NHL teams named in US 'pay-for-patriotism' report

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: The National Anthem is observed by before Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Minnesota Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 4-0. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

On Wednesday United States Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain released a report on U.S. Department of Defense spending for patriotic moments during sporting events.

It stated that there are 122 contracts in the NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and MLS – totaling $6.8 million for “paid patriotism” meaning different situations during games that seemed spontaneous – such as military salutes for service people attending games – were actually paid for by the Department of Defense. There were other "perks" that were listed in the report as well.

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The NHL teams named in the report include the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.

Said the report:

“By paying for such heartwarming displays like recognition of wounded warriors, surprise homecomings, and on-field enlistment ceremonies, these displays lost their luster. Unsuspecting audience members became the subjects of paid-marketing campaigns rather than simply bearing witness to teams’ authentic, voluntary shows of support for the brave men and women who wear our nation’s uniform. This not only betrays the sentiment and trust of fans, but casts an unfortunate shadow over the genuine patriotic partnerships that do so much for our troops, such as the National Football League’s Salute to the Service campaign.”

Through a league spokesman, the NHL declined to comment on the matter.

According to the report, the Bruins (Contracted by the Massachusetts Army National Guard) received $280,000 for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The Hurricanes (Contracted by the United States Air Force) received $75,000 for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 fiscal years. The Florida Panthers (Contracted by USAF) received $40,000 for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

The Minnesota Wild (Contracted by the Minnesota Army National Guard) received $570,000 taxpayer dollars for fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2015. The Detroit Red Wings (Contracted by the USAF) received $41,500 taxpayer money for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The Dallas Stars received $10,000 taxpayer dollars for the 2012 fiscal year by the USAF and $24,000 in 2012 and 2013 fiscal years from the Texas Army National Guard.

Said the Minnesota Wild in a statement sent to Puck Daddy.

“For years, the Minnesota Wild has dedicated efforts and funds to support military members and their families. The intent of our marketing partnership with the National Guard is tied to their recruiting efforts. The contracts, as they have been written, may not have clearly distinguished the promotion of recruiting efforts from moments of recognition. Therefore, we will clarify this point in the current contract with the National Guard, and look to continue our proud tradition of honoring and supporting our troops.”

Such “paid patriotism” and perks in the deals included the following according to the report.

Boston Bruins

• Opportunity for the MNARNG Voices of Freedom to perform the national anthem (FY2013)

• Opportunity for a color guard and reenlistment ceremony (FY2013)

• One in-game recognition ceremony for 20 honor graduates of the MAARNG Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP) and 43 tickets to the game (FY2012, FY2013)

• Recognition of two MAARNG soldiers and their guests during each home game in November (FY2012, FY2013)

• Access to one luxury box for 18 people and one executive view suite for 25 people on military appreciation night (FY2013)

• Four loge tickets to 10 regular season home games (FY2013)

• Forty tickets for soldiers recognized during military appreciation month (FY2012, FY2013)

• Forty general tickets to Bruins home games (FY2012, FY2013)

Carolina Hurricanes

• One 18 person suite for influencers and prospective applicants (FY2012, FY2013, FY2014)

• Pregame access to one conference room to give a one-hour presentation for center of influence opportunities (FY2012, FY 2013, FY2014)

• One Hurricanes autographed team stick (FY2012, FY2013, FY2014)

Florida Panthers

• Opportunity to host eight USAF group nights including 25 upper level tickets for high school seniors and recruits and a pregame Air Force information session and chalk talk with Panthers management and coaches (FY2012, FY2013)

• Opportunity for a USAF airman to perform the ceremonial puck drop, a color guard demonstration, and the option to have USAF personnel to rappel from the arena rafters at Panthers Air Force nights (FY2012)

• Opportunity to screen a brief film of a Delayed Entry Program (DEP) swearing-in ceremony prior to a Panthers home game (FY2012)

• Two hundred terrace level tickets for DEP swear-in ceremony participants, their family members and other influencers such as coaches, teachers, administrators and guidance counselors (FY2013)

• Two ADT Club tickets and one parking pass for community influencers (FY2013)

• One pregame color guard ceremony (FY2013)

• Fifty club level tickets (FY2013)

Minnesota Wild

• On-ice soldier appreciation ceremony for up to 20 MNARNG members during intermission of a Wild home game (FY2014)

• Color guard ceremony and opportunity for a MNARNG soldier rappel from the catwalk to deliver the game puck (FY2012, 2013, 2015)

