December 27, 2011
Selling ad space on practice jerseys isn't exactly a new practice in the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Calgary Flames were the first two teams to dabble in it last year. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings (presented by Amway!) and others followed that lead.
The latest team to turn practicing players in billboards on skates: The Montreal Canadiens, who debuted Subway restaurant* ads on their sweaters this week.
The big news out of practice was that the Canadiens now have an ad for Subway (Sandwiches) on their practice jerseys.
This was met with outrage by many, including Dave Stubbs of Hockey Inside/Out / The Gazette. There have been many indications this season that the Molson family is about the cash in a big way and this is the latest move to increase their profits. Habs fans will be less angered if it is positioned as extra money going to pay for Jacques Martin's dismissal and/or perhaps sending Scott Gomez to Hamilton! And at least it's just a practice jersey right now.
"Right now" has always been the operative phrase for us. There's just too much money on the table for teams not to explore, eventually, ads on game jerseys. For the European hockey and soccer fan, and the American NASCAR fan, this is probably met with a shrug. For the hockey purist, it's probably met with choked down bile.
Said NHL VP Bill Daly back in Oct. 2010, when the Blackhawks and Flames placed ads on practice sweaters:
"The whole business area of sports evolves over time. People in this room probably remember a time when there was no advertising on dasher boards, and now there is. So things change."
* Guess enough time has passed where this 2007 ad for Subway that sparked outrage among French-Americans, and apology letters from Subway execs, is no longer fodder for the Quebecers trying to run unilingual Anglophone Randy Cunneyworth out of town.