Tuesday, 15 September 2015

From Fitness To Fashion

Today was a significant business day for the NHL. While teams are gearing up for training camps, the NHL is literally gearing up the teams and players. The NHL and adidas have announced a partnership that will see the athletic clothing giant outfit all the teams at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey and take over from its Reebok subsidiary as the on-ice uniform provider for the NHL starting in 2017-18. While this seems like a massive shift in the business side of the NHL, the actual changes we'll see might be minimal at best.

There have been whispers and rumours that the change to adidas will result in the NHL having ads on jerseys. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has gone on record a number of times in stating that this will not happen, and he reaffirmed this stance on Tuesday.

"The fact of the matter is, and I've been fairly vocal on this over the last few years as the subject has come up, we are not currently considering putting advertising on NHL jerseys," Commissioner Bettman said. "There have been no discussions formally or informally with anybody about doing that.

"It goes to the respect we have for the history and tradition of our game, the reverence that fans have for our sweaters and our game. Our sweaters, I think among all the sports, are iconic, which is why previously I've been quoted as saying we certainly won't be the first, you'd probably have to drag me kicking and screaming, which would take a lot, a lot, a lot of money, and it's something we're not considering now. Whether or not we choose to, as Don said, experiment with the World Cup may be something else, but the view I just articulated is consistent overwhelmingly with how most owners feel."

So let's stop worrying about ads on NHL jerseys in the immediate future, alright? It's not happening thanks to the owners being against it, and they're the ones that will have to change their views for ads to even be considered let alone appear on jerseys.

The next apparent issue is another wholesale redesign of the jerseys like Reebok did when they took over the contract with the NHL. According to Mark King, president of adidas Group North America, there have been no talks with the NHL thus far regarding any redesigns and that the NHL ultimately has the final call on that. While Commissioner Bettman did state that the deal with adidas will put "innovation at the forefront of what we do for our players and our fans", the call to change designs will ultimately rest with the teams once more.

So let's lay that worry to rest that you'll need to restock your closet with your favorite team's jersey once more. As it stands, adidas is not forcing the NHL's hand in any redesigns whatsoever.

The one thing that might come to pass, though, is the introduction of the three stripes. I'll be upfront with my opinion here: forcing this upon any team simply to say that the adidas stripes are on the ice in NHL rinks is a bad move. If it can be worked into the design of a jersey, that's fine. But to force it upon teams will make the stripes contrived and rather worthless in the eyes of fans. That's not what the NHL nor adidas needs at this point in the game.

While there are some additional details for the World Cup of Hockey, I really have no interest in that tournament at this point. The World Cup of Hockey will be outfitted by adidas and will most likely have ads on the jerseys, but we're over a year away from that event. The NHL deal will last longer and have a longer impact on the game, so that's the focus right now for me.

In the end, the change from Reebok to adidas was about a shift in one company's branding. As per Mr. King, "We have one company, and multiple brands. The past decade, when Reebok made a lot of league deals, the deal with the NHL was one of those. In 2010, Reebok made a pivot to fitness." In short, Reebok is the fitness brand under the adidas umbrella while adidas will be shown on the leagues it outfits.

In other words, it's status quo for the NHL aside from the company making the uniforms putting a different name on them. As it stands, both sides seem pretty happy with the current product, so changes aren't even being discussed at this point.

No need to worry until it's needed, folks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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