By Jake Kolisek, Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman PC
Like many professional sports leagues, the National Hockey League (NHL) suffered massive revenue shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL was forced to suspend play in March of 2020, however was able to eventually successfully resume the postseason without fans.
The NHL kicked off an abbreviated 2020-21 season on Jan. 13, again with no fans or very limited attendance. A league reliant on ticket sales to drive revenue, the NHL has expanded league-wide sponsorships in an attempt to offset potential losses. One major sponsorship obtained by the league was the naming rights for the four, newly formed divisions.
As a result of COVID-19 travel concerns and restrictions, the league realigned the teams for the 2020-21 season. This year, the teams will play in the Scotia NHL North Division, Honda NHL West Division, Discover NHL Central Division and the MassMutual NHL East Division.
In an additional attempt to offset lost ticket sale revenue, the NHL previously announced that, for the first time ever, the league would allow teams to sell advertisements on player’s helmets. Currently, 13 teams have taken advantage of this opportunity. Many of the sponsors whose logos will appear on the helmets of NHL teams this year also hold the naming rights to the team’s arena as well.
The sponsorship expansion is currently viewed internally as a one-year move, an NHL source told ESPN. The changes signal the NHL’s concern for navigating the possibilities of another year of revenue shortfalls, as the league and the world continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
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