St. Louis Blues: NHL Forced To Brand Their Divisions

2021 was supposed to be a better year than 2020. St. Louis Blues fans are quickly figuring out that while the hockey will be played, everything surrounding it will be just as weird.

The St. Louis Blues were hoping for a good start to 2021. The hockey, itself, might still turn out that way, but everything leading up to this new season is looking just as weird as 2020.

The Blues lost their AHL affiliate when the Springfield Falcons opted out of the shortened AHL season. Now, the Blues will have the honor of playing in the Honda West Division.

That’s right. The NHL has sold the naming rights for their divisions for the 2021 season.

The league has already said this is intended to be a “one-year-only campaign”. Time will tell whether that will prove to be true.

We should see the writing on the wall that this might be the way forward. The NHL is already thought of as the fourth or even fifth professional sports league in North America and, financially, that is probably correct.

It is definitely behind the NFL, NBA and MLB. MLS has been catching up in terms of popularity, though what the television deals and league finances are is another matter.

In reality, it could be worse. At least the names for the divisions are not a mouthful like some of these college football bowl games.

The divisions are mainly one word. It’s the Honda West Division, which is where the Blues will play in 2021. Then they have the Scotia North Division – not sure why it’s not the Scotiabank North Division, but I digress – the Discover Central Division and the MassMutual East Division.

Really, the only one I’m glad the Blues avoided is the MassMutual East Division. It’s still not bad as Joe Blow’s Iron Welding and Scrap Metal Bowl (not real, just FYI), but still a little wordy.

The worrying thing is that this will lead down a road that makes the NHL seem like a minor league. We do need to understand that the NHL doesn’t have all the revenue streams of some other leagues and they need to capitalize if these companies want to give them funds.

This is the second branding announcement this season though. Teams will also be allowed to sell advertising space on player helmets and the Pittsburgh Penguins have already partnered with PPG Paints for a logo on their helmet.

PPG has the naming rights to the Penguins arena. Should we expect to see the Enterprise logo on Blues helmets soon? Most drive-thrus are still open, so perhaps a McDonalds logo would be apropos for when the Blues wear their reverse retro jerseys.

Most fans will shrug this off and ask who cares. The truth is nobody really needs to, but it’s a slippery slope.

These first steps are fine, if temporary. What if they are not temporary though? Could we see lower body advertising on the backs of jerseys next?

Do NHL players eventually look like some of those European leagues where there are sponsors on socks and pants and everything? We all want the NHL, and thus the Blues, to thrive, but aesthetically, that is not something I want.

I don’t want the NHL or the Blues to have to go down a road where you can tell when a jersey was purchased based on the advertising logo. For example, my nephews have Chelsea jerseys. You can tell how old the shirts are based on the sponsor on the front.

Hopefully it is much ado about nothing. Perhaps this is just a temporary solution to an odd year when the divisions are all mixed up anyway.

Once companies, franchises or leagues find a stream of revenue, they don’t tend to want to relinquish that opportunity.