eBay has had a strange effect on NHL throwback jerseys.
“WE WANT FISHSTICKS!”
…It’s a chant that every New York Islanders fan would like to forget. Started by New York Rangers fans, it was a reference to the Islanders new “fisherman” logo that made its debut in the 1995 NHL season, and had a striking resemblance to the Gorton’s Fisherman. The jerseys would last two seasons, with a modified version featuring the Islanders original logo rotating in throughout the 1996-97 season. The fisherman would officially be retired before the 1997-98 season. The modified version would last one more season before being replaced with a navy blue version of the Islanders original uniforms.
The Islanders decision to ditch their original uniforms, the ones that saw them win four straight Stanley Cups during the early 1980s, is regarded as one of the biggest uniform blunders in the history of sports.
The uniforms were supposed to welcome in a new era for the team and instead Islanders fans rejected them and opposing fans made fun of them.
If you would like a sense of the optimism surrounding the Islanders re-brand in 1995, take a look at this video from when the jerseys first made their debut, complete with terrible Flight Simulator ’95 graphics, and a reference to a new “state of the art arena” that was coming in five years for the Islanders:
Still, the Islanders fisherman jersey now has somewhat of a cult following. Over the past few years, the jersey has sold for hundreds on eBay, as fans want to add one of the most infamous jerseys to their collection. People were willing to pay more for a jersey that the Islanders were trying to forget even existed.
That will no longer be the case this season. A few weeks ago, the Islanders announced that during warmups for a game that remains to be determined, the Islanders will wear the fisherman jersey once again. They will then be auctioned off for charity. Meanwhile, fisherman branded gear is already for sale in the Islanders team shop.
It took nearly 20 years, but the Islanders marketing department has finally realized that the infamous fisherman jersey actually has a cult following. The only problem is: the jersey is popular not because it is good, but because it is a rarity. Now that the Islanders are selling official merchandise, the fisherman logo will no longer be a rarity and people will not be spending $300+ on eBay.
This isn’t the first time that a team has re-issued an item that is popular with fans and collectors but is no longer offered officially through the team. The New Jersey Devils were one of the few teams to avoid the third jersey trend that took over in the late-90’s and continues today. Even Original Six teams like the Rangers and the Bruins jumped on board. Still the Devils held out. Meanwhile, fans and collectors were willing to pay un-official (aka knockoff) vendors to produce replicas of the Devils “Christmas Tree” jerseys that they wore from 1982-92. Since jerseys weren’t as common in the 80’s and early-90’s, there weren’t many official jerseys to purchase off eBay (as was the case with the Islanders fisherman jersey), so instead people learned how to produce their own – and of course charge full price.
Flash forward to the 2009-10 season, and the Devils announce that on St. Patrick’s Day they will be wearing their original red and green jerseys. In addition, CCM produced a vintage replica that is still available for fans to purchase. Like the Islanders, the Devils realized they were missing out on profits from merchandise, and were willing to bend their “no third jersey” rule a little.
Last season, the Anaheim Ducks did a special throwback night in honor of the team’s 20th season. On that night they once again wore their Mighty Ducks uniforms that 90’s hockey fans miss dearly. While the 20th anniversary is a good reason to bring out the original jerseys, up until that point the Ducks were trying to distance themselves as much as possible from the Mighty Ducks years. They had relented a little by allowing the original logo to appear as a shoulder patch on their new third jersey in 2010, but eBay was the only place you could find the Mighty Ducks jersey. Now you can buy them at the Ducks team shop.
The Arizona Coyotes plan to wear their original uniforms for a throwback game this season and will likely sell vintage themed merchandise; another eBay hot-seller bites the dust.
eBay has had a profound effect on NHL marketing and uniforms. To think any NHL team’s marketing department is not aware of what some of these uniforms sell for is naive. It is the main reason why we are seeing the fisherman jersey make a return in 2014 (unless you buy into the “to honor Nassau Coliseum” bit). Team merchandise is a major source of revenue for NHL teams; they do not want to lose out on potential buyers to some guy selling his old stuff online.
I’m still holding out hope to one day own the Anaheim Mighty Ducks infamous “Wild Wing” jersey, but good luck finding one under $400… that is until the Ducks decide to re-issue it for one night. It’s great to see some of these older, hard to get items make a reappearance and be readily available to purchase, but at the same time it takes some of the fun out of collecting. Half the allure of the Islanders fisherman jersey was trying to find one for a fair price on eBay.
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