February 5, 2012

Business of Hockey: Rags or Riches?

During the NHL All-Star break, I made the mistake of making a rather disparaging remark about the legitimacy of the All-Star Player Fantasy Draft in a post I had written. Earlier that day I heard an interview with captain Daniel Alfredsson where he mentioned that he had met with opposing captain Zedeno Chara to discuss “strategy.” That night, as I was watching the Fantasy Draft, I noticed when each player was selected a perfectly prepared jersey of the correct color with name and number was presented for the player to put on.

“A-ha! They must have had this all set up before hand.” Of course, how else would the jersey be ready for the player? These things aren’t cheap, even for the NHL so the thought of there being two sets of jerseys didn’t make sense to me. Dollars and cents.

Boy was I wrong. After being called on the carpet by one reader from Ottawa, the host city, I did a little research to find out the true story. Okay, perhaps “research” is too broad a word. I sent an email to the NHL and found out that no, there were not two jerseys prepared for each player -- there were four.

According to a high ranking NHL official, the player retains one for himself, one is given to the player’s club, one to the NHLPA and one to the League itself. Why so many jerseys? Charity.

NHL game worn or issued player memorabilia has great value even with hockey's limited, yet passionate fan base. These extra sweaters are a perfect way to generate charitable donations without diluting the market by making hundreds or even thousands.

I decided to really do a little research; key word here is “little.”

If you check on EBay a Gretsky 99 All-Star jersey from 1990 was up for auction for a whopping $39,999.00. Included with the jersey was it’s letter of authenticity dated February 25, 1990 stating that the jersey was auctioned off at the SGMA Super Show in Atlanta, Georgia. Certainly it was no where near $39,999 in 1990. If you’re curious, SGMA is the trade association of leading industry sports and fitness brands. The “Super Show” was the premier sports and fitness marketing event of it’s time.

The NHLPA uses jersey auctions for their charitable endeavors as well. In 2010 the NHLPA raised over $94,000 for “Hockey for Haiti” using 2010 Olympic jerseys. There were140 jerseys worn by NHL players from 12 different countries auctioned off on line. Sidney Crosby’s jersey drew the highest bid at $37,100. After all, Crosby did win the gold medal for Team Canada.

On Wednesday, February 1st, NY Islanders star John Tavares’s All-Star jersey was auctioned off for the Islanders Children’s Charity and brought in $10,500 alone. Not bad for a sweater. Of course he managed to sign it right there at the auction for the lucky bidder.

However, not all these “rags” turn into charity “riches.” Some of them end up being cut into tiny pieces to be added to Hockey cards. I’m not exactly sure how many little one inch squares one NHL jersey can turn into, but it has to be a lot.  I assume the Hockey Card manufacturer purchases the jersey.  I didn't research that part.

While Sports memorabilia is an investment to base your retirement on, it is priceless to those who are avid collectors. It’s nice to know that some of what is being spent actually goes to worthy causes. The hockey community is very generous but it’s a shame we’ll never run out of worthy causes that need help.

- Dee Karl

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