TORONTO – With NHL revenues taking a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lack of fan attendance, the league has brought on four sponsors for the names of the new four divisions in its re-aligned schedule.
According to a press release, the new NHL division names are:
• Scotia NHL North Division (Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg)
• Honda NHL West Division (Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas)
• Discover NHL Central Division (Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay)
• MassMutual NHL East Division (Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington)
Tuesday’s announcement follows an agreement between the NHL and NHLPA that allows teams to sell ad space on player helmets for the first time.
If you needed proof the NHL really is changing, here it is: Per league release — Discover, Honda, MassMutual and Scotiabank will be the names of the Divisions "for 2020-21 NHL Season"
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 5, 2021
The news comes days after the league allowed teams to put sponsored ads on player helmets.
Economist Moshe Lander with Concordia University said North America, and in particullar the NHL, have resisted this move for some time, fearing a breakaway from tradition.
“This is the way we’ve done it for 120 years. They’re really missing their key revenue source which is ticket revenue.”
Lander added this has been common in European Soccer and hockey leagues for years and that the NHL should have considered this years ago and fans need to get used to it.
“If your fandom is so tied up with the logo on the front and the fact that might be reduced in size or moved to the shoulder crest, if that’s the extent of your fandom, I’m not really sure you’re a huge fan to begin with.”
Meanwhile, Peter Klein with Sportsnet 960 The Fan in Calgary says the move won’t change anything when it comes to the game, but hockey lovers may be upset.
“Hockey fans really like traditional things to stay traditional and putting advertisements and different things and putting advertisements on divisions, it does seem to mess with those traditions and hockey fans don’t like that.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic and to avoid cross-border travel, the NHL has split its 31 teams into four divisions with the 56-game schedule being contested strictly between teams within divisions. The three U.S.-based divisions will see their eight teams play each other eight times each, while the all-Canadian division will see some teams play each other nine times and others play each other 10 times.
The puck drops on the new NHL season on Jan. 13.