NHL exec declares advertising is coming to sweaters

I've spent most of today contemplating a tweet.

A lot of people who are passionate about hockey sweaters read this blog, so I wanted to take the time to work out a measured response to the notion.

My gut reaction, of course, was probably quite similar to yours. Ridiculous. The NHL would never do that.

Would they?

Advertising on NHL uniforms is the very antithesis of what Icethetics stands for — great design in hockey.

I created this site out of veneration for hockey sweaters — during a moment in history when Reebok was given the green light to homogenize our league with generic, uninspired templates.

If what Allan Walsh reported today is true, it'll turn out I had arrived just in time to cover the death knell of the hockey sweater as we knew it.

It'll also mean Icethetics' days are numbered. If the NHL begins adding anything more than manufacturer logos to its uniforms, I'm done.

This website is done.

Was that measured enough?

– – –

I realize what I just said sounds like a bad knee jerk overreaction. It's not. I've thought about this a lot.

I thought about it just two months ago when the NHL's owners rejected the idea of placing ads on player uniforms — even though they could make a lot of money on it.

But the fact that they were taking the idea seriously enough to even have a vote was a bad sign, in my mind. And the fact that major money is on the line makes the whole thing absolutely inevitable.

We're on a collision course with NHL sweater ads and there's very little any of us can do about it.

Proof is right in front of us. Other leagues already have jersey ads. The European leagues are practically known for it.

Here in North America, it's less prevalent but a number of AHL and ECHL teams wear advertising — usually just a single sponsor with a small patch on the chest or below the number on the back.

But those leagues lack the big ticket draws like Steven Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin. So the extra revenue can often be critical to the operation.

NHL teams, on the other hand, aren't struggling to survive. Even at their worst, they are organizations valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. One even tops a billion. A billion dollars. You can't even begin to contemplate what kind of money that is.

Advertising on jerseys would be absolutely nothing more than pure, unfiltered greed. And despite what Gordon Gekko might have you believe, it's not good. Not here.

Not on a hockey sweater.

In fact, the league has gone to great lengths in recent years to keep non-manufacturer logos off the uniforms. Consider the major sponsor events.

Bridgestone sponsors the Winter Classic. Coors Light sponsors the Stadium Series. Their logos are everywhere — except the jersey patches, where a special unbranded version of each logo is used.

Branded and unbranded logos for the 2015 NHL Winter Classic

Branded and unbranded logos for the 2015 NHL Winter Classic

At least they're doing that right for now.

What's more, sit down in any NHL arena. There's literally no direction you can look to avoid being sold something. Ads covers every available space — even the very surface on which the game is played.

Then there's this.

Walsh mocks "hockey purists" because as an agent, he's conditioned to worship that almighty dollar and ignore what brings fans to the arena night after night. It's the heart and the tradition of the game.

So that's fine, but here's the thing. Fans don't clamor to buy the latest dasher board. The dasher board doesn't represent an aspiration.

We wear the sweater. Proudly.

Our hopes are reflected in it.

The sweater is a symbol of history and tradition. We rally around it. It means something. The greatest teams have never changed it.

It's bad enough when a club doesn't show enough respect for its history in its uniform. But we won't stand idly by and see it violated for profit.

Tough talk to be sure — but what's a fan to do, really? Money is a powerful thing in this world.

– – –

The sad fact is some NHL teams have already taken to wearing sponsor logos on their practice jerseys. Most of us never see them, but there are some jarring examples.

Photo from Los Angeles Kings

Photo from Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles wears a yellow McDonald's logo. But Kings colors are black and silver.

Photo by Chris Smith/Icethetics

Photo by Chris Smith/Icethetics

Tampa Bay has a red DEX Imaging logo. But Lightning colors are blue and white.

Photo from Detroit Red Wings (2010)

Photo from Detroit Red Wings (2010)

And Detroit was the first to do this in 2010, having worn a blue Amway logo. But Red Wings colors, as anyone alive could tell you, are red and white.

You don't need me to tell you these sponsors' colors clearly clash with the teams' colors in alarming ways. Is this really the future of NHL game sweaters?

As an admirer of great design in hockey, I'd be left with no choice but to retire Icethetics. There'd be nothing left worth writing about.

Don't get me wrong, I am a hockey fan first. I'll still be in front of the TV to root on the Lightning every night from my living room with the same unwavering passion I've had since my very first game more than two decades ago.

Actually, fervor is a better word to describe it.

But if the sweater is desecrated in this way, there's simply no longer a reason for this blog to exist.

I'll have to find a new hobby.

– – –

Obviously, I have strong feelings on this subject. It'd be hard to keep up with a blog like this if I didn't.

But my opinions aren't really that important. Tell me about yours. What do you think of the idea of jersey ads in the NHL? Catastrophic or no big deal?