Friday, April 23, 2010

Fake Jerseys

Original Puck Daddy inspiration for this rant

^^^ That's a link to a Puck Daddy article that basically summarizes my attitude towards Reebok and their monopoly on licensed NHL jerseys. Here's my take:
(DISCLAIMER: None of the facts or figures in this essay have been scientifically proven.)

Welcome to capitalism, Reebok. Yes, your jersey sales are great, and you're making a killing on them. But you seem to be missing something pretty obvious. Ever sent a representative to a hockey game at the United Center in the past few years? How 'bout Mellon Arena?

These two arenas were close to empty for most games before the lockout (and a few years after in Chicago), but are now thriving hockey markets thanks to the recent improvements of the teams. What do the large, happy crowds bring (especially following a convincing win)? Money. To buy things branded with their new favorite team's crest. You seem to have noticed, and now a majority of those filling the seats every night are sporting your cute little 'Vector' logo on the back of their necks. But again - you're missing something big.

Peer closer at (unscientifically) a number of these jerseys. At first glance they all seem cut from the same die - colors, logos and their locations, etc. But wait - why is the "Malkin" lettering on that guy's jersey so much fatter than on the guy in front of him? In fact, the more you look, the more you notice of the fat lettering. What gives? They're all cheering for the same team, and seem to walk with the same swagger whether their font is slender or could stand to skip some meals.

Catch my drift Reebok?

It's time to face the facts, Reebok. You inherited a cash cow when you struck an exclusive deal for the uniforms of the NHL. But what have you done with it since? Let's look at some numbers, shall we?

Pre-Reebok(-lockout), a replica jersey, no name or numbers, cost between $75-100 at the team's store in the arena. That was a nice, thick, sturdy piece of team spirit. My CCM Avalanche jersey from the late '90s is still in great shape - and it's been played in, worn to games and to school. Authentic jerseys, with their double-sewn elbows, fight strap and quality embroidering all over, ran about $150-175.

Post-lockout? Forget those double digit prices. Currently, lists replica jerseys as $114.99. A little steep, but nothing completely unreasonable, until you feel the jersey itself. Since when have hockey jerseys been made out of a stretchy, soft, pajama-feeling fabric? Oh, yes, that's right, since Reebok took over. I wouldn't even buy this jersey if the price hadn't jumped after the lockout. The emblems are cheapy, plastic laminate cut-outs rather than a nice embroidered patch. The only thing stitched onto the jersey? the shoulder patch. Awesome! Hockey is about being tough! and durable! - not being cuddled by a $115 throw blanket with some glue-on cardboard screen printed cutouts. Remember when a hockey jersey would keep you warm between the parking lot and the arena, and inside the arena? Forget those days, this thing wouldn't be considered to keep someone warm overnight in the tropical rain forest. Not to mention that more often than not, the stitching of the jersey itself will fray or begin to unravel after mere casual wear throughout the hockey season.
Oh, the authentic jerseys. Almost forgot them, like I quickly did upon seeing the price tag. For a fight strap, stitched and raised-embroidered logos (as is expected), and a slightly heavier material, you're asked to pay the measly sum of $300 - no name or numbers attached.
Are. You. Kidding. Me.

Remember those fat-letter jerseys from earlier? Here's their story.
Made out of a similar, albeit slightly heavier fabric, everything stitched on. Fight strap? check. Most of them even have the cute little 'Vector' logo on the collar.

The difference?

Average price for one on eBay: $50. Including shipping.

That's right. For something that to the normal eye looks the same as the "authentic" jersey, I can pay ONE SIXTH the money. I can pocket that $250 for a later purchase, and have a very comparable product on my shoulders when I walk through the gates on W. Madison Street to cheer on the Blackhawks.

While I would like to show my support to the team(s) I like in the NHL, I cannot justify spending so much of my money (especially as a college student in such a bad economy) on something that can't even withstand normal wear. Reebok, get a clue. You may be pulling great profits on your apparel, but it appears that you're ignoring the growing market of counterfeit jerseys because they're showing up in more and more arenas around the league as people struggle to even find the money for tickets to the games, much less another three digit sum of money to support the team. On my trip to Mellon Arena towards the end of the regular season, I noticed (and I'm good at noticing nuances like this) that of the powder-blue Penguins Winter Classic jerseys, more than 60% were fakes. More of the standard home and road jerseys fell into the 'official licensed' category, but the fakes were still making their presence known.

