Summer Reading: Fanatics, the NHL, and Merchandising Monopolies

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In October of 2016, the NHL had announced that Fanatics would be the exclusive apparel outfitter for the NHL starting in the 2017-18 season and that it was a long-term (16 years) agreement between the two companies. They would pretty much be in charge of everything, aside from the authentic, on-ice gear– which Adidas would be in charge of. After the first year of Fanatics, it’s been something of a roller coaster for them, especially when you look at their first hack at the Stanley Cup champion turnaround gear.

Many Caps fans have been keen to point out the mistakes that were made with their orders from Fanatics following the Caps Stanley Cup win, as well as the timing for their “fast turnaround” for their Conference Championship gear to be sent out. Not only that the integrity of the products have been called into question (check out that whole thread– it’s a riot), as well– which sucks for the amount of money they are charging for it.

It’s almost the old adage of it’s better to get it right than get it first. It’s not just for journalism, but it’s for any facet of life. Benefit of the doubt, though, as it is their first year doing this and Fanatics may not have been prepared for the onslaught of orders they were going to get from the Capitals faithful. But when the selling point of this deal was the “quick turnaround” aspect of Fanatics, this is a major black mark on this 16-year deal.

(Personally– the stuff I’ve gotten hasn’t been off at all that I saw. Fanatics seems to really excel on autographs, plaques, that kind of not-wearable stuff. The shirts are okay and the sizing is somewhat on-point, but nothing to write home about; the hats seem okay, though pricy as hell; and it doesn’t seem like Fanatics likes to do many second-run items on special events– which is something I encountered with a hat I liked, but they told me once they were gone, that’s it. Luckily I did find it elsewhere. Demand does not mean you will get the supply, apparently.)

Fanatics has a monopoly on sporting merchandise, with the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, and NASCAR to compliment their NHL deal. However, their customer service leaves something to be desired and their products are….decent, at best. Design wise, many may enjoy that– but the actual put together pieces aren’t anything to write home about when it comes to quality; especially with their price point being what it is. It pretty much kills any competition and despite the low-grade apparel, fans seem to be pretty much stuck with the limited choices out there now because of this deal.

However, when it comes to teams and players– does the deal make sense?? While it’s not known how things are divvied up, it was exposed how the NASCAR deal works out with Fanatics when it comes to teams and drivers. Of course, there’s some kind of different with the travelling side show of NASCAR, the percentages were quite eye-opening when you look at it– especially when you see the cut the driver’s get. Plus, it allows some lower series drivers to actually create merch for their fans to buy, which they’d NEVER get through NASCAR.com or at the tracks through Fanatics. There’s something to say about the folk-hero driver or player.

NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck revealed last summer that Fanatics takes 75% of the revenue from the merchandise they make in NASCAR. Of course, there’s plenty of overhead and travelling costs– but my god– that’s a lot. Teams get 9% of the revenue, with their drivers each getting a percentage of that in their contracts. The sanctioning body of NASCAR as a whole gets 1%. But, the fans hated the experience of the big tents they set up that Fanatics had to totally revamp their “superstore” because people didn’t know about it. However, it’s well known that NASCAR doesn’t have a marketing department because if they did– they’d know how to do justice to their sport and gauge fans interest…but that’s another story for another post.

Obviously, the NHL is probably much different with the league getting a bigger cut and then cutting the teams into that percentage, but with how much they have to dish out– what’s the overhead for Fanatics in different arenas or do they only take from the NHL exclusive events like outdoor games the playoffs?? How much does the NHLPA get a cut for the shirts and replica jerseys sold with their players names on it and are they getting as screwed over as NASCAR drivers have been??

Or will the NHLPA go on the route some NASCAR drivers have by creating their own website to sell merchandise and thus getting a bigger cut of the profit?? Names like Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, and Jimmie Johnson have been selling their wears on Driver Direct Apparel, which seems to give a bigger cut to the drivers that they wouldn’t get from Fanatics.

It’s also very much akin to what independent wrestlers do thanks to Pro Wrestling Tees, which has the profits for each wrestler’s merchandise going right to the wrestler. Don’t know if the NHLPA would do something like that– especially since they probably would have to get over the hurdle of getting the rights to use the NHL club logos on their merch– but that’s for bigger people to figure out legalities.

In the end, it was a rough first year for Fanatics. They’ve got 15 more years to go, but they need to learn from their first year mistakes and hope to not make it a second time.

