The Devils today announced that they will have ad stickers placed on the players’ helmets for the 2020-21 season. They will be the first National Hockey League team to wear in-game ads during the regular season.
The ads in question are for Prudential Financial, who also own the naming rights to the team’s home arena and have done so since the building opened in 2007. Prudential Financial is headquartered in Newark.
In addition to this, the press release says that the Devils and Prudential will “initiate a new hockey helmet donation program providing new, Devils and Prudential co-branded helmets to diverse youth hockey players in New Jersey.”
Each side made comments about how this benefits both sides (and it does – especially for the Devils and their owners, who are seeing revenue down without being able to operate fully and with fans in the stands) and how both sides are committed to New Jersey.
While that may be true, we are looking at this from a fan’s perspective here. Did we really want the Devils to be the team to open Pandora’s Box and introduce ads onto NHL uniforms?
While the helmet deal by itself is nothing to panic about – it’s just the helmets, should we really worry about that? – you know that it is not going to stop there. I am not saying that in ten or fifteen years, the NHL is going to look like a European league with ads everywhere, but it will look different.
And we will get used to it.
Remember, when teams first began to put ads on the dasher boards, some fans (back in the mid/late ‘80s) took umbrage. Now flash forward to 2020-21. How often do you even notice the ads on the boards? Truth be told, things would look weird with naked boards in a modern arena.
As I mentioned, this is nothing to panic about yet. It’s just stickers on helmets. (Although considering the amount of Devils fans who were upset with the change over from the “DEVILS” wordmark to the logo sticker on the helmets a few years ago, there may well be some need to batten down the hatches).
We will, however, have to keep a keen eye on this. Major League Baseball is about to allow ads on jerseys and batting helmets. The NBA already allows ads on jerseys in-game. The American Hockey League has ads on jerseys and helmets in-game. Even the NHL allows ads on practice jerseys. We know this is a slippery slope and I fear the inevitable.
But time will move on, as new fans are created, they will be 100-percent used to seeing ads on NHL jerseys. And we will get used to it too. Soon a player will look naked without an ad on his uniform somewhere.