• Recognition of a MNARNG soldier of the game and flag bearer highlighted on the center scoreboard at every regular season and postseason Wild home game (FY2012, FY2013, FY2015)

• Special recognition during presenting night (2013-2015)

Detroit Red Wings

• Season tickets for USAF and promotional nights (FY 2012)

• One on-ice Delayed Entry Program (DEP) swearing-in ceremony (also featured on Red Wings TV) and 60 upper level tickets for the Dec. 10, 2012, Red Wings home game (FY2013)

• Four customized Red Wings jerseys with Air Force name patch (FY2013)

Dallas Stars

• Season tickets for USAF personnel and promotional nights (FY2012)

• Eighty tickets to Stars regular season home games (FY2012)

• On-ice promotion during three game intermissions during the regular season (FY2 012)

• Opportunity to have TXARNG color guard ceremony at three games (FY 2012)

• TXARNG sponsorship of military appreciation night (FY 2013)

• Opportunity for a TXARNG soldier to deliver the puck at the start of a Stars home game (FY 2013)

• Featured Stars soldier presentation and live recognition (FY 2013)

• Two lower level tickets to 15 regular season Stars home games (FY 2013)

• Forty upper level tickets to be used throughout the 2012-2013 season (FY 2013)

"The items listed in that report, including a suite and the use of a conference room, were simply added value items for an advertising agreement with the Air Force. The key components that the $75,000 actually paid for were commercial spots, game-night sponsorships and in-arena signage," Carolina Hurricanes vice president of communications Mike Sundheim said in an email. "Our in-game recognition of military members, Military Appreciation Night and other programs designed to honor and support the large military population in North Carolina are sponsored by the team, its players and non-governmental corporate sponsors. This year, three of our players – Justin Faulk, James Wisniewski and John-Michael Liles – spent more than $60,000 to create a program that provides game-night experiences for military personnel and their families throughout the year. North Carolina is home to major bases for the Army, Marine Corps and the Air Force, all within driving distance of Raleigh. The tickets and things we do during games to showcase the military are reflections of our organization’s pride in the men and women who live in our home state and devote their lives to defending our country."

Said Dallas Stars senior director of communications Tom Holy via phone to Puck Daddy, "We had those relationships through 2012 and 2013. They were looking for recruitment and retention purposes to have their name out there and they used the Dallas Stars for advertising. Since then and before then we've had a lot of elements to pay tribute and honor those servicemen and women that do a really, really hard job that is necessary for our country to be the greatest."

Said the Bruins vice president communications, content Matthew Chmura, "We have in-game salutes to military personnel that we started on merit without sponsors. Since starting these programs various sponsors have signed on for their advertising purposes. If we do not have a sponsor for these salutes in the future, we plan to continue them on the same merit on which they originated."

Said Florida Panthers COO Matt Caldwell, "We were surprised and quite frankly hurt by seeing that (report). Our owner is a West Point grad, an Army Ranger and veteran himself. And we have six veterans int the company, myself the No. 2 in command and chief operating officer, I'm a West Point grad and served in Iraq. Eric Joyce, our assistant general manager is a West Point grad and served in Iraq and also our director of operations. We're very patriotic. Currently we don't have any sponsor agreements with any of the armed forces or armed services branches. We do honor a veteran every game with our Heroes Among Us program. We take it very seriously and bring a veteran on the ice during the national anthem. They have a Panthers jersey on them. They get honored and get tickets to the game, all on our dime, none of this 'Patriotic Pay' or anything else that was mentioned."

Caldwell also noted Tuesday is our Military Appreciation Night where the team will honor retired general Raymond T. Odierno. Whatever agreements that were made occurred before Vincent Viola purchased the team in 2013 according to Caldwell.

"Nothing tied to advertising money we've received or whatever else was claimed," said Caldwell.

Panthers vice chairman Doug Cifu went on the offensive in regards to the report.

The NFL received the largest amount of these funds at $6.1 million. A total of 10 MLB teams received funds and eight NBA teams.

According to USA Today, in September a memo from the Pentagon said military should, “neither fund nor approve any sports marketing or sports-related contract in which the terms of the contract require the service to pay … to honor members of the armed services.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will refund taxpayer money paid to teams for military tributes. The league “has called on all clubs to stop accepting payment for patriotic salutes” according to Sports Illustrated. 

This has led some in the hockey community to wonder if the NHL will do the same.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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