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NHL's new deal with Adidas won't slam door on jersey ads

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says he’s not eager to allow ads on team jerseys even with the league’s new deal with Adidas.

So, here’s what everyone who was sitting at the dais for today’s press conference announcing that Adidas will become the NHL’s official jersey manufacturer wanted you to know:

Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner: “This is an exciting partnership.”

Don Fehr, NHLPA Director: “This is a great partnership.”

Mark King, President of Adidas Group, NA: “This is a true partnership.”

That’s swell. We’re all glad that they’re all one big happy. But here’s what fans really care about: Will this deal open the door to putting advertising on jerseys?

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The short answer: no.

“The fact of the matter is, and I’ve been fairly vocal on this, we are not currently considering putting advertising on NHL jerseys,” Bettman said. “We’ve had no discussions, formally or informally about doing that.”

Now, the word “currently” will raise a few eyebrows. After all, it implies the potential for change. What’s current now, for example, might not be current after dinner.

That said, Bettman seems to be carrying the flag against jersey sponsorship.

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“The history, tradition and respect that goes with NHL sweaters is something we and Adidas are very respectful of. We like our jerseys a lot and we think our fans do as well.

“Our sweaters are iconic,” Bettman continued. “We certainly won’t be the first [to allow advertising]. You’d have to drag me kicking and screaming. It would take a lot, a lot, a lot of money ... it’s not something we’re considering right now.”

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Bettman did allow that team owners are always interested in new revenue opportunities, and Fehr said that the players are as well. In other words, they’re not saying “never” to the idea. Short term, though, it looks like NHL jerseys will remain ad-free.

While that nuisance is off the table, there could be changes ahead for the league’s game sweaters with Adidas pulling the strings. While Bettman said the league “is not looking to revamp our jerseys,” there could be some technology-based upgrades ahead. King pointed to the possibility of adapting the Tech-Fit technology that is used for the company’s football jerseys to hockey. “It’s really light and fits closer to the body,” King said. “It allows for more mobility and freedom.”

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As for the use of Adidas’ famous three stripes logo, NHL COO John Collins said “there’s been no final decision” and that their use “was not part of the deal.” In other words, they could be present, but don’t expect them to be any more noticeable than the current Reebok logo.

The presentation touched briefly on the jerseys that will be worn for next summer’s World Cup as well. The big takeaway there? Although no decision has been made about selling ads for jerseys worn in that event, they’re willing to listen.

“What the World Cup does, along with other international events, is give us an opportunity for some experimentation, to try different things,” Fehr said. “My obligation to the players is to explore all avenues and make a judgment. If that becomes a subject of real consideration, everybody will know about it.”

With the first game just one year and two days away, expect to know about that fairly soon.

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