Please no-please no: Ads on NHL jerseys and the last straw

We hope the lure of ad revenue won't one day win out over maintaining the sanctity of the uniform. But we're not exactly optimistic about NHL jerseys remaining ad-free in the coming years.

>>Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy

This evergreen topic actually scares me quite a bit more than it should. The practical fan argues that changing jerseys does not affect the on-ice "game" in any way. But the romantic -- and realist -- in me knows that I watch this game for entertainment, and I am fully aware that the aesthetics of the game are a significant part of that entertainment. This swift-flowing game is less beautiful when cluttered like a European rink.

My closet is filled with jerseys, too many to admit. During domestic budget negotiations, that closet is the single-most-cited justification for the proliferation in my house of new high heels/pumps/whatever to serve the constituency of the finer sex. Due to personal tastes, far more of these jerseys are from before the 1990s cartoon/diagonal/third-jersey era than from after. My attachment to this game -- heck, this league -- is inescapably interwoven with nostalgia and appreciation for its history, which includes the aesthetic of things like the North Stars sporting the green, the Maple Leafs actually having a traditional hem stripe instead of a stripeless pajama top, the Flyers being primarily orange instead of black and tunic-like, the Blues having a stately blue-and-gold without red, and of course the Islanders rocking the simple, royal blue-and-orange look of their founding.

Given the expected lifespan of the average hockey obsessive, I know it's likely that sometime in my life NHL jerseys will display more than the RBK (vowels not included) uni maker's ad. They'll probably do it gradually so as to ease the pain, the way they've taken over the ice and everything else with an inch of white space. (But the sacred jersey is still different from the ice, let me tell you.).

And I know that the practical cynic, fully numb to the commercialization of everything but their own genealogy -- and perhaps better prepared for modern life -- won't care a bit. (Somehow, I watch soccer and don't mind the jersey ads, although the uniform "kit" history in that sport is quite different. Still: I, hypocrite.) And I know I couldn't scare them off if I were Mike Bossy himself, because they'll be marketing to a different generation whose virginity was sold on eBay.

But I know for myself, who is always re-evaluating what place spectator sporting folly plays in my own consciousness, that rubicon crossing will change things. I truly will enjoy the game less. I'll cut this sometimes backward league less slack, for it will have taken something dear away from me. I'll donate less "hockey-related revenue" for products that no longer promote only the game, but instead serve as another vehicle for ads for a car or magic sports drink. And while I doubt this (or hope against it?), it's possible at that time the game will simply pass me by.

'Cause this curmudgeon prefers things the way they are, or were. And he's quite aware there are millions of options for one's leisure time when an old hobby no longer holds the same appeal.

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