We live in a capitalist society, and because of that there is no reason Reebok can't charge whatever the heck they want for their product. But, remember, in capitalism, the consumer holds the power. Slowly but surely, the consumers are realizing how badly they're being stiffed at the arena and turning to the third party unlicensed jerseys in droves - myself included.

What would I like to see happen in the NHL jersey world? One of two scenarios:

Reebok drop their prices by a small margin (10-15%) and makes the jerseys (logos too) out of better material and stitches the stuff on there rather than the glue that dissolves after 5 washes. Sorry Reebok, the whole EDGE (r) system isn't necessary for fans - the 20% less wind resistance in these flimsy jerseys won't help us get back to our seats before the intermission is over.
Reebok can keep making their paper-thin team color nightgowns, but prices must be slashed to, if not lower than, the prices of their equivalents from the pre-lockout era.

Either way, until Reebok changes their ways dramatically (or gives up their exclusivity in the professional hockey market), I will be there singing Chelsea Dagger in my gloriously fake, obese-font Toews jersey.

Your move, Reebok. Impress me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bittersweet. Actually, quite awesome.

So this game, as the Thrashers had already been eliminated from playoff contention, had little meaning other than pride for us. It had slightly more important implications for the Penguins, as a loss would likely put them in the 4th seed for the playoffs, rather than 2nd or 3rd. :D

Hopefully not Moose's last game in the Blue, but you never know....

As a part-time employee for the Thrashers, I got to wear the Game Operations headset occasionally. One of those games was Evgeny Artyukhin's first game as a Thrasher. The producer was very excited, as he likes big hitting players like Artyukhin. So every time Artyukhin stepped on the ice, the producer would growl into the mic, "RELEASE THE KRAKEN", taking the line from the movie Clash of the Titans. I found this line funnier and funnier the more he used it during the game. It caught on with me and some friends as I used it in everyday life, so I decided to make my first sign ever.

Evgeny not only noticed it, but told Kozlov, who shared a laugh with him. It was gonna be a good night :)

I just thought this shot was cool, you know, the puck being about an inch from the netting and all....

Kane was on fire for most of the night, and did everything but score a goal. He didn't have to though :)

I <3 this picture.

So, if you have a pulse and watch hockey, you know about this fight. I was fortunate enough to have seen Cooke's little shot on Kane along the boards and started firing when the gloves came off. This is probably my best sequence of shots of the year, but not because they're great pictures. it's what is being done to whom.

Hey Matt, watch out.

Didn't I tell you to watch out?

Don't mess with the kid named after Holyfield.

So after all that excitement (Boulton and Goddard went at it in a slightly more evenly matched bout 5 minutes later), Bryan Little decided it was time to step up by collecting a Slava Kozlov rebound and slinging it past Fleury. It was all that was needed for the Thrashers.
Also, Blogger apparently decided to vomit code on top of the next picture. Ah, technology, never failing to befuddle us.


Peverley did his best to make it 2-0 but was thwarted by the ever-ready Flower. (Did that sound as weird to you as it did to me?)

It was likely Slava's last game as a Thrasher, so I made sure to get plenty of pictures.

Malkin got up-ended at the whistle (or wanted to go swimming, there's no telling for sure).

Ohai, Mr Puck, I see you.

Again, if you have a pulse, you will be warmed by this story. T.R. and Maria Benning were selected as the Thrashers 7th Man for this season. T.R. is a decorated WWII veteran and Maria is a Cuban who defected to the US many moons ago. They've had season tickets since day one and are continually featured on the Kiss Cam, which always gives the Thrashers fans something to cheer about. When initially approached, T.R. didn't want to be recognized for simply going to the games. He insisted that someone else be chosen, but when Maria found out that the winner got the jersey of whichever player they wanted, she leaned over to him and said, "That'd be so nice." T.R. quickly consented to accepting the award.

The boys lined up to give their jerseys away to some season ticket holders.

Slava and the Moose share in the camaraderie.

Pavel looking like a tough guy, popping his gum as he struts to the fans. Not that he doesn't have the right to, basically captaining our powerplay after the departure of you-know-who.

Well, it was an interesting ride, to say the least. In the off-season, expect a few more airplanes and some other hockey related posts, but be warned: come October, HockeyFever will have made its return.