Through an agreement with the French language website Sportsjuniors.com, whose focus is news from the LHJMQ (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League),  I’ve decided to translate and reprint this story by journalist Nataly St-Gelais.  For the original article in French see http://www.sportsjuniors.com/?p=11339.

Robin Gusse has been sanctioned for his "no-name" gear made by Passau (photo by cyberpresse.ca)

Robin Gusse has been sanctioned for his "no-name" gear made by Passau (photo by cyberpresse.ca)

Since it was written, it has been confirmed  by Cole Butterworth at the CHL head office that Robin Gusse will not be allowed to wear his Passau equipment for the rest of the season due to sponsorship rules.  The CHL claims to adhere to the same policies as the NHL regarding equipment.  However, it should be noted that three seasons ago, Boston Bruins’ goalie Tim Thomas also wore “no-name” goalie pads made by Pete Smith, without ever being reprimanded or sanctioned.

Paul Szabo for Ingoalmag.com

Last week the Reebok company, operating through the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), sent a message to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (LHJMQ), informing them that one of its teams was using equipment that was not licenced; in effect, without brand logos.
Players in the Quebec Major Junior league in fact aren’t allowed to wear just any equipment they choose, even if said equipment has been made to measure for them.  The CHL requires that players in their ranks wear only equipment from licenced manufacturers:  Nike, Reebok, Bauer, CCM, Graf, Easton, Vaughn and absolutely nothing else.  Since the Quebec Major Junior League is part of the CHL, all its teams must comply with this rule, no exceptions.
The big question, of course, is exactly what the rule really stipulates.  Personally, I think it is strictly a matter of visibility and protectionism by multinational corporations who would never stand to have their image (i.e. brand name) relegated to second place by a Québecois company which produces equipment of equal quality.
Imagine for a minute if these companies lost their monopoly on the image and branding of the sport through the media, who by the way have no choice about which names they promote, since advertising control is firmly in the hands of these same multinational corporations who spend millions of dollars to ensure your kids buy only their branded equipment.  Just to give one example, does anyone really believe that their son will be a better hockey player because he uses the same stick as Sidney Crosby or the same skates as Alexander Ovechkin…I highly doubt it, to say the least!
During a telephone interview with SportsJuniors.com, LHJMQ comunications director Karl Jahnke explained that the CHL operates in the same way as the NHL, only allowing the use of equipment under licence.  The first reason is the issue of safety and the standardization of equipment norms.  In other words, if I understand correctly, no logo = unsafe.
For the moment, I am awaiting a return call from a CHL communications representative, hopefully to get clarification on the subject…ditto regarding my attempts to obtain a reply from Reebok’s public relations department, where a message was left for Marc-André Charron.
Reached by telephone, Alain Beaudry of the Passau Hockey Company explains his dismay at having his equipment sales to major junior hockey players banned under the pretext that they are unsafe:
“ It’s clear that there are four companies that have exclusive privileges with the CHL for goalie equipment and there is noone else who can get a foot in the door, regardless of their profile or money.  In my opinion, it is strictly a commercial and not a safety issue by any means.  Even if they were obliged to say so, they still wouldn’t.  They can invent whatever story they choose; I’ve been producing goalie equipment for the NHL, the AHL and the professional leagues in Europe for 28 years, yet for Major Junior hockey it’s a different story… for the last 18 years it’s been a closed shop for all but four companies:  Reebok, Vaughn, TPS and Nike-Bauer.  We’re good enough for the pros, but somehow not for the juniors”.
Having communicated himself with the CHL to discuss the dossier, Mr. Beaudry also has an opinion about the “security” issue.  “Security my foot, there are a number of companies and maufacturers like Sher-Wood and Itech, who work with the NHL and yet who cannot gain access to the Major Junior Leagues.   We ourselves are a designer and manufacturer who creates goalie equipment for certain NHL goalies.”  Currently M. Beaudry is working to secure permission for Chicoutimi Sagueneens rookie goalie Robin Gusse to wear his custom made Passau equipment, which is at this point still “unapproved”.
“Once or twice a week I send pads to Toronto to have them approved for NHL players.  This is the first time I have ever had to do this for a major junior player and in my estimation it probably won’t make any difference” M. Beaudry explained.  Moreover, he stated that even if he wanted to buy a licence it would be impossible, since the league won’t hear of it.  There are six licences and that’s all.
It’s easy to see that the CHL is the entry level to the NHL and if by nothing more than habit, players end up wearing equipment that is licenced and branded.  After that, it becomes difficult to change and therefore all the more certain that this select group of companies will corner the NHL market.
It’s all a question of marketing and money.  Imagine that some little guy, coming out of nowhere with his pads that have always been custom made, ended up making the major junior league, only to be told that must switch to a different brand that apparently will make him a better goalie!
SportsJuniors.com will follow this story in the context of its next broadcast of Hors-Glace (“Off-Ice”), at which time we hope to find some answers to our questions.  In the meantime, be sure to have your licence, because the hockey police will be watching your next game…

Thanks to Alain Harvey, Editor-in-chief of sportsjuniors.com, for his participation

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15 Responses to Not wearing brand-name equipment? Sorry, you’ll have to take those pads off

  1. James says:

    It’s too bad that these leagues are so money hungry that they will squeeze the smaller manufacturers out.

    And to try and say it’s about protecting the goalie and not the money is a joke.

    Who’s more worried about protection than the goalie himself?

  2. Rob says:

    This is nothing new. Companies like Flarrow for example have been squeezed out of the NHL due to “branding fees” that were (a few years ago) $50,000 per stick. Who can afford that other than the big guys? I’ve been a goalie for over 10 years and have tried all sorts of sticks, but above all Flarrow makes the best goalie stick on the market in my opinion, and it’s half the price of the big guys. What a shame, but that’s capitalism, eh?

