so if ads are all up in my face all game long.

Again, I know this is a silly topic to get riled up over, and there is not much I can do to stop it if that’s the future the NHL wants to take. For those who think a jersey is just a piece of clothing, good on you, this potential future won’t bother you, I applaud your ability to ignore the ads. All I am saying is at least let the Canucks win the Cup so they can raise the Stanley Cup, and not the Motorola Mazda Stanley Cup.

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  • BrudnySeaby

    I could get behind ads on the jersey of the occasional star player.

    Rogaine on Ryan Getzlaf

    Burger King on Phil Kessel

    Count Chocula on Roberto Luongo

    But it has to be tasteful and add to the plot…

  • pheenster

    I remember the days when neither the boards nor the ice service carried ads or logos, other than the team’s, and how odd it was to see ads on the boards from international games.
    Everything now is a hustle and citizens are consumers.
    In old hockey barns like the Vancouver Forum tickets were affordable and they were the ultimate democracy crushing rich and poor alike in shared discomfort.
    NHL rinks themselves were not excuses for branding rights but just Maple Leaf Gardens or Montreal Forum.
    I find the modern arena hostile in its open celebration of a class system that separates the plutocracy from the peasantry.
    (Actually the peasantry is totally excluded while the middle class is separated from their betters.

    The old rinks celebrated a more egalitarian Canada. Today’s temples make it obvious that everything is a hustle, the only thing that matters is money, most things are cons, and society is economically fractured on class lines.

  • pheenster

    Ok, small pet peeve of mine that does not really matter but . . . this an online forum so . . .

    Orca Bay was a subsidiary company that operated the Canucks and for a little while the Grizzlies for a larger Seattle based company. Basically the only thing they sold was the Canucks (as well as some concerts and a golf tournament if I remember correctly). The orca on the Canucks logo was no more advertizing for Orca Bay than the leaf on the Leafs sweater is advertising for MLSE.

    /rant

  • BuffaloBillsOfHockey

    No, Wyatt, this is not a silly topic to get riled up over – this is a holy crusade, and I’m right there with you!

    The double-lockout and crushing blow of 2011 turned me into a casual fan in a way I never thought possible.

    Billboard jerseys might be the last straw, the moment when I finally accept that I’m too old and crotchety and [hockey] heartbroken so bother keeping up with the NHL anymore.