NHL Approves Ads on Jerseys for 2022-23

It’s been a while since I last posted but such is life for a hockey blog in August.

Some news making the rounds today that should be kind of controversial as, according to Eben Novy-Williams and Scott Soshnick of Sportico.com, the NHL owners have approved ads on jerseys beginning in 2022-23.

They will become the second North American “Big Four” professional sports league to put ads on players’ jerseys, following the lead of the National Basketball Association – who began putting ads on jerseys in 2017-18. Major League Baseball has ads on umpire jerseys, but nothing more.

The ad space was approved unanimously by the NHL Board of Governors and the Sportico authors reviewed the memo sent to the NHL’s member clubs.

According to the article, the “ads must fit a rectangle 3 inches by 3.5 inches, making them slightly bigger than the patches that the NBA added to its jerseys.”

The NHL had been priming fans for the jersey ads beginning last season when teams were permitted to sell ad space on player helmets. The stickers on the helmets (Prudential in the case of the Devils) “opened new inventory for clubs to add partners {or accommodate existing ones} amid the revenue crunch of the pandemic. Commissioner Gary Bettman said teams retained more than $100 million through the program, which has since been extended.”

Teams have also been able to sell ad space on their practice jerseys in the NHL.

The authors of the article note that while jersey ads are common around the world in European hockey and international soccer, for instance, it has been slower to be adopted in the United States and Canada (although the Canadian Football League has had ads from time to time on team jerseys). The WNBA and Major League Soccer have been at the forefront of selling ads on their clubs’ uniforms.

The article on Sportico mentioned that the NBA’s jersey ad “program was estimated to boost revenues by $150 million annually. The individual team deals generally ranged from low seven figures to upwards of $20 million.”

There are inevitably going to be those who do not like this. I understand that, as I was arguing vehemently against this for many years. The thing is, there was nothing that could be done following the NBA opening Pandora’s Box and the helmet ads taking us further down the slippery slope.

Now I see it as not only inevitable, but also in a more positive light. With more money for the league and teams, the salary cap will continue to rise steadily and teams (the Devils included) will have more financial stability (and money to spend on free agents, etc.). I do not think this is going to end up as a European-style “skating billboard” situation. The owners need to balance tradition and North American sensibilities and this new-found way to make money.

In time, however, we will get used to it and it will not matter. I do not closely follow the NBA, but I wonder how many fans have just gotten acclimated to seeing the ads on their team’s jerseys?

Time will tell how this plays out, but it should not be too much of a hinderance initially.