Corporate Logos on Jerseys a Bad Idea

I know I am a little late on this topic, as it has been being discussed for a few weeks now, but I came across a blog post on Chris Smith’s excellent Icethetics website. The website is dedicated to the discussion of hockey logos and hockey jerseys new and old as well as other related topics. The post that piqued my interest was entitled “NHL Exec Declares Advertising is Coming to Sweaters” and featured remarks from hockey agent Allan Walsh and NHL COO John Collins regarding the NHL putting advertising on NHL jerseys.

I think you would be very hard pressed to find a fan of any sport that wants to see corporate takeover of their team’s jerseys. While I do understand that soccer fans have had to put up with jersey sponsorship for years, there is actually good reason for that. Soccer television broadcasts do not include commercials save for a few breaks during halftime (which lasts for about 15 minutes). As any hockey fan knows, commercial breaks are much more prevalent in hockey with maybe four or five per period. Not to mention the rampant advertising on the dasher boards, on the ice itself, in-arena signage, the naming rights to the actual arena, promotional advertising for events during the game (such as the old “PSE&G Power Play” at Devils games) and all of the other advertising that goes on during a professional hockey game, advertising on the players jerseys just seems like overkill. And it is.

Now, the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when you mention on-jersey ads are the European hockey leagues that plaster ads on every available space on the player’s uniform. From helmet to socks and pants, there are ad patches and stickers there. Think NASCAR on ice. But I am certain that should the NHL adopt this program, it would look more like what some NHL teams such as the Red Wings and Kings already do with their practice jersey and some minor pro leagues like the ECHL and AHL already do here in North America: it would encompass a small corporate logo patch on the upper chest. At first. The problem is that this is a slippery slope that we are dealing with. Once the owners see the amount of money they can make from a small patch, the patch will get bigger and bigger and appear in different places and the next thing you know, the NHL becomes NASCAR on ice, much like the European leagues. Soon enough, there are advertisements in the faceoff dots on the rink (something that has been done in Europe). Many who commented on the article at Icethetics (and Mr. Smith himself) felt that ads on jerseys will make a mockery of the tradition that the jerseys represent. In North America, we do not have a culture of using our team jerseys as billboards.

The NHL has stated in the past that it would not want to be the first of the four major professional sports leagues to put ads on their in-game jerseys. They would only do it once the NFL, MLB or the NBA did it first. Now, it seems that the NHL has changed that stance and will now be the trailblazers in this endeavor. I do not endorse ads-on-jerseys in any sport. Could you imagine ads on the uniform sleeve of the New York Yankees or the Green Bay Packers? Now imagine this happening in hockey, a sport that, much like baseball, relies on its history and tradition as part of its selling point. Why else do you think the NHL puts so much time in talking up the Original Six? Each year we are reminded that the Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy still competed for by professional athletes in North American sports. Could you imagine Bobby Orr scoring his Cup clinching goal in 1970 flying through the air with “Coca-Cola” plastered across his lower back? Why would the NHL throw all of that away for greed? Because we all know that ticket prices are not coming down and you are still going to be paying $10 for a beer at a game.

So while we know that this is all a cynical money grab by the NHL, we can only hope that the powers-that-be see this as presenting their league as bush league. And that is it in a nut shell. The NHL should represent the major league of professional hockey around the world. With all due respect to other international leagues, players there are fighting to get to the NHL just like players in the American Hockey League or other North American minor pro leagues. The NHL has had some problems drawing in the casual fan in the past; they do not need any more hindrances in that department.

So, while the NHL seems to think this is a foregone conclusion that ads will be on jerseys sooner rather than later, there is much to think about. I will not stop watching, I could not do that to the Devils. I will still love the team and the game. I just wish the NHL will reconsider. Lou Lamoriello has defended his decision to not update the Devils uniforms or give the team third jerseys by saying that playing in the jersey should mean something. It should be important to the player that he has finally made it to the National Hockey League and should represent more than just a piece of fabric. A jersey represents a city, a tradition, a sport and a legacy. Hopefully the NHL will eventually see this reality and resist the temptation. Maybe Lou will pull a power play and will keep the ads off the Devils jerseys by sticking to his ideals, keeping the Devils as the lone holdouts without sponsored jerseys. Maybe this is all a bad dream that will go away once we wake up. I hope this is the case, but somehow, I foresee a future where the NHL looks less like a North American sports league and more like a shopping mall.

“Mr. Devil” Adjusting Well To Life behind the Mic

For 19 seasons, Ken Daneyko patrolled the Devils’ blueline with a passion and will to succeed that very few players possessed. Now, in his first year as the Devils’ color commentator on MSG and MSG Plus broadcasts, he is bringing those same qualities to the broadcasting booth.

