There has been a lot of talk about the NHL’s revenues since last season was cut short in March, and while it’s not anyone’s favourite topic, it does play an important role in the success of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Like every team in the league, the Maple Leafs have to keep working with their roster under the constraints of the salary cap. It’s not fair that the Leafs must be punished for being good at what they do while others continue to fail (a luxury tax would have been a better solution, but Jeremy Jacobs heard the word ‘tax’ and nearly threw Gary Bettman out the window).
What we as Maple Leafs fans should be worried about isn’t the team’s lack of performance in the playoffs - that will come with time - but a stagnant salary cap that will force the team to let significant players go in free agency (Morgan Rielly, Frederik Andersen) or to trade away key elements of the team who are expensive but moveable, now or in the future (William Nylander, Zach Hyman).
The salary cap is tied to hockey related revenue (HRR) - tickets, TV deals, merchandise, - but most of the options for HRR are gone this year. No tickets, no suite sales, a big drop in the value of in-arena advertising and sponsorships.
That last one is why we’re here today. For a long time people have discussed (yelled about) putting advertisements on NHL jerseys. This is a common occurrence in the minor hockey leagues (The Toronto Marlies have a Scotiabank patch), and two other major leagues in North America carry sponsor patches/logos on their jerseys: The NBA and MLS.
- Joseph Woll and the Toronto Marlies wear a small Scotiabank patch on their jerseys. Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
- Yuta Watanabe poses for his team photo at Toronto Raptors training camp with a Sun Life patch on his jersey. Photo by Scott Audette/NBAE via Getty Images
- Captain Michael Bradley #4 of Toronto FC sports a giant Bank of Montreal logo on his chest, but it doesn’t seem to hurt his soccer abilities. Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images
- Even the Argos have a sponsor patch! Photo by John E. Sokolowski/Getty Images
- The Maple Leafs used to have ads on practice jerseys, so it’s not a new idea. Photo by Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Aside from MLS (who follow club soccer tradition) the sponsorship patches on the jerseys are small, and no more noticeable than the manufacturer’s logo on them, which can be quite large as we see on the CHL CCM jerseys. The sticks, gloves, helmets, and skates all bear their manufacturers logos and serve as advertisements that don’t pay into HRR - these are deals worked out with individual players.
Adding logos to jerseys is a natural progression for the NHL, as they follow other sports leagues. No one is expecting the Maple Leafs to end up looking like a HockeyAllsvenskan team, but adding that logo to the jersey, which will be seen in every photograph of a Maple Leafs player, is a great source of revenue for the NHL.
Scotiabank paid almost $800 million for the naming rights to the Maple Leafs arena, to have their name said at the start of every Leafs broadcast, their glowing logo featured in aerial shots of the building, and be printed in newspapers and blogs around the world. Now how much could the ad be worth?
The Bank of Montreal paid $4 million a year to sponsor Toronto FC, and that’s the number three team in town. Sun Life’s deal with the Toronto Raptors is reportedly worth $5 million per year. The Toronto Maple Leafs could probably leverage their value and status as a national icon into getting a sponsor to pay for one (1) William Nylander per season. You do want a William Nylander don’t you?
Yes, there has never been a sponsorship logo on a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey before; not even a scrimp and save old Scrooge like Harrold Ballard would do this. However, it’s 2020, and the world we live in now is a brand new one and we need to learn to adapt to change. There never used to be ads on the boards, or ads on the ice, or even ads digitally projected onto the glass behind the goal. Now they’re all background noise; silently paying the bills so we can enjoy watching a team stacked with talent.
Ads are coming to NHL jerseys, helmets, or maybe goalie pads, and it’s best we all just accept it.