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Merchandising is huge business in sports. From t-shirts to hats to jerseys, fans want to show off their support for their team in as many ways as they can. When it comes to championship merchandise, that's when the wallets open up faster than a Dan Cloutier(notes) five-hole and bank accounts are dumped clean. Championships don't happen often for most teams, so when your team wins one, you've got remember it in as many items as possible.
Stanley Cup merchandise has evolved over the years from simple t-shirt and hat designs to technological pieces of art that bring in millions of dollars per year for the NHL and its teams. It's easy to see the evolution of championship merchandise by scouring eBay and that's what we did to find some vintage Cup goodies. Come along for the journey won't ye?
Thanks to stores like Lids and every single New York Yankee-loving rapper, hats have changed drastically over time and become more and more of an accessory for everyday fashion. Back in the late 1970's, the Pittsburgh Pirates helped make the painter's hat a cult-like fashion trend.
What consumers look for in a piece of merchandise that they want to plop their hard earned $25 for these days is something with a sleek look, good colors and more than 45 seconds of design work. Enter these two beauties:
Those mesh hats with the plain white front were much like the ones I sported during my Little League days. Obviously some designer in 1988 felt he could cash in by leaving off "Palumbo Liquors" or "Mangano Funeral Home" and instead promote the 1998 Cup final between the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers.
On the right is a celebratory piece of New Jersey Devils history commemorating their second Stanley Cup title in 2000. Somehow this hat was approved by the NHL merchandise people as proven by the official hologram on the brim. Whoever designed the hat must have been a soccer fan as the shield-shaped logo and two stars surrounding the Devils logo signifying their second championship is a dead giveaway for a follower of footy.
Cereal boxes were a popular form of memorabilia that fans would love to collect as well. Companies such as Wheaties and Kellogg's would produce regional boxes that would fly off supermarket shelves and can still be found online today. (Is eating old cereal much like eating old baseball card gum?) Through well-placed connections, I was likely the only kid on Long Island eating the Pittsburgh Penguins edition of Wheaties in 1991.
Finally, t-shirts are probably the most popular item of the Stanley Cup merchandising bunch. They're simple, the players wear them on the ice during the celebrations and everyone loves t-shirts. Why else would some arenas be louder during the t-shirt toss than the entire game?
During the 1994 playoffs, trying to drum up some support for their first run at a Stanley Cup in their new city of Dallas, the Stars released these shirts hoping their fans would catch on to the wordplay used:
And yes, the eight stars were a necessity to get their point across.
Dallas would end up bailing out of the playoffs in the second round to Vancouver and not make it past the first round until 1998 when they began a three-year run that ended in two Finals appearances and one Cup.
That one Cup title gave us one of the great player caricature t-shirts to hit the market.
Big heads on little bodies! It's like NHL 3 on 3 Arcade on a t-shirt!
Two years prior, the Philadelphia Flyers decided on the caricature look after they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and showed Dallas that you can fit more than 17 players on a t-shirt, even Pat Falloon!
While the Flyers were looking tough with their arms folded as they celebrated an Eastern Conference championship, the eventual Cup winners that year, the Detroit Red Wings, made their own caricature shirt with a very important edit.