There are two ways to consider NHL "knockoff" jerseys. Either you believe the counterfeit sweaters are constructed as cheaply as they're sold, and will become a ball of saturated thread by the seventh or eight washing; or you believe that much like a Gucci handbag that costs as much as a combo meal at Burger King, owning an inferior product that looks vaguely legit is still better than paying the exorbitant face value.
They've dedicated a section of the team's official Web site to a campaign called "Let's retire these jerseys" -- which is so completely appropriate, considering we're talking about the Habs here -- that declares knockoff jerseys are a means of supporting "unlawful labor conditions and organized crime," while offering education on how to spot counterfeit gear, like the Michael Cammalleri(notes) jersey above.
As part of that campaign, the Canadiens have become the first NHL team to offer the hockey equivalent of a "cash-for-guns" program in the inner city: Offering fans a $100 rebate on an authentic jersey, a $50 rebate on a replica jersey and a Canadiens cap signed by a player if they turn in their fake gear by April 30 at the Bell Centre Habs Zone shop.
So far, Habs fans aren't down with it.
Authentic sweaters were selling at Habs Zone yesterday for $299, replica jerseys for $139. Buyers pay an extra $100 to have nameplates and numbers sewn on.
So far, public response to the rebate offer has been weak. But the Canadiens are hoping that the anti-knockoff ads that they took out this week in major Montreal newspapers, and on the scoreboard at the Bell Centre during Game 4 Wednesday of the Washington series, will at least raise public awareness about knockoffs, which violate copyright law.
It's a bold move for a team that clearly sees this issue as an epidemic, and the Canadiens have really put together a strong campaign to target illegally manufactured jerseys: How much to you love their "narc on a Web site peddling knockoffs" contest?
But the question is: Will fans that can purchase reasonable facsimiles for $34 on overseas Web sites (like the screen-cap here) find this program offers enough incentive to get authentic?
And, because this is how our devious minds work: How many Montreal fans will purchase a knockoff for nothing on a Montreal street corner and turn it in to the Habs, just to receive a $100 discount on the jersey they really want, a free hat and a chance to win a 10-game ticket pack for two for the 2010-11 season?
We'd never endorse such a thing, of course. Because it's illegal.