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Do You Remember These Jersey Ads from the 80’s?

The NHL now allows teams to wear jersey sponsor patches, which has ruffled the feathers of some die-hard jersey collectors. But, did you know this isn't the first time teams have allowed advertisements on their threads?
The Re-introduction of
jersey ads

Last year the NHL started allowing advertising on jerseys. No matter what you think about on-jersey ads, it’s done changed the jersey customization game. Now, if you want an exact replica of the jersey your heroes wear on the ice, you’ll have to get that ad patch on there.

I ran into this dilemma in 2013 with a Moose jersey. Got it blank, customized it with Schnieder 35 and it just wasn’t complete without the Toyota patch. Searched for weeks and ended up paying $40 for one. I felt like quite the tool.

But, this actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen advertising on NHL sweaters.

Back in the 1980s hockey jersey customizers began putting their own company logo on the back hem of the sweaters they customized for game use. I really liked this trend because it adds yet another easter egg for gamer collectors to watch out for, and also because local ads add a little hometown flavour to big league jerseys.

So, if you’re a collector, you’ll want to make sure these gamers have the right customizer logo on the hem, otherwise, you might not have a gamer at all.

nhl jersey
Chicago Blackhawks

Gunzo’s — a local Chicago-based sports store — customised Blackhawks jerseys since the 70s but started putting their logo on the hems of game jerseys in 1981 and might have been the first to do this. They had two versions, one with an embroidered name and goalie and one with just big screened letters, but these were on the back hem of Blackhawks jerseys until 1988. This company is still in business, but if you have ideas of taking your replica Doug Wilson jersey to them to put their name on the hem, I imagine they’ll tell you to go suck a deep dish. That’s a Chicago saying, right?

gunzos hockey patch featured on the hem of the blackhawks jersey

To the bottom left hand side of the jersey, you can see the Gunzo’s logo.

pittsburgh penguins

Here’s how you can verify that the Lemieux jersey your uncle gave you for Christmas, that he swears is game worn and claims you now have to name your first child after him, is legit: Penguins gamers from 1985 to 1989 should have a Century Sports logo on the butt area of the jersey, like this Tom Roulston tarp below.

Having your company logo travel to all the NHL barns is a pretty cool feather in the cap, especially for a little sports shop based out of Canonsburg, PA.

century sports

minnesota north stars

Minnesota have had a couple of different on-ice customizers for their hockey jerseys; Steichen’s, a Minnesota company, proudly gussied up the North Stars sweaters from 1984 until 1988. They went out of business in 2012, so you won’t be able to recruit them to help you replicate a mid-80s North Stars gamer.


After Steichen’s, they had a company called Team Choice do the on-ice stitching, and their logo appeared on the back hem for only one season. A little late to the game, but they got to have their name featured on the jersey of one of the greatest American hockey players of all time; Mike Modano, during his rookie season.


Fun fact: for Modano’s first few games in the NHL, he wore number 39!


new jersey devils

Former pro goalie and sports apparel legend Gerry Cosby started a sporting goods company in 1938 with its headquarters in Madison Square Garden. He did the on-ice customisation for both the Rangers and the Devils, but the Cosby logo only ever appeared on the back of the Devils uniforms from 1982 to 1987.


If you’re a collector of pro jerseys you’ve probably seen the odd classic NHL jersey with no customization show up on eBay with a screened Cosby logo on the hem. Apparently the jerseys Cosby sold in store all got branded with their logo for a period of time. Which sucks for you the collector, because now you have to figure out how to get it off if it’s not a 82-87 Devils.


The Devils moved to Custom Crafted for their jersey customization needs in 1988, so their logo appears on late 80s Devils shirts.

new jersey devils jersey ads

st. louis blues

The St. Louis Blues were the first NHL team to use Custom Crafted jersey customization. That relationship started in 1987, the very same year that Brett Hull made his St. Louis Blues debut. So, look for the Custom Crafted logo on your first-year-in-the-Lou Hull jersey.

And while you’re at it, try saying “St. Louis Blues debut” five times fast.

st. louis blues custom crafted jersey ad jersey advertisement

Gloves dropped! Chaos everywhere!

new york islanders

From 1985 until 1990, the New York Islanders’ game jerseys were decorated by Syosset Sports, based out of Long Island. So, that’s one way to know for sure that you DON’T have an Isles sweater that was worn on the ice for one of their four Stanley Cup championships. Missing those years, I bet you feel a little like Pat Lafontaine ‘bout now. By the time Syosset started putting their logo on the back hem of the Islanders jerseys, the Oilers dynasty had already begun. 

Billy Smith did wear their sticker on his helmet for some of those cups so they got that free advertising.

new york islanders jersey advertisement

boston bruins

The Bs have a long relationship with Custom Crafted. That company’s logo first appeared on Boston jerseys in 1987 and they still do up Bruins jerseys to this day. In 1990, the NHL cracked down on jersey advertising, but Custom Crafted got, well… crafty. They found a loophole in the NHL rule that allowed them to continue putting their logo on the back of the Bruins jerseys as long as it was the same colour as the jersey material.

Sneaky, sneaky!


detroit red wings

Between 1985 to 1988, you’ll find Eastside on the hem of Red Wings jerseys. They did the gamers before and after those years, but jumped on the free advertising train like all the others. They’re still in business, using the same logo you’ll find on the inside neckline of your Yzerman and Fedorov gamers. 

They currently provide their customizing services to the Detroit Lions, but from their website, it’s unclear if they still do the Red Wings.

detroit red wings jersey ad

jersey ads can be fun!

A lot of people were sceptical of jersey ads, and I can’t blame them. Hockey jerseys are wearable pieces of art, and nobody wants to ruin them, especially not a jersey maker like me. But, these ads can also be cool easter eggs that add to the jerseys, like these customizer ads from the 1980s. So, while NHL teams spend good long stretches wearing the same jersey, the ads can actually give each season’s jersey a bit of a time stamp.

So, we’ve seen jersey ads before, and now we’re seeing them again. I don’t know what the future of on-uniform advertising holds, but I’m not scared of it. Jersey makers and collectors just gotta roll with the punches.

If you enjoyed this deep-dive on jersey ads, why not subscribe to the 4 Shots with Keener newsletter. I’ve got lots to say about hockey jerseys and hockey culture, and I say most of it in this newsletter, delivered to your email every Friday. So, subscribe below so you don’t miss next week’s controversial edition.

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A Little about Keener

Who is Keener?

Chris “Keener” Dougherty started customizing jerseys when he was 11. Over the next 20 years, Keener honed his craft to become a world-class customizer and leading expert on premium jersey customization.

Keener’s experience, attention to detail and ‘keen’ eye are what sets him apart! We hope you enjoy Keener’s jersey-related nuggets and insights as much as we do here at Keener Jerseys.

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