The Deal That May or May Not Happen Ever

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Wouldn’t it be like the Ottawa Senators to not trade Erik Karlsson?? With all the turmoil, all the stuff behind the scenes, the tire fire that continues to rise, the model organization for relocation because their owner is one who should have his franchise taken away from him….this is the thing that would be the most Senators things ever.

Last week, it seems like the wheels were in motion for Karlsson to go to the Lone Star State and become Sheriff Erik for the Stars. Then later in the week, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to be a late entry into this ordeal, join by a New York Metro team in order to get the deal done and the money to equal itself.

Yet, according to Lightning GM’s Steve Yzerman– there’s no deal to be done. Nothing is imminent and with the long-term signing of Nikita Kucherov– it may not be. With the Kucherov signing, it ties up $65M for 12 contracts in 2019-20, which would be Karlsson’s free agent year and would need a major trade/salary dump to get the long-term deal of Karlsson’s under the Bolts’ cap.

So…are the Stars still in it, because it’s been pretty radio silence since the Tampa deal came out late last week, but you have to think they’re back to the front-runners, no??

It’s eerily quiet on Karlsson. Like that awkward quiet after you haphazardly confess your love to your 10th Grade History teacher after learning about Lewis and Clark….or something that may or may not have happened.

While it’s something that could just be the money people crunching numbers to make sure it works on the contract side of things, this almost seems like it won’t get cured by training camp. Don’t ask me why I think that, but you’d think that teams would be stumbling over themselves to get Karlsson sooner rather than later in order to start their pitch to keep him around on an eight-year extension.

I don’t think this is something even Pierre Dorian and the Senators can fuck up. Sure, it’s your franchise player, sure he’s the only think keeping people in the stands at Canadian Tire Centre, and it’s something you need to be gentle about in terms of not rushing to trading a guy for a subpar return that won’t help this rebuild or whatever the hell it is that the Senators are doing. Let’s be honest, Karlsson is the tip of the iceberg, as Craig Anderson has requested a trade, Bobby Ryan’s contract is an albatross, and there’s not much to be hyped about– even if Matt Duchene plays better and gets to scoring at any kind of responsible clip.

If they don’t trade him by the start of the season, it could be some kind of silver lining and maybe give some hope to a re-signing after a summer/start-of-season-long reconciliation. However, it’s not looking that way. You can assume that Karlsson is packed up, ready to move to wherever he’s getting dealt next and thinking Ottawa is an afterthought for the beginning of the season.

It’s a very lose-lose situation for the Senators overall, but for Karlsson– it’d be a new start in a new place. And a place that hopefully has some direction.

NASCAR Mid-Week Races Will Happen…When You Sacrifice the Summer Weekends


Denny Hamlin had mentioned that NASCAR is thinking of and probably will implement weekday races soon, which is something people have been clamoring about since the ratings and attendances have been down. However, there’s only one way that this works and it isn’t something that current race track owners in ISC are going to like.

NASCAR needs to scrap the schedule from the July Daytona Race until mid-August and runs weekly weekday races…in NON-TRADITIONAL NASCAR MARKETS AND TRACKS. You want to have that “NASCAR is about America and small-time racing” culture– this is how you do it.

At the end of the July Daytona race, drivers will then have their point positions split up with the top-30 being involved in the Summer Shootout Series. The 15 odd numbered positions drivers will go in one loop, the 15 even numbered position drivers in another loop. They will only race for bonus points in the bigger series and they will run at smaller track around America in locations that NASCAR doesn’t travel near or cater to. For instance, the upper Midwest and the Pacific Northwest would have great small tracks for these drivers to race on, get locals a chance to see the top drivers, and give a boost to the local tracks and popularity of NASCAR. Hell, with the gimmick as it is– and how short the races would be– the TV ratings could see a bump, too.

The racing would work as drivers roll in on a Tuesday, practice Tuesday night, then at about 5pm local time, they’ll qualify the 15 drivers; then race for 100 laps. It’ll take maybe an hour tops, but last no longer than two hours. It would give the fans at home a nice compact race to watch, while also seeing drivers a little out of their element and going into their old school mentality of short-track racing again. All killer, no filler– which NASCAR has forgotten about.

