Buh-bye.

After reading a column on the website Ad Age (via Hockey Gear HQ), the obvious hit me: the NHL’s take of sponsorship dollars hardly comes during the early part of the schedule, which means there was never much incentive for them to save the early part of the season, at least not from a “corporate dollars” standpoint.

Obviously missing the Winter Classic will cause a large financial hit for the league, but the rest of the major events – the All-Star Game, the playoffs, and specifically the Stanley Cup Final – could still move ahead as they normally would, meaning the NHL could still collect most of the big cheques they plan on getting every year. Even the majority of NBC’s NHL coverage doesn’t get going until January.

Hockey Gear HQ clipped some quotes from article that I thought were valuable:

For big NHL official corporate sponsors, which include Molson, Coors Light, Gatorade, Verizon and Geico, the damage so far has probably been minimal, said Jim Andrews, VP-content strategy for IEG, a sponsorship, research and consulting firm owned by WPP. “The early part of the season is not typically where they concentrate their promotional and their activation activities,” he said. “For a lot of them, it becomes a much more critical situation the longer the lockout goes.”

Again, that’s a point worth noting.

For big companies like that, what do they care about the first 30 games of the NHL season? There’s no marquee event, viewership hasn’t even started to reach their peak numbers, and things are just getting going. The NHL gets the big sponsor bucks farther down the road.

This stuff really leads me to believe that as we move closer to losing important games, the NHL will be more desperate. Man, I just keep getting more hopeful.

There are, however, a few companies that do feel the pinch. Bauer, Easton, Warrior and the like – hockey equipment companies – make their money at the start of the season, at the grassroots levels. Actually hockey players, kids (parents), buying gear.

The article continues:

But for a company like Bauer, which targets young hockey players, the early part of the season is more critical because that’s when consumers start buying gear. “It’s a much bigger loss,” Mr. Andrews said.

Because of the lockout, Bauer has withheld digital ad buys on NHL.com and NBCSports.com. Also in doubt is a regional TV ad buy originally slated to air during the Winter Classic in several big hockey markets such as Toronto, Chicago and Boston.

While those companies have had to divert their ad dollars to places like local arenas (which is I think is pretty cool), others have advertising budgets, and have to figure out where to allocate those dollars. Just another reason I’m encouraged the NHL will end the lockout soon. The silence, combined with pressures from fans and companies alike, have to be pushing the NHL to get a deal done soon.