Hockey fans have been threatened with more advertising for a while now. When the league announced that the "jersey tuck rule" would be enforced during the 2013-14 season, fans everywhere were sure that it was the first step towards jersey ads.
We haven't gotten jersey ads yet, other than the logs for Fanatics and the NHL along with the jersey itself being an advertisement for the team.
But, this season, we are going to be getting more ads in hockey. The teams' helmets will have sponsor logos with the Arizona Coyotes having the logo for Mountain America Credit Union. And today it was announced that the Divisions themselves have gained sponsors.
A move like this was always going to upset some fans. Hockey's fanbase especially is adverse to any changes, even relatively minor changes to divisions which may not even last beyond the next season.
But, in the minds of the NHL, these moves are completely understandable.
The NHL makes most of its revenues from games, and even though the Covid-19 vaccine is currently being released, it's release schedule makes it unlikely that we are going to see large-scale fan attendance throughout the season. Even if the league could magically have fans at every game, the season has been reduced from 82 games to just 56.
Though these ads are being sold during a season with external pressures, it would be naive to think that they are going to go away post-pandemic. It is easy to say that the league needs extra revenue now and for everyone to agree, but the NHL has a habit of pleading poverty when there is extra money to be made.
Any advertisement could be distracting, getting your attention is kinda the point of advertisements, but the NHL has generally kept things minimal. Helmets are noticeable, but they don't have the same emotional connection that jerseys or goalie helmets have. And sure the Coyotes will be playing in the Honda NHL® West Division this upcoming season, absolutely nobody other than the NHL is going to call it that outside of this week.
For a lot of people, there is already too much advertising at hockey games. The boards, the ice, and sometimes even the glass is covered with ads. Going to an arena means being bombarded with ads on the walls, over the announcements, and in the bathrooms. And if you feel that it is a constant problem, any new ads, even relatively minor ones, are going to seem like a major deal.
And while I agree, a hockey game would be much better if I didn't have to see a bunch of company logos everywhere, I do think any response should be proportional to the issue.
Today the NHL announced division sponsors, and they are stupid, and I encourage everyone to make fun of them. But they are also completely understandable, and hopefully not something that you get too upset over.