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NHL sells naming rights for 2020-21 divisions

The league gets creative when trying to lessen financial losses from last season.
This year's hockey divisions will have sponsors, a way of reducing the financial blow that the league took last season as a result of the pandemic.
This year's hockey divisions will have sponsors, a way of reducing the financial blow that the league took last season as a result of the pandemic. [ NHL Public Relations ]
Published Jan. 5
Updated Jan. 5

BRANDON —The pandemic has made one thing clear in the sports world: almost everything since play resumed has become about the bottom line.

The NHL announced sponsors for all four divisions Tuesday. The unprecedented move for North American pro sports leagues is a way to recover lost funds from a shortened season and lack of fans, and the league has to get creative this year.

Sponsorships in professional sports aren’t new. Soccer teams have long placed ads on uniforms, and in recent years, the NBA put sponsor logos on their jerseys. In some European hockey leagues, players look like walking billboards.

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The fact that the NHL has to go so far to sell off division naming rights underscores how big of a financial hit teams endured. The Central Division, which the Lightning will play in this year, will be sponsored by Discover.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reported that internal heads view the division naming rights as a one-year deal.

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But this move easily could turn into a permanent one, not just for the NHL but other professional sports teams. Could we see the Dunkin’ Donuts American League East, next? How about the Publix NFC South?

In addition to division sponsors, each team will have helmet ad sponsors, which the Lightning have yet to announce. Through the ads, the league could raise $15 million, TSN reported.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.