NHL will put ads on jerseys after someone else does it first

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Considering how the NHL has managed to monetize literally everything tangentially related to its product – even the iconic Mark Messier Leadership Award has a title sponsor! – it’s a minor miracle that there aren’t already advertisements on jerseys. 

OK, there are some on practice jerseys. But not game jerseys. At least not until someone else does it first.

That’s the message Gary Bettman gave at a meeting of NHL team presidents in New York, according to Rick Westhead of TSN: 

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During a recent meeting of NHL team presidents in New York, league officials estimated they might raise $4 million per team by allowing corporate sponsors to put their logos front and centre on jerseys, a person familiar with the matter told TSN.

"Gary (Bettman) and owners like the money, but they don't want to be first out of the box with this in North America," the person told TSN. "They'll wait for the NBA or baseball to do it and then be second or third."

For someone as image conscious as Bettman, who dumps money into failing markets just so the NHL can avoid relocation, that’s an understandable approach. Brian Cooper, president of S&E Sponsorship Group, told TSN that ads on jerseys “will be perceived as a sell out and weakness by the first North American league to do so.” 

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But the ads are inevitable, and not just because the NHL’s jersey “tuck rule” seemed like a harbinger of commercialization to come. No one expects it’ll get to the retina-scarring level of European jerseys, but there’s too much money on the table for the NHL not to tap that vein.

Perhaps even more interesting from Westhead was this news:

“League officials discussed ways to generate more revenue from jersey sales, which have been relatively flat in recent years. Reebok's jersey contract with the NHL expires in 2016, and companies including Bauer and Under Armour are expected to pursue a new deal with the NHL, several sources told TSN.”

Is anyone else bracing for Under Armour to win the NHL jersey rights and then attempt to reinvent the wheel like it has in college football and basketball, just to goose those sweater sales?

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