NHL putting game-worn jerseys up for sale

Posted: Tuesday, October 08, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) -- The NHL wants to give fans the shirt off a player's back -- for a price.

The league and The MeiGray Group, a distributor of game-worn hockey jerseys, said Monday they reached a multiyear agreement to sell jerseys worn during games this season.

It's the first time a major pro sports league has done it. And the NHL plans to turn a profit.

Fans can buy the shirts on the Internet or by telephone, with prices ranging from $250 for lesser-known players to $12,500 for one of 12 jerseys used by New York Rangers captain Mark Messier.

Patrick Roy's jersey will cost $7,500, Jaromir Jagr's $6,000, and Pavel Bure's $5,000.

Fans of Mario Lemieux shouldn't bother logging on or calling -- the Pittsburgh Penguins are among the nine of the NHL's 30 teams that opted not to participate in the new program.

The Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and Eastern Conference champion Carolina Hurricanes also declined to take part this year.

''You go to any hockey game and the arena is a sea of team jerseys,'' said Brian Jennings, the NHL group vice president for consumer products marketing. ''Now imagine not only owning a team jersey, but an authentic jersey actually worn by the likes of Mark Messier, Paul Kariya or Joe Sakic.''

Not since ''Mean Joe'' Greene threw his Pittsburgh Steelers jersey to a soda-sharing kid in a TV ad have game uniforms been this accessible. Unlike the dirt-stained shirt in that commercial, these jerseys will be cleaned before they're sold to the public.

The coded, tagged and security-numbered jerseys will go directly from the ice to purchasers. A system has been devised to identify where, when and by whom every jersey was worn.

''The collecting of game-worn hockey jerseys has become one of the sports memorabilia industry's most popular pursuits,'' said Barry Meisel, MeiGray Group president and chief operating officer.

Les Wolff, a New York sports memorabilia appraiser and seller, says it's a good idea for both the NHL and collectors because this partnership will cut out questions about authenticity.

Reselling the items wouldn't be easy, Wolff said, since the jerseys already will be publicly sold at full retail value. But there are factors that could change that.

''Messier is a good example, because all his stuff is gold,'' Wolff said. ''He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. If he has a great year this year, they'll go up even more.''

Gerry Cosby and Co., a sporting goods store located just outside Madison Square Garden, sells replica jerseys with name and number sewn on for $295. Now buying a real one worn by Toronto's Aaron Gavey or Colorado's Bryan Muir will be $45 cheaper.

The participating teams are Anaheim, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Montreal, Nashville, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington.

The teams will wear one set of home and road jerseys in the preseason, two sets of home and road jerseys in the regular season, and one set of home and road jerseys late in the regular season and into the playoffs. Teams that use a third jersey will wear two sets in the regular season.

Special sets also will be worn for the Nov. 2 Hall of Fame game in Toronto between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs, and on opening night in Los Angeles when the Kings retire Wayne Gretzky's No. 99.


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