In a somewhat surprising move, the NHL seems set to allow product-placement advertising on player's jerseys.
Endorsement patches will be limited to 2.25 by 3.25 inches in size, and must be placed on the left breast of the jersey, just below the shoulder line. In circumstances where a player already wears a captain or assistant letter in that location, the sponsorship logo will be allowed to be sewn on the right breast.
What's interesting about the deal is that the sponsorships will be player specific. Just as a player can be endorsed off-ice by an advertising partner, NHL athletes will now be allowed to bring those sponsorships into game action.
Worried about high salaries forcing some players out of the NHL, the NHLPA has been looking into creative ways for members to supplement their income while still allowing their contracts to work in a salary cap era where many teams often spend to the cap limit.
"I think that this is a great idea," said Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, the first player that will wear a patch on his jersey during regular league play. "My agent has been working on a deal with KFC for a while now, and we think that this partnership is a great fit. They get the extra exposure for their brand, and in addition to a boatload of cash I get a lifetime supply of Double Downs. With the recent shrinking of the goalie equipment, I need every advantage I can get. In fact, I've been pounding them back since August in the hopes of getting the jump on my competition. So far, other than a mild tingling in my left arm it seems to have worked well."
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However, some opponents to the idea cite the runaway logo-ing of the uniforms of other leagues as a reason to keep the patches off of NHL jerseys. "It could be a slippery slope. Where would it stop?" asks a Jason Moore, who runs a web site dedicated to the history of NHL jerseys. "Since before the NHL was even around, the uniforms have been advertising free, save for the manufacturer logo. What's next? Mark Recchi pimping Viagara? Or a Summer's Eve logo on Chris Pronger's jersey?"
"We didn't want to go completely down the road of soccer or those NASCAR rednecks and have our players look like skating billboards," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "We'll leave that for the rink boards and those wannabe European leagues. We think that this strikes a nice balance."
With the Thomas deal opening the door for similar sponsorships, it's expected that jersey patches will soon be worn by some of the biggest players in the game as their endorsement partners jump on board with the idea of advertising on game jerseys.
Soon to be outfitted include Alex Ovechkin (Colgate), Sidney Crosby (Pampers), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (2 for 1 Pizza), Dion Phaneuf (Calloway) and Dany Heatley (SCI Funeral Homes Inc)..