The NHL Training Camps and Preseason kicked off this past week and the 2017-2018 regular season is right around the corner. Hockey is back and the “Is it October yet?” question will be answered with a “yes” very soon. For hardcore hockey loving fans, it’s what they have waited for all Summer long. For other sports loving fans, this might be year 1 of a long relationship with the game of hockey. In an offseason that was filled with so many Free Agency signings and trade acquisitions, the NHL’s biggest deal of this offseason may have occurred 2 years ago.
In August of 2015, Adidas won the rights to produce NHL jerseys, or NHL sweaters as some hockey fans refer to them, starting in the 2017-2018 season. They beat out Under Armour and Bauer Hockey for the NHL jersey contract. Adidas takes over for Reebok who produced the jerseys from the 2007-2008 season up until this past season. Adidas wins on this deal especially after losing the NBA jersey contract that expired at the end of their 2016-2017 season. What this switch over did for the NHL and the expansion of the brand goes beyond the terms of this contract on their side.
After the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals ended, another NHL Season was in the books and the offseason had officially begun. With the Adidas jerseys all but ready to go, Reebok jerseys started to drop in prices. Clearance was necessary to make room for the Adidas brand jerseys and apparel. They ranged anywhere from roughly $100 to $30 dollars in most cases. A drastic decrease from the $200-$250 range they usually cost. Fans from all over the United States and Canada were flocking to the stores and the internet for online shopping to take advantage of these deals. Why? In large part because a lot of people can’t afford to purchase one $250 jersey, let alone many. The differences between the Reebok jerseys and the Adidas jerseys weren’t enough to deter fans from wearing their team colors and crests any way they could.
There is a special feeling that runs through one’s body when they put on a hockey jersey. For a hardcore hockey fan and players who play or played in any kind of league, it means representing your team. It’s a piece of you, who you are and who you represent. You feel a part of the team. Hockey fans were able to get multiple jerseys. Huge hockey fans who like multiple teams or players from other teams were able to get their jerseys. Fans were able to get official jerseys for the first time after always getting replicas. Fans who rely on cheap quality Chinese knock offs were able to get the replicas and/or official jerseys. The best of all being long time hockey fans who just don’t have the means to afford a $200+ jersey getting their first one ever. Even fans from other countries who have to pay extra costs for shipping fees were able to purchase jerseys. And this is just a few examples. Plenty of other wonderful examples out there on how hardcore hockey fans won out on this deal.
For the casual or non hockey fan, it leads to the birth of that special feeling one has wearing a hockey jersey. Some received it as gifts from other hardcore hockey fans, loved ones, or significant others. Parents that weren’t able to purchase it for their children before. Casual fans that weren’t really into hockey that much and were turned off at the mere thought of paying $250 for a jersey decided to take the leap and take advantage of the deals. Even sports fans that never liked hockey but know the special feeling of wearing their team’s jersey in other sports trying it out and liking it. Whatever the case was, a large percentage of these fans will now turn into hardcore hockey loving fans. Every single fan whether they have followed hockey for a long time or just started recently has a great fan story. Many were born this offseason.
We covered briefly how Adidas wins off of this deal earlier in this piece. The NHL players win because the Adidas jerseys are lighter, more breathable and stronger than the Reebok jerseys and other styles from years past. Professional players being more comfortable and being able to perform their jobs better is definitely a plus for them regardless of appearance. How the NHL wins this deal is through the fans. Fans control everything in sports. It’s the money they spend through attendance at games and functions, viewership and purchasing merchandise that allows everything else in a sport to happen. Everything from the front offices staffing accordingly to operate the organization, the players being able to play all the way to the concession vendors and security being available at events and everything in between. Reebok jerseys were roughly $15 in raw cost to produce between fabric, materials, labor and other related expenses. The NHL did not lose money with the sales prices from this offseason. Jerseys flew off the shelves and hardcore hockey fans who can regularly afford new jerseys will buy the Adidas ones anyway because they want what’s new and current. The true gain however can’t be measured monetarily right now but sets up a bright future.
The biggest win for the NHL will be what happens next. What they have done is gain more fans by expanding the brand. Hardcore fans are always there and will always be there. They have built a stronger core of those fans. Casual fans turning into hardcore fans. Hardcore fans who like other teams will watch their team and the other teams they like more frequently. Fans who did not like hockey before will start gaining interest in the sport, become casual fans and move up the ladder. The surrounding hockey culture in most cities where hockey isn’t the #1 sport or widely popular will gain more interest. More fans and stronger hockey culture means more viewership. Attendance figures will rise and crowds will look more like Edmonton’s for Oilers games, where every single fan in the building is wearing a hockey jersey. The NHL, like most of it’s professional players, became stronger this offseason. Huge win before a single puck was dropped.