Not only would it be great for the small markets and small tracks, but it would give more exposure to the drivers in areas they wouldn’t get exposure, since their racing for bonus points, it will shake up the standings possibly when they all get back together, and it would give drivers, crews, and fans the weekends in the summer to enjoy summer rather than be at the track or in front of the TV– which is probably the reason people aren’t watching now.

Of course, the thing is that NASCAR wouldn’t do it because it’s too smart. Why would you want to move away from the big tracks who only fill maybe 50% of the stands and leave the ratings that are marginal at best for the local tracks that will probably be 90% capacity and the ratings would see a bump because people will be at home after work to watch the race itself happen and know it’ll end at a reasonable hour for them to go to sleep??

This is what needs to be done NASCAR. You need to swallow your pride and realize that the way to get more people into the sport is to get more people into the stands. That’s by going to them rather than them coming to you.

Black Bears Announce Inaugural Season Schedule

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The inaugural season of the Maryland Black Bears is inching closer, especially with the NAHL revealing the 2018-19 season schedule. The season for the Black Bears starts at home on September 14th and 15th against the New Jersey Titans at Piney Orchard.

The schedule can be found here on the NAHL website, but here’s a bit of a breakdown of the first year and who they’ll face:

  • There’s no Western swing for the Black Bears, as expected. The NAHL looks to keep travel costs down, therefore you won’t see Maryland really go over to play the Western Conference until the end of the season.
  • That is unless the Black Bears play some Western opponents at the NAHL Showcase–which doesn’t seem to be on the actual schedule. All the teams will play four regular season games from September 19th through the 22nd in Blaine, Minnesota at the Schwann Super Rink. I’m sure that schedule should be coming out if it hasn’t already and I’m just too stupid to find it.
  • In fact, the Black Bears will play exclusively in their division. They’ll face Johnstown 12 times, New Jersey 12 times, Northeast (Attleboro, MA) 12 times, Jamestown (NY) 12 times, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 8 times. This will breed a lot of familiarity with players and fans alike– which is either really good or really bad; but either way exciting.
  • While all the home games are being played at Piney Orchard, there is the weekend of January 11th and 12th where Maryland will play at Laurel Ice Gardens and Rockville Ice Arena respectively. That weekend, the Black Bears will take on the Johnstown Tomahawks in a way to show off the newest development team to other parts of Maryland hockey.

So there you have it– the Black Bears season is just two months away (get your season tickets here) and it’s a pretty exciting time for developmental hockey in Maryland. This program will be a solid start for hopefully a bigger impact for Marylanders in higher hockey.

TEPID TAKE: 2018 NHL Free Agency Edition

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The first day of open market in the NHL pretty much brought us everyone waiting for John Tavares to finally decide where he was going. The other signings meant nothing until he signed– it was all about JT today.

-So, JT did sign with his hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs– making their fanbase even more insufferable when it comes to players who were born in the GTA coming to their Cup-drought filled team. Good on JT for making this decision, though– to walk into the lion’s den freely to achieve a goal to play in your hometown. It’s a comfort for him…for now. Ultimately– he makes the Leafs that much better despite the lack of defense for now.  Maybe this will take some of the pressure of Auston Matthews of being the first-line center and perhaps help him get out of whatever doghouse Mike Babcock has Matthews in.

-When it comes to Islanders fans, though, it’s natural to feel pissed at this– especially with JT dragging this process on and really making people wait. The problem is that JT doesn’t owe the fans anything and you should really be mad at the dysfunction in the front office for years rather than the player who wanted to play on a contender. The legacy Garth Snow left is being barely mediocre while not really getting Tavares the support he needed. With Lou Lamoriello being at the helm, we’ll see if he’ll build around Mat Barzal or some other wacky stuff to keep the Islanders middling for years to come.

-The move I liked the least had to be Petr Mrazek going to Carolina. We all are aware that the Scott Darling project hasn’t worked out after the first year, but to get a guy who will be a challenger to Darling’s starting spot could go one of two ways– really good by pushing him and making him better or really bad by having two goalies too tense to make a mistake that their nerves get shot. With two goalies who are better off as a back-up coming in to start a string of games rather than be a starter– the Canes are playing with fire in hopes this will really work out this time.

-Bruce Boudreau really loves former Capitals and grit guys that the Wild signed a lot of them. Matt Hendricks, Eric Fehr, JT Brown, and Greg Pateryn are joining Minnesota for the next season. For what reason….character?? I really don’t know what these moves are about, but if grit is the one thing the Wild thing was missing– then they are sure to get further now.

