Okay, so let’s say you’re a big Ottawa Senators fan. No shame in that, really.. the team has been in the top three of their division and made the playoffs in every one of the last five seasons, suffering heartbreaking losses to the Leafs, Sabres, and Devils in each.
So for the 2006-2007 season, this was your year. The Sens’ juggernaut march to the Stanley Cup Final seemed almost pre-ordained, and the kids just wouldn’t stop nagging you to take them to a game. Unless you were a City Hall Employee that cost was going to be daunting, so you mortgaged the house, sold the family mini-van, and bought some pricey tickets to the ScotiaBank Place to watch them, ultimately, get eviscerated by the Anaheim Ducks.
Of course, when you got there you probably realized that both the inside and outside of the stadium were a sea of red jerseys. So off you trundled to the souvenir shop to get yourself a new jersey, one for each of the kids, and so on. It turns out that, according to this CBC article, you weren’t alone.. and the ring at the register was music to the ears of Senators’ management. The team, which was in bankruptcy in 2003, sold more jerseys during the postseason this year than they normally do even during the pre-Christmas rush, selling acoutrements to the “Red Army” three to four times their rate during the regular season.
Now comes a disclaimer: when it comes to Bettman‘s NHL, I am a cynic. Where the league has failed completely in any effort to develop revenues from television, licensing, and practically anything else, teams are left to fend for themselves. Thus, unlike other professional sports, the bulk of the pricey salaries of the players is borne by fans attending the games and supporting their teams by purchasing merchandise. There is no other major professional sport like this in the world.
Anyway, you feel great when you’re wearing the team’s uniform: and when that uniform is the same as the guys on the ice. That’s why, when the whole league went from using the white jersey as their home ice jersey to using their dark jerseys for home games three years ago, the fans all dutifully went to the gift shoppe and smacked down another $200 for the big red Sens (or blue Canucks, or ugly teal Sharks) jerseys, relegating the former home whites to the garage. You’re wearing the same togs as Alfredsson, and because you’re Canadian you have that certain ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’ that makes you look a little bit like at least one of the 400+ NHL players, and maybe just maybe for a split second that girl in the third row thinks you might be Jason Spezza. Or at least Ian Turnbull. These are just some of the benefits of having just the right team jersey, aren’t they, SuperFan?
So there you are wearing your new $200 investment, watching the Sens lose, and thinking to yourself that at least you and the kids’ll be able to wear your new garments with pride for seasons to come. All hope is not lost, right?
Because the league in its wisdom has inked a deal with RBK to supply new uniforms to all 30 NHL teams, you’re about to be sold up the creek.Â Alfredsson’ll be donning a completely new jersey this October.Â This means that the life of your spankin’ new jersey will be sadly shortened.Â The RBK Edge Uniform, as it is called, is different enough to obsolete your lame (formerly cool) old jersey.Â But of course nobody outside of hockey circles knows that… and certainly Senators management were not making it widely understood that such a dramatic change was in the works — to wit, we still haven’t seen the redesigned jerseys for each of the teams, presumably to allow retailers (including the NHL itself) time to blow out old inventory on hapless punters.
This is how the new NHL rewards its (ever decreasing) base of loyal fans.Â Bleed, suckers.