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April 29, 2013
Counterfeit jerseys: the big lie
As we get set for the start of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, the excitement level of fans undoubtedly picks up a notch or two. You'll likely be seeing many of them walking around showing their team spirit by wearing their favorite team's jersey.
But in quite a few cases, those "fans" aren't really supporting their teams -- they're supporting organized crime.
Why? Because those fans are wearing counterfeit jerseys.
Before you go on, I should warn you that unlike most of my blog posts which aim to entertain and enlighten you, this blog post will be a very stern lecture.
Every time I go to an NHL game, I undoubtedly see many fans wearing jerseys. Most are the genuine article, purchased from the team's in-arena retail store, from other brick-and-mortar stores or from reputable online retailers like nhl.com, SportsK.com or CoolHockey.com. However, I also see way, way too many "fans" wearing jerseys that are obvious Chinese knockoffs. And it's not just in non-traditional hockey markets like Phoenix or Tampa -- I'm also seeing it in hockey-rich cities like Boston. Those jerseys look bad and makes the wearer look stupid.
Now I know what you're thinking to yourself: "What difference does it make where I buy it from or how much money I'm saving? It's not like I'm hurting anyone."
If you don't think you're hurting anyone by buying counterfeit merchandise, think again.
I've had a few independent online retailers e-mail me expressing concerns about how much counterfeiting is costing their businesses. These people depend on those sales to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table for themselves and their families. I asked Mike Whitaker, who owns Slap Shot Signatures how much counterfeiting costs him -- he tells me it costs him up to 15% of overall sales.
"When we first began our operation we were concerned if we could succeed based on the current market," Whitaker recently wrote me in an e-mail.
Whitaker tells me one source of the problem is a lack of knowledge of the issue among customers. "We get told all the time by customers who are not educated in the subject that they can get a pro jerseys for a quarter of the price we sell them for. Once we begin to ask them questions and educate them on the topic they begin to realize the difference between the real McCoy and the knockoff product."
Some NHL teams have become very proactive in educating their fan bases about counterfeit jerseys. Among them is the Vancouver Canucks, who put up a page, entitled Fight the Fake on its website to illustrate the many differences between the genuine article and the knockoffs. The Canucks put it much more eloquently than I ever will -- just click the link to read it yourself.
Now, I'm sure many of you have some very serious concerns about the price of replica jerseys -- for example, the NHL shop sells Bruins premier (replica) jerseys for $125 -- and that's without any customization. I'm not here to tell you whether that price is reasonable or exorbitant -- you'll have to take that up with the NHL. But do keep in mind that any piece of merchandise that contains an NHL logo or an image of an NHL player, past or present, is subject to NHL licensing, and that licensing costs money. The NHL and its member clubs are rightfully very protective of their copyrights, and I fully respect those copyrights when I put together this website for your enjoyment.
When you buy an officially licensed jersey (or any other genuine product), a portion of the price goes back to the NHL -- money that's used to build the very league that you follow. When you buy a counterfeit jersey, the NHL sees none of that money. In fact, in many cases, money raised by those bogus sales only support overseas organized crime.
So whether you live in Boston or Chicago; Washington or Anaheim; do yourself and your favorite team a favor: When you buy stuff to show off your team spirit during this year's playoffs, be sure you only buy officially licensed products. That's the best way to support your team.