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Bettman and NHL Holding Off on Jersey Ads For Now

NBA teams are on board. But commissioner Gary Bettman said it's not an active discussion among NHL clubs.
John Tavares at the World Cup of Hockey with a SAP ad on the upper-right side of his jersey. Photo by Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Despite National Hockey League commissioner, and former NBA executive, Gary Bettman's deep basketball roots, the NHL will not be following suit of the NBA when it comes to jersey advertisements.

The NBA announced last April that it will be begin donning ads on game jerseys starting next season. The NHL, however, is deciding to go the opposite route—at least for now.

All teams sported ads during the NHL and NHLPA-ran 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which came two years after former NHL COO John Collins told Sports Business Daily that jersey ads are "coming and happening," and noted that jersey branding by manufacturers is already a form of jersey sponsorship. It's been rumoured and reported for years that the NHL would be leaning in the direction of implementing jersey ads sooner than later, but Bettman recently quashed that idea, despite the NBA's recent confirmation of its plans to add small company logos to the shoulder area of its uniforms.


Here's some more detail on the Celtics jerseys. Wyc Grousbeck said six other owners asked how much GE paid for it — Kyle Scott Clauss (@KyleClauss)January 25, 2017

"It's not an active discussion among NHL clubs," Bettman said during All-Star weekend. "I always said we wouldn't be first. OK, great. The NBA is doing it. But it would take an unusual circumstance—which I would define as 'a lot of money that I'm having trouble comprehending right now'—for us to even be thinking about it."

Whether you like Bettman or despise him like most hockey fans, it's impossible to deny that he does understand the history of the NHL brand and respects the purity of the game. He also realizes that many historic NHL sweaters and logos hold much more prestige and sentimental meaning than that of improvised WCH creations like Team Europe and North America.

"The fact of the matter is we take great pride in our sweaters. We think they're the best in all of sports, and (adding jersey ads) is not something we're running off to do. We think what we have is special. We talk about history and tradition and how special hockey jerseys are," he said.

"You'll say, 'Well, you did it in the World Cup.' The fact of the matter is the World Cup jerseys aren't like NHL team jerseys."

The International Ice Hockey Federation is the king of ugly advertising and the prime example of an organization completely abandoning visual appeal and watchability of its product in order to make a few bucks.

During tournaments like the World Hockey Championship and Spengler Cup, and throughout most tier-1 leagues in Europe, players' equipment from head to toe, as well as the ice surfaces, are plastered with massive, bright and trashy-looking adverts that make it nearly impossible to be focused on anything else—especially the actual game.

Your Team Canada ad-filled Spengler Cup uniforms. Yuck. Image via Twitter

As Bettman and the owners take a stand against jersey ads—for now, at least—it's refreshing to see a commissioner and a league choose integrity and common sense over cash.