Last season, Daneyko actually filled in for Chico Resch on a few occasions as a trial for both the fans and himself to get acclimated to his new post. He seemed more tentative on those sessions behind the microphone with play-by-play man Steve Cangiaolosi, almost as if he was trying too hard not to mess up a pronunciation of a name to let his knowledge flow seamlessly. But now, in just a few games, Dano has really made the transition to the booth look very easy.

Although Daneyko had been working as the studio analyst for the Devils for a few years now, providing analysis for a live hockey game has its own special kinds of challenges. But early on, Daneyko has shown an almost natural talent for adjusting. Early in the season, he had moments when it was clear that he was still “training” for his new job. But now, one and a half months into the season, Daneyko has really eased into the role as Devils color commentator.

Anyone who watched Ken Daneyko play hockey for even one shift would not be surprised by this. The three-time Stanley Cup champ and 2000 Bill Masterton Trophy winner (for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey) did not back down from a challenge easily. His 2,516 penalty minutes showed that gritty attitude very clearly. But what speaks to those attributes better is his overcoming of alcoholism in the late-1990s. Hockey fans everywhere already knew Ken Daneyko was tough-as-nails on the ice, but in his perseverance through, and defeating of alcoholism through rehab and with the support of Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello and then-owner Dr. John McMullen, it showed that Ken Daneyko was also a tough-willed man off the ice. Anything he puts his mind to, it seems Daneyko can accomplish.

Daneyko has brought this attitude to his commentating. He is not a “homer” and will call out the Devils if he sees something they are doing wrong just as much as he would their opponents. In the four games from Tuesday, November 4 to Monday, November 10, the Devils have not played well (they dropped a home-and-home series against St. Louis [both games lost by one goal], lost in Detroit and were defeated in Beantown by the Bruins) and Daneyko has stated on TV when he sees their coverage breaking down on the penalty kill (something that has happened quite a lot this season, as the Devils have one of the worst PK percentages in the league), or when they get caught taking a bad penalty (something they have done a lot of over the course of this young season). The Devils season over the last week has taken a downturn and it has not been pretty. But Daneyko’s commentary has remained steady and fair. His style has really meshed well with Cangialosi’s play-by-play style and the two have become as nice to listen to as Doc and Chico or Cangialosi and Chico. All three teams have had their own unique voice and Cangialosi and Daneyko are no different.

One of Daneyko’s best attributes is that he is able to give insight into the more recent Devils teams. While Chico certainly had a connection to the 2000 and 2003 Stanley Cup championship teams (he was doing TV color commentary by then), it is unique to hear directly from a guy who was winning the battles on the ice for the Devils at the time. This is not to disparage Chico in any way (Chico was a Stanley Cup champion himself with the Islanders in 1980) but rather to highlight that Daneyko was a Devils homegrown Stanley Cup champion and is now able to give his thoughts on the current team as he compares them to his former teams (which do include non-Stanley Cup champions – Daneyko’s career did encompass 19 seasons from 1983-84 to 2002-03 after all). Daneyko is the right man for the job because he has seen it all. He was there at the beginning of the Devils’ tenure in New Jersey, was one of the team’s first draft picks in their new locale, and has been at the bottom of the standings and at the top of the heap and everywhere in between. Nobody embodies the Devils better and nobody is more qualified to do what he does than Ken Daneyko, and nobody could have made as quick an adjustment to the booth as “Mr. Devil” could.

Some other notes from around the Devils:

  • Although the Devils will face the Minnesota Wild on November 11 for “Military Appreciation Night” at The Rock, former Devil Zach Parise will not be playing due to a concussion. He will make the trip with the Wild to New Jersey, however.
  • Mike Cammalleri returned to the lineup against Boston and had two assists.
  • Also against Boston, Jaromir Jagr’s goal in the second period against his former team tied him with Mike Gartner for sixth place on the NHL goal scoring list with 708.
  • Martin Havlat, who has missed the last nine games with what the team is calling a “lower body injury” may return against Minnesota, although this is not confirmed.
  • The Devils were swept by St. Louis in a home-and-home series the week prior, losing both games by one goal. In their four game losing streak, the Devils have been outscored 13-7.
  • Cory Schneider has started all 15 of the Devils games to November 10, the Devils are the only team in the NHL to not have started their backup through the first month-and-a-half of the season. Backup Keith Kinkaid is looking to start his first NHL game, although he has logged two periods of relief work this season (against St. Louis on November 6 and Detroit on November 7).