  3. Scott says:

    I think goalies are realizing there are other companies out there that don’t kowtow to the leagues and their fees. I’m seeing an increased amount of goalies wearing these other brands because the offer equipment that is on par or better in quality than those being paid to be worn. Also, the offer competitive pricing. Those were the 2 main reasons I went with Smith goalie equipmet.

  4. Bryan says:

    I understand that licensing rights are part of the business, but I’m having trouble believing that this requirement would stand up in court. Imagine a carpenter showing up to a job site and being told that he can only use MasterCraft tools and his custom Milwaukie cordless drill has to be replaced. Or an office dictating what brand of suit you have to wear.

    I think they would be in the right to insist that the logos be removed/obscured, but I seriously doubt it with banning the gear outright.

  5. Nick says:

    James hit the nail on the head … any goalie in his right (albeit slightly crazy) mind wouldn’t strap on something that wouldn’t stand up to a shot. The spirit of the rule is very weak. Makes me think of musicians (specifically keyboardists) who tape off the manufacturer’s name on the back of their instruments so as not to advertise for them … check this out next time you see a concert on tv or otherwise. Some do, some don’t.

  6. Daniel Heslop says:

    I agree with Bryan.
    As I understand it, the licencing fees are about the brand name appearing on the equipment. I strongly feel that any goalie in any league should be able to use any brand of gear, provided it meets the safety requirements and game rules of the league.
    If only sponsor brand names can appear that is fine, but logo-less brands should be allowed. The problem is who can afford the time, money, and hassle of taking this to court?

  7. paul szabo says:

    Thanks for all your input. I agree 100% that no-namers should be allowed to have their gear used with the logo covered. Only problem, as was mentioned, is that a company like RBK could run the little guy 6 feet under in no time with court fees. I guess we all have to vote with our feet and buy gear from Pete Smith, Passau, Don Simmons, Stomp, Battram, Viper etc. Because if they close their doors, Canadian made goalie equipment may never be seen again. Moreover, it isn’t even a question of price. The Canadian made top of the line stuff is actually cheaper than the equivalent product from the big players- by as much as 1000$ for a gear set (pads and gloves). Without a doubt, one can see that the $$ given to NHL players has to be paid for somehow…

  8. SRS BZNS says:

    What about what some NHL players are doing, such a Martin Brodeur. he supposedly just switched to Sher wood pads yet if you look closely he is definitely still wearing DR stuff just re branded with sherwood graphics, like he did with his “Reebok” equipment. Is the CHL against this kind of movement. Its not that hard to do. Allows the goalie to keep what he likes and the big brands to strangle us with ads and high over priced pieces.

  9. paul szabo says:

    Reply to BZNS:
    You are absolutely right about Brodeur. They call this “reskinning” but in fact it actually means building a new pad copied off the old one (not simply sewing new clarino on top of the old pad foam); all he did was put a bit more thigh rise on it. And it doesn’t matter what “skin” they put on it, it is the same DR Maxima pad. Imagine that he doesn’t even have knee stacks in his pads, nor a flat inner calf wing to slide on. His style is such that he doesn’t seem to need it. He is a good example of a star goalie who doesn’t need all kinds of top secret equipment mods to be the best. In the past he has spoken out against other goalies whom he thought were going way overboard with pad height, chest protectors that looked like sheets of plywood etc.
    I also think wonder if there isn’t a bit of hypocrisy in this business of reskinning. It certainly proves that equipment companies are more concerned about the their name being seen than the goalie actually wearing the real equipment. It would be interesting to ask Brodeur if he has any issues with “misleading” the public as it were.

  10. David T says:

    It would be so nice if the game could be played by the players and the outside interests left just as that outside interests. Brand name equipment is altered or customized anyway so why not allow any and all brands big or small?

  11. Thom Kirby says:

    If it’s a question of safety like they say, would it be ok to wear the “approved” pads and put tape over the brand logo? Or will they say the tape makes the pads unsafe and must be removed? It’s greed, pure and simple. This is why my next set of pads will be Simmons.

  12. paul szabo says:

    Thanks for your input Thom. The argument you put forward, about simply covering up the name on the pads, was flatly rejected by Reebok and immediately echoed by the LHJMQ brass. If you recall, during the late 80′s I believe, there was a legal battle in the NHL about endorsement rights and for several years the golaie had to tape over the logos on their equipment.

    My son wore Simmons and I thought they were great…

  13. Thom Kirby says:

    Hi Paul. Sorry for the time in between responding. :)

    I think you may have misunderstood my post; I meant to wear the “approved” pads (to keep the contract happy) then cover or remove the name on them. I know NHL goalies pay for their sticks, but what about pads? I’m assuming it’s never really been an issue with NHL goalies because they can pretty much afford any pads they like (as long as they’re “approved” :), it’s regular guys like me who can’t afford them. I’d love to have an NHL goalies hand me downs! :)

    Any takers? :)

    Thom

  14. Jeff Brock says:

    I’ve been wearing all Simmons gear for years and would never wear the expensive made in China junk that the brand name companies are selling.

  15. vincent degennaro says:

    i have passau pads and have worn simmons in the past. i really enjoyed simmons, but without question the passau brand stolz is the best set i have used to date. (although, the RX9 glove from itech/bauer was great too!) i feel that they are just worried that all the efforts to market these product lines will go to waste, once players catch on to how great passau is.

    if you had a goalie like thomas break out a shiny new set of passau’s equipment, the young kids would be running to stores, googling, and yanking on their parents’ legs to get them.

    shame on these people who make these decisions, but in all honesty… it’s better to know your amazing at your craft without having all the limelight. Cheers to Passau and the Beaudry family!

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