It's not as though the NBA's decision to allow ads on their jerseys was a shocking one. It's an untapped revenue stream for any league that doesn't already have every inch of their playing surface and players already covered in ads. The NHL, for its part, has sold every scrap of air time so as to have every bloody faceoff "brought to you by" some different company.
Moving forward, it's hard to see how the NHL's sweaters escape the same desecration endured by the NBA's. Gary Bettman has all but said "it's coming", though admittedly, it was in his usual didn't-not-say-that lawyer-speak. (As an aside, imagine how frustrating it would be to deal with a man that spoke like that regularly. "Do you want the soup on the side, sir?" "I am not ready to characterize the decision-making process in that way. Whether soup is or is not served is a process that we'll have to evaluate on an ongoing basis.")
1. It's ugly.
It is. It really, really is. Especially on the Leafs' jersey, which relies heavily on a simple aesthetic to look good. You might not notice an ad as much on a Minnesota Wild or Florida Panthers jersey where the design is a little busier, but many of the classic uniforms would be ruined.
2. I probably won't want to personally support the companies that buy that ad space.
I wouldn't wear something with Molson printed on it for reasons related to beer snobbery, but imagine if a company who you actually despised bought up that ad space. Rogers? Air Canada? Blech. Or what if BP bought up some ad space from the Dallas Stars to help people in the Gulf of Mexico forget that they're killing baby freaking dolphins. Baby. Freaking. Dolphins. Anyway.
3. The Leafs are more than just a hockey team to me.
Because hockey was such a big part of my life growing up, the game (and the Leafs, specifically) are tied to a lot of important things: family, friends, relationships, and of course, entertainment. When you grow up in a tiny town with nothing to do on Friday/Saturday nights but play/watch hockey, the arena is the heart of the community. So to me, plastering ads on jerseys is akin to selling ad space on Buddha's belly or replacing the crucifix with Buddy Christ.
Quite honestly, I'm somewhat surprised at how often people openly mock the stance I've taken on this. That is, I find it totally baffling that people fall in line so quickly for an idea that so obviously results in a crummy outcome.
"Well they've got ads all over the place already! What's the difference?" I think this is just bad logic. "Something is already bad, why not let it get worse?" No.
"Other leagues do it and no one complains!" This is a similar logical fallacy. "Other people are putting up with a dumb thing, so you shouldn't complain about having to, either!" No.
"Ooh, the sacrilege! Bloo bloo bloo!" Like I said above, yes, it is actually somewhat important to me. I guess I'm not embarrassed to say it. Can I still be cool if I like something enough to keep ads off of it?
"It doesn't affect the actual game or how you watch it!" It's true that the flow of play wouldn't be disrupted, but it certainly affects what I have to look at, and I guess if I don't like the look of it, I'll be less inclined to watch.
"There are ads on jerseys already!" I don't like how prominent the CCM, Reebok, Nike, Bauer, and now Adidas logos are, but they are the companies who make the jerseys, and those logos have been there ever since I was a kid, and so I have less of an aversion to them. Furthermore, they are always done in a colour that fits the colour scheme of the jersey. The only ads that actually appear now are for special causes - raising money for charities or a respectful nod to a deceased former athlete/coach. I'd like to keep it that way.
"It helps earn more money for cash-strapped teams!" The Leafs are anything but cash-strapped, and I guess I think that if ads on jerseys are going to make or break your business, you've got bigger problems anyway. Besides, ads on jerseys are likely to take a bite out of sales, which would dampen the effect of the new revenue.
Ultimately, I guess I feel that even if you don't care deeply about what your favourite hockey team's sweater looks like, you probably aren't eager to see ads on it. Probably the best anyone is going to feel about it is 'indifferent', and judging by the NHL's TV ratings this year, the league needs a whole lot less of that.
I know that if this happens - and I do think it will, eventually - I won't buy another scrap of merchandise with any NHL logos on it, and that's even if they offer to sell the jerseys without the ads that the players have to wear. I hope you'll join me in standing up for one of the tiny remaining shreds of our existence that isn't already corporatized beyond all recognition.