I feel like it’s safe to assume the vast majority of sports fans own at least one jersey they can throw on to show support for their favorite team—just like I feel it’s safe to assume most of them couldn’t care less about the company that makes them.
Apparel deals can obviously be an incredibly lucrative source of income for leagues and the companies who land the contracts, but I have a very hard time believing most people genuinely care about whether their threads are produced by Nike, Adidas, or some other manufacturer.
However, there’s at least one exception to that rule based on the reactions to a recent development in the NHL.
Last year, Adidas announced it wouldn’t be pursuing a new deal with the NHL as it eyed the end of a partnership that had seen the brand replace Reebok as the exclusive producer of on-ice (a.k.a. “authentic”) uniforms ahead of the 2017 campaign.
As things currently stand, fans who want to wear the same sweater as their favorite player can purchase an Adidas-made jersey, but the league has also partnered with Fanatics to produce less expensive (and technically “inauthentic”) alternatives as well as other team-branded merchandise and apparel.
The internet is filled with anecdotes concerning people who’ve had a less-than-satisfactory experience with Fanatics gear, as the company has a bit of a reputation for fairly shoddy quality control and borderline inexplicable mixups (like this New York Islanders shirt emblazoned with a Rangers logo that a fan received multiple times despite trying to order a more accurate replacement).
However, that didn’t stop the NHL from opting to affirm its commitment to Fanatics when it announced the company will be replacing Adidas as its exclusive provider of official jerseys once the 2024 season rolls around.
Coming 2024: NHL 🤝 Fanatics
A new on-ice uniform partner across the NHL starting 2024-25. 😎 pic.twitter.com/rxpdpXgiFG
— NHL (@NHL) March 21, 2023
Adidas hasn’t exactly been immune to criticism over the course of its current deal, but it’s very clear plenty of hockey fans view this as a step in the wrong direction based on the reactions that quickly flooded in.
nhl players getting into a scrum with fanatics jerseys onpic.twitter.com/Odh7c05PIY
— salute emoji addict (@OVECHKlN) March 21, 2023
Not being hyperbolic saying that I haven’t seen a single positive comment about the NHL / Fanatics deal. Gary Bettman’s still got his fastball!
— JEFF (@jeffisrael25) March 21, 2023
NHL players taking the ice next season when @Fanatics sends them the wrong uniform and doesn’t answer their customer service line for 48 hours pic.twitter.com/lUIPmRXFG5
— evil gritty (@DrEvilGritty) March 21, 2023
The united response to the NHL/Fanatics deal is a glaring indicator that the league doesn’t actually know/care what fans want, no matter what Gary says. The NHL boxing themselves into another 10-year deal after the NBC TV deal tells you they haven’t learned, either.
— Rachel Doerrie (@racheldoerrie) March 21, 2023
i absolutely have to know who the person Gary Bettman is consulting on digital ad boards, the NHL playoff format, and fanatics apparel. This is just a bit too on the nose
— Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) March 21, 2023
Sounds about right.