Adidas wins NHL jersey rights; World Cup sweaters up in air

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The NHL will have a new logo on its jerseys beginning in 2017-18: Adidas.  

Sources confirmed to Yahoo! Sports that the NHL’s uniform-making rights have been acquired by Adidas, which happens to own Reebok, the brand that’s made NHL jerseys since the 2005-06 season. And if that sounds confusing, well, welcome to corporate sponsorship of professional athletic leagues.

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The Adidas/NHL partnership will be announced on in mid-September, likely at the NHL store in New York City.

TSN’s Rick Westhead first reported on the deal:

For Adidas, the NHL deal is a big, if curious, win. The company beat out rivals Under Armour and Bauer Hockey for the NHL jersey contract, three people familiar with the matter told TSN. The NHL’s deal with Reebok pays the league about $35 million per season, a source said. The new deal with Adidas will see the rights fee double, the source said.

… A source told TSN that the deal would surely mean big changes to uniform designs, perhaps with Adidas’s familiar three-stripe trademark being added to some or all team jerseys. “The NHL might not want big changes like that, but for the money Adidas will pay, they’ll be pretty aggressive pushing to make the NHL jerseys identifiable with their brand,” the source said.

Westhead also sounded the alarm on ads on jerseys:

Moving to a new jersey supplier may be a natural transition for the NHL to begin introducing on-jersey advertising, several league sources told TSN.

We’re going to have ads on jerseys by 2016 … in the World Cup of Hockey. The rights to those uniforms hasn’t been settled yet, according to sources, which makes sense: We’ve seen what happens when the NHL and the NHLPA have to try and get on the same page.

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Suffice it to say that Adidas is the clubhouse favorite; it’s hard to imagine the NHL farming out that cash cow to another jersey-maker. It’s not like TSN has the World Cup rights, you know?

So why would Adidas usurp Reebok as the NHL’s uniform-maker? 

Well, to begin with, it shows the strength of the NHL’s current brand, as well as all the opportunities for a uniform partner to make bank these days with jerseys: Home, Away, Third, Alternate, Winter Classic, Stadium Series, World Cup, Ryder Cup … we don’t want to say the NHL has a ridiculous amount of outfits, but Barbie’s jealous.

In other words: That's a lot of advertising opportunities.

But Adidas has recently readjusted its objectives. It walked away from the NBA, allowing Nike to snag the rights for a billion dollars. (The Adidas NBA deal runs out just as the NHL deal begins. Also, we can't wait for the inevitable "LeBron wears Nike, Gregory Campbell wears Adidas" memes.)

Adidas instead decided to focus on individual players like James Harden. The NHL obviously brings some star power as well, like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, and a slightly more fiscally sane rights fee to keep their logos in front of everyone's eyes from October to June. 

Hockey fans are likely approaching this deal with understandable trepidation.

First, because for a lot of people, putting ads on jerseys is akin to playing the game on asphalt.

Next, because the last time the NHL changed uniform makers it ended up with hideous piping and magic water-resistant jerseys that didn’t actually resist water.

And finally, because other sports have horror stories about Adidas designs — ask Nebraska football or any college basketball player forced to wear those crayon vomit shorts.

But we’re sure the surviving members of Run DMC are happy. 

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