-Most people hate the Jack Johnson deal. I think the tenure of the deal is what gets me, but overall– it’s not HORRIBLY BAD. Especially in Pittsburgh, Johnson could get back into the groove of things with his boy Sidney Crosby around and Mike Sullivan working him until turns it around in a big way. It could turn out to be a very big value deal if Johnson can actually get his game back.

-Speaking of tenure deals I don’t like– Jay Beagle to Vancouver. I’m glad Beagle got paid somewhere. He was a folk-hero in Washington for years, but he couldn’t have been expecting that money in DC. Four years for Beagle at $12M is something I shook my head at for Vancouver. Good on Beagle to get his money, Jim Benning better hope it pans out for the team and gets them closer to another level.

-One of the busiest teams was the Dallas Stars. They picked up Anton Khudobin, Blake Comeau, Roman Polak, and Val Nichushkin. A decent amount of depth there– Khudobin hoping not to be another in the junkyard that is goalies of Stars past, while Nichushkin comes back after a two-season hiatus in the KHL putting up 27 goals and 51 points in 86 games. Polak will be another veteran presence on the blueline next to Marc Methot and help tutor the younger defensemen in the Stars line-up.

That’s the moves that stand-out to me that need talking about. We’ll cover more of these on Face Off Hockey Show Wednesday night live and on podcast that weekend. After Tavares, things kind of cooled down. Which is fine for a holiday week and reporters wanting to actually enjoy it for a change. That said, there’s probably going to be small moves here and there as teams address their depth needs and wants.

The State of Wazz Address

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The State is Maryland….always has been, always will be.

In any case, it’s a new NHL season today since contracts for players only go to July 1st, really screwing over the broadcasters who have to cover this event in Canada on their Independence Day– but that’s the NHL for you. However, with a new year– probably time to give some kind of update about what will happen this upcoming season with regards to blogging, podcasting, and the like. New year, new me, right??

BLOGGING

Okay, so I took some kind of break because there’s not much to write about and there’s only so much John Tavares content people can bear. It’s been a fun time with the Capitals playoff run, but it won’t all be about the Caps and Maryland Black Bears– it’ll be a very heavy influence; but as the season goes on, I’ll get back to all the Tepid Takes and other “feature-esque” work that I’ve done in the past. It may be a little slow in the summer months (as it always is), but it’ll pick up from there I hope.

There’s a possibility I’ll do some minor league stories, but to be honest– I fell out of love with minor league hockey. It was something to try and reinvent myself for a bit and it worked for a while. Then things changed and I lost the passion for it. Maybe the bug will come back, but I really don’t think it’d be the same as it was during the FOHS Farm Report/The Sin Bin time. Interests changes, things happens, and you have to move on from something you’ve lost interest in if it’s completely a by-the-numbers role you’re playing.

There’s an off chance that there could be more NASCAR coverage, so if you’re into that– awesome; if not– that’s cool, too, but don’t get annoyed if it does happen. I mean, I do co-host a NASCAR podcast so….

PODCASTING

There’s not going to be major changes in the substance of the podcasts– let that be known. It’s just a matter for us as a whole to be better with the promoting and things like that. Expect Face Off Hockey Show and The Soderstrom Bubble to be more active promoting things overall. If we want to leave any kind of mark where we can’t be denied about our participation in big NHL events, this is the way to do it. We will hope that you help in that process for promoting stuff you like about our Media Faction. Even if it is talking about our Patreon to others to help offset costs and things like that for the show.

That said, there could be a new Untitled Podcast coming your way from the FOHSMF– that just depends on time, effort, and actually doing it. Stay tuned around early September for a decision on that.

In The Draft Show with Wilson and Wazz will continue on as normal– which I know you’re all happy about. Or not. I really don’t know the feeling about my readers and NASCAR.

OTHER LIFE THINGS

Aside from the whole “try to eat better and workout more” and other usually January 1st resolutions….there’s a project I’ve been collecting things for. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, but just keep putting off and doubting myself in terms of what the response would be from it. It’s really just a matter of actually doing it– as it goes with most projects– so I’m going to try and be better with actually making that come to life.

And be a little more present in life and actually thriving in the moment. Yeah, it’s zen BS, but it’s my zen BS.

…and that’s what’s up. It’s the update you didn’t know you wanted and probably still don’t care much for. Such as life and it’s an outlook on what you can expect from me this summer and moving forward.