Fanatics replacing Adidas as NHL uniform partner
Fanatics will replace Adidas as the NHL’s outfitter of on-ice uniforms and authentic jerseys beginning with the 2024-25 season, the league announced Tuesday.
The deal runs 10 years. Financial terms were not disclosed. This marks the first time Fanatics branding will be directly on an official player uniform for a professional sports property.
Fanatics has been an NHL retail partner for nearly two decades. It will remain the official manufacturer of a broad range of NHL apparel, including the replica jerseys that it has produced since 2017. Fanatics will also make the uniforms for all NHL on-ice officials beginning in 2024-25.
“This expansion of our partnership with Fanatics is a reflection of our shared commitment to innovation, performance, and serving our players and fans,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Fanatics is a sports industry market leader and with its proven track-record in e-commerce and retail operations, licensed fan merchandise and performance gear, our players and fans should look forward to what Fanatics will bring to the best uniforms in all of sports.”
ESPN reported last July that Adidas had decided not to pursue an extension of its seven-year deal to make NHL jerseys.
Fanatics chief executive officer Michael Rubin’s companies have operated the NHL’s e-commerce operation since 2005. Fanatics runs on-site retail stores in a handful of NHL arenas and for events like the NHL All-Star Game and the Winter Classic. It also operates an NHL flagship retail store in Manhattan, which opened in 2021.
Since 2017, Fanatics has produced the “Breakaway,” innovating the fan replica jersey’s design by using more stain resistant fabrics and adding a foldable jersey logo crest for easier storage. Fanatics also has produced the NHL’s Authentic Pro product line — training apparel and headwear worn by NHL players, coaches and staff — since 2018.
“This is a natural evolution of our partnership with the NHL,” Doug Mack, CEO of Fanatics Commerce, told ESPN. “I’ve said to our team that when we deliver big results for partners and we bring innovation to how they serve their fans, it earns us the right to do more together.”
While this is the first time Fanatics branding will be directly on an official player uniform, it’s not the first time Fanatics has made game uniforms.
“The Fanatics brand is fairly well known to fans, but we’re often thought of as more of an e-commerce company,” Mack said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done performance product, but this will be the most visible we’ve ever been in making that performance product.”
For example, Nike is the official outfitter of Major League Baseball, but Fanatics has made MLB’s Nike-branded uniforms for all 30 teams since 2017, when it acquired Majestic. In total, Fanatics makes close to 100,000 MLB uniforms each season. Fanatics also makes authentic NFL jerseys that carry a Nike logo, which are sold online and in stores.
NHL executive vice president of marketing Brian Jennings acknowledged that fans might only know Fanatics as a company that makes replica gear rather than game-worn jerseys, which could lead to challenges in perception about the league’s new authentic jersey maker.
“It’s fair. I understand there may be, initially, some trepidation, but I do have a lot of confidence in the team at Fanatics,” Jennings said. “I look back at the history with our locker room, at what they’re doing with other leagues, and I do think that they will be able to do this.”
Jennings said part of that confidence is in how Fanatics is approaching the task. It has senior executives in place with experience launching game-worn jerseys at Reebok and Adidas. Fanatics also doesn’t plan on reinventing the jersey — at least initially. They’ll use the same factory based in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, that Adidas did to produce its jerseys. The specs for the jerseys will be exactly the same. While there will be differences in some of the fabrics and materials, “it will be almost indiscernible” to the jerseys currently in use, said Jennings.
The NHL indicated that the first significant changes to its on-ice jerseys could be in the 2026-27 season, when different fabric options and player safety innovations like protection against skate lacerations might be introduced.
When the NHL knew Adidas was getting out of the hockey jersey business, Jennings said it surveyed the “competitive landscape” to see what else was out there. In short order, it became apparent that Fanatics offered something “very appealing” to the league as a jersey-maker, especially given its existing partnerships as an apparel maker and e-commerce retailer.
“Each step of the way, you’ve just watched this increase in commitment to product, commitment to performance, commitment to design,” Jennings told ESPN. “If you think the changes in retail were dramatic over the last five years, they’re going to be even that much more dramatic in the next 10 years. And Fanatics, driven by Michael Rubin and his senor team, are definitely visionaries.”