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Hockey apparel you’ll (never) want

August 22, 2011

Both Icethetics and Puck Daddy have lambasted the merchandise of shop.nhl.com in recent years. From hideous bejeweled jerseys to bikinis and garments no woman would ever be caught dead in, the NHL designers had really outdone themselves. Add that to the multitude of strange furnishings and home accessories, like toasters, and now jelly bean jars, and you really get a weird vibe from the league. It’s true. There’s some really terrible stuff up there that’s bound for a TJ Maxx or Marhsall’s near you in 18 to 24 months. It’s mostly wildly overpriced shlock. But seeing as nobody has looked at what’s in store for the upcoming season, I thought I’d undertake the task myself. I like stuff, I like colors, I like shopping (eh, now and again). A good match!

I don’t want to completely blow shop.nhl.com apart. I made three purchases from them last year, after all. These included a custom long-sleeve Bruins shirt for my girlfriend for her birthday (aren’t I great?), a Marian Hossa tee-shirt for my brother for Christmas, two winter caps (Pens and Coyotes, both too small for my brother and father’s respective heads) and a Zdeno Chara tee-shirt for myself. And I have three items I like, none of them geared toward women. They include the Reebok name and number player shirts, regular ol’ jerseys, and the fitted Twins ’47 caps. All are classic, simple, clean. Hear that, NHL store people?

Seeing as the Bruins are my team, I thought I’d swing through what they have available in the women’s section first. The first thing that popped up was this, the 10K, $400 Stanley Cup champion pendant. I don’t really know where to start, other than to say that $400 is a huge amount of cash to unload on something so tacky. And something that is actually 10 karats. Oh, and there are earring versions up there, too. Next up, I’d like to talk about this purse. Clocking in at $94, it’s the perfect gift for no one. But it seems like it would double as a weapon, being made of metal and all. Really though, it’s too ugly for words. While not my style, a lot of the tee-shirts available aren’t quite as horrendous as they were a year ago. There are fewer rhinestones, less pink and purple. All very good. And stuff like this hooded sweatshirt still gets me thinking, who is buying this, for $50?

I bounced over the Stanley Cup defeated, the Canucks, to see what they had. Mostly a lot of the same stuff. I was intrigued by this scarf. And I must say, I like it. I like the styling, I like how it resembles a European soccer scarf. It even has a zippered pocked for money and tickets! But the price point on it is sort of unconscionable. Moving on.

I took a peek over at the Blue Jackets, and found the champagne jersey was still for sale, after taking a heft price cut. Still don’t see them moving that inventory. But then again, people wear some weird stuff. Over at the Flyers’ women’s page, there’s still some St Patrick’s Day garb to be had! That glut of St Patty’s junk in the outlet section of the store, for both men and women, is astounding. They seem to make jerseys, shirts and shorts for the holiday year in and year out, in a gaudy green. They even ran that silly promo ad last year for St Patrick’s. Why the obsession? Where is this fixation coming from? Is the NHL management mostly Irish? It just doesn’t make sense to commit some much apparel and its design to one day of the year, really, or to one ethnic group. Where’s my Croatian tee-shirt with the šahovnica? Huh? Where? How about Korean-Americans? Or any other group? Where’s the love, NHL? Is there something about the Original Six era I don’t know about–were there an inordinate number of Irishmen involved in the league’s creation?

Some of the kids items are great. Like lunch boxes. Or potatohead sets. For kids, the prices are more reasonable, the stuff more fun. In sum, I think the women’s collections attempt to take themselves too seriously, and aim to be more feminine than is necessary.

They NHL does a great job of consolidating their goods on one relatively easy to use website. They fail when it comes to offering fun and worth-buying stuff to women, and they fail when it comes to attractive pricing and having sizes of all items in stock (why are there no long-sleeve shirts in small anywhere?). But there’s still a long road ahead.

Wearing the apparel of an NHL team is some of the best advertising for the sport out there. It’s a conversation starter, a community unifier. The NHL has made great progress. I don’t know what percentage of hockey fans are women, but it should be a significant enough one that the NHL had best take notice. Women don’t want 10k gold pendants. They don’t want bright green short shorts.

They’d like normally styled, well-fitting items. Do it.

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