OK, this is kinda big. And not so big all at once.
According to multiple sources, adidas will become the NHL’s official uniform manufacturer starting with the 2017-18 season. The deal will generate $35M per year for the league over the course of the contract. While this may seem like a radical shift, adidas is a subsidiary brand of Reebok, so the corporate head will not change. Only the brand management division changes.
The first fear or excitement when a league changes sole-source uniform provider is change. CHANGE! CHANGE WILL COME BECAUSE MONEY! LIFESTYLE BRANDS AND MONEY WILL CHANGE OUR TEAM!
No. No it won’t.
While uniform and apparel brands want you to be part of them, to associate their brand with winning, or hope to relate to an aspect of your life that their brand can enhance, they do not control professional leagues. The contractor (addidas, in this case) is hired to perform a service for client (the National Hockey League). The contractor won the bid to perform work based on past work and proprietary techniques, many of which can be of use to the new client. But just because the contractor has these tools and skills does NOT mean all of them will be utilized.
The client in the case is a collection of individual business entities, many of whom have established their brands and aesthetic over decades. Montreal is now in its second century of operation. Century. There’s no way adidas infiltrates that fortress. Other members of the League may be more prone to change, or do lack the clout of a Montreal to fend off the aroma of new revenue. Hello, capitalism. Any team looking to rebrand or reimagine itself is going to let adidas take over because they have been thinking about change for longer than many realize.
In the NFL, very few teams succumbed to the sway of Reebok and Nike upon contract acquisition. Denver, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Jacksonville are the ones that took the new-jersey plunge. That’s four of the 32 teams in one of the most conservative sports businesses on earth. Looking at the members of the NHL there’s an obvious level of conservatism, masked as “history” or “tradition” or “legacy”, that will remain untouched.
Let’s keep in mind that the biggest influence an apparel/uniform manufacturer brings to the table is template. How a uniform is constructed. The Reebok Edge system brought a new system of fabrics and movement to the hockey jersey. Those who wanted to accelerate the template into design did so. Some of those who embraced the “future” of those designs has reverted to more traditional looks, while others have toned down the initial Reebokification. The hunch here is the same trend will follow.
Without a template concept (leak), there is no point in speculating advertisements on the new adidas jerseys. While it’s on the table, it’s premature. Doubt is high as far as soccer-style ads crossing over to hockey. If there were no television interruptions to gameplay, the NHL would look like Sweden.
But here on the Internet, we can speculate and Hot Take anything we want. So, here’s a Olegstradamian guess as to who the prime adidasification teams could be (save for teams that just rolled out their final Reebok uniforms this summer).
Colorado – The last team to rock the apron-strings. Worst primary jerseys in the league with an outdated primary logo.
Florida – While they ditched said apron-strings, these uniforms scream of 2005. The Panthers logo set is solid, but a return to a true shoulder yoke would be swell.
Calgary – So stripes. Many unnecessary stripes. Wow. And ditch the Albertan and Canadian flags. Keep the contrasting C’s, though.
Washington – Reebok made the word mark crisp, the inside arm gussets are crap. They represent the not-apron-strings-but-still-bad early ’00’s.
Now, we wait.