The NHL is taking huge risk in partnering with Fanatics to make on-ice jerseys

Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Barden
11 months ago
Goodbye Adidas, hello… Fanatics?
That’s right, the NHL has partnered with Fanatics to become the official on-ice uniform for the next 10 years, beginning at the start of the 2024-25 season.
An exciting opportunity for the NHL, I’m sure. However, I don’t believe anyone, such as fans and media, are too thrilled about the partnership with Fanatics.
“This expansion of our partnership with Fanatics is a reflection of our shared commitment to innovation, performance, and serving our Players and fans,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a media release. “…Our Players and fans should look forward to what Fanatics will bring to the best uniforms in all of sports.”
I want to begin with why this might be a good idea for the NHL:
And maybe just the fact that they might’ve not had any big suitors after Adidas announced that they were ending their partnership with the league.
What many people are missing about this is that Fanatics technically already makes MLB game uniforms, even though they have the Nike logo stamped on the chest. Knowing that, there’s a little bit more optimism, right?
Not so fast.
Listen, I don’t hate the MLB uniforms, but I believe it’s going to be a massive challenge for Fanatics to be on par with Adidas when it comes to the quality of a jersey, both in-game and authentic.
Add that to their “proven track-record in e-commerce” that Bettman says Fanatics has (it looks like they don’t have that), and you’ve got a recipe for something. Definitely something.
Now that we’ve gotten through why it’s a good idea, though, let’s discuss why going down this road might lead to problems.
This, for Fanatics, was never going to be a winning situation right off the hop. Adidas has been an incredible partner with the NHL when it comes to jerseys, both quality and creativity-wise. The new company coming in won’t be able to compete with Adidas right away.
The biggest thing is quality, in my opinion. If you’ve ever owned a Fanatics jersey, you know that they’re nowhere near the quality of Adidas’ jerseys, or the ones that have come before it, such as Reebok.
It feels like it’s cheaply made, and when fans can notice that, they’re likely not going to come back for more.
You want to be able to create something that feels like what the players wear, because at the end of the day, that’s what fans want. A jersey that’s near one-to-one with what the athletes put on before heading to the ice.
If there’s any challenge that’s going to be difficult for Fanatics, I’d put that one at the top of the list.
The other problem that’s already presented itself is the bad reputation that Fanatics has. There doesn’t seem to be much trust between the NHL’s fanbase and the new “official outfitter” of the league.
Don’t believe me? Just read the replies to the tweet below.
When you have a tweet that has as many replies as likes, even before adding on the quote tweets that it has, you know that it’s likely not the best decision.
“Biggest yikes of a choice the league could have made, by far,” one fan said, replying to the NHL’s tweet.
“guys pls be careful, i left my fanatics jersey in my car and someone broke in and left FOUR MORE in there!!!” Another fan said in a tweet, which has more likes than the NHL’s original post itself.
There’s going to be a drop in jersey sales when Fanatics officially starts outputting their makes of NHL jerseys. And that won’t be good for the NHL or Fanatics. But, that’s where they’ll start gaining the trust of fans.
Unless the quality of the jersey is the same as it is at the moment. If that’s the case, nobody will be happy.
The NHL and Fanatics have a year and a half to build the jerseys to where they need to be to match Adidas’ quality. Once they release, then we’ll know if the trust can be gained back, or if it gets broken even more.
It’ll be a fascinating ride for the new jersey outfitter, that’s for sure.

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