As the Hockey Jersey Guy, jerseys tend to be something that I discuss often.
My Merciad column should be no different.
I have a conspiracy theory involving a relatively new addition to hockey jerseys at the professional level: front numbers.
Personally, as a commentator, I find front numbers to be completely useless, as they are typically obstructed by the players themselves or too hard to find quickly, but it seems to be catching on in the NHL.
Immediately, it seems like a good idea, perhaps making it easier for the commentators, the referees, the fans and photographers.
In reality, they don’t help much. Players are rarely facing toward the commentators, making front numbers useless to them. The numbers are typically obscured by sticks and pointless to the referees.
Fans can’t pick up the small numbers from large distances in arenas. As for photographs, sleeve numbers provide more than enough information for people to identify players.
So why are they catching on? I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a marketing ploy.
When someone is walking toward you in a hockey jersey, you cannot tell if they paid the extra $70 to get it customized with a player’s name and number unless you look closely for sleeve numbers.
If they went without, the jersey never becomes an embarrassment (like for anybody with a Penguins Jaromir Jagr jersey), and still looks classy.
For teams like Buffalo, San Jose and Tampa Bay, whose front numbers are on the front of the shoulder, you can tell right away if they paid the extra money for customization, but the jersey still looks good without them.
The newest trend, already very popular in college hockey, is the number front and center in lieu of a logo, as seen with Dallas’ jerseys and Atlanta’s third jersey.
Not only is it obvious who didn’t customize, the jersey looks very odd and incomplete without the numbers, nearly forcing people to pay extra.
In football, numbers dominate all sides of the jersey, especially the front. You cannot buy a jersey without the numbers; there is no option except the included charge for customization.
My theory is that the NHL is working toward that same goal, working to eliminate the blank jersey option so that people must pay more, increasing the league’s revenue.
Don’t support front numbers, and help nip this in the bud before it isn’t an option.