Since the start of his NHL career, Alex Ovechkin has been a CCM guy. Helmet, gloves, skates and sticks, always the newest the company had to offer, adorned Washington’s #8 to great success. With a few brief diversions to other companies’ sticks, Alex has been a loyal sponsor of The Hockey Company.
Owned by British shoemaker Reebok since 2004, CCM is now in Ovi’s rearview mirror. Reports indicate Ovechkin has signed on as a sponsor with rival Nike, who was formerly partnered with Bauer Hockey and who now needs to find (or develop) gear for the hockey side of the Nike brand.
So what are Nike’s options? Here are the prominent hockey equipment manufacturers (goalie gear excluded) in the game today:
So, would Nike partner with a prominent existing manufacturer to re-establish its hockey image or go it alone?
Obviously rival shoemaker Reebok and partner CCM are out. Dealing with New Balance-owned Warrior would also put Nike in a relationship with a rival and is thus out of the picture as well.
Easton (or Easton Bell Sports) manufactures hockey, lacrosse, baseball, archery and biking gear as well as bicycle helmets (under the Bell name) and football equipment (as Riddell). They are a privately owned company and an intriguing option, if Nike wants to dump a ton of dough into such a company.
Then there is former partner Bauer. The two parted ways in 2008 but their former working relationship could mean Ovechkin will be sporting Bauer-logo’d gear this coming season.
But this is Nike we’re talking about. Unless the Swoosh adorns whatever gear Ovi is wearing, there is no reason to have him as a sponsor (unless your goal is to sell trendy clothing). Bauer’s parent company, Canstar, was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nike during their partnership days. Now that that Nike has no business relationship with Canstar, one can assume Bauer wouldn’t allow Nike logos on their gear without decent compensation. Then again, Steven Stamkos is a Nike athlete and uses Bauer gear.
This leaves us with Nike its self. With Ovechkin and Stamkos both under contract with the shoe giant, Nike now has the incentive to dive back into the hockey market on its own. During its first foray onto the ice, the brand was heavy on style but lacked in technology and performance (and weighed several tons). Now, with the experience gleaned in its days working with Bauer, the sports equipment manufacturer could be ready to step up with its own, new, technologically-relevant line of gear.
And who better to announce ‘we’re back’ than a flamboyant Russian winger? It worked the first time.