Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

April 1, 2016 — The FIH seeks a new identity

In a major move that could see a new era in world hockey, a select meeting of International Hockey Federation (FIH) executives in Belgium is expected to result in the shopping around of corporate naming rights for the game, has learned.

“The game of hockey has had an identity crisis for more than 100 years,” said FIH board member emeritus Hadley Ufult. “North America has termed ice hockey as ‘hockey’ since pretty much 1917, when the NHL started operations. And when Constance Applebee organized the original Field Hockey Association of America, that made ‘field hockey’ the normative term in the U.S. and Canada.

“We’ve had to explain to sponsors that we aren’t the brawling sport played on a frozen pond for too long. We know what FIFA feels like whenever the terms National Football League and Canadian Football League results in mass confusion. Football is played with the foot. End of story.”

FIH has noted that a number of games played around the world have the word “hockey” in them: roller hockey, hard hockey, street hockey, sled hockey, rink hockey, and a 3-on-3 court game called Dekhockey, named for the Dek Company, which outfits many teams and makes plastic decking lined for the game.

The FIH select committee is looking to replicate the Dekhockey marketing strategy. The worldwide revenue stream, according to Ufult, could amount to more than $200 million a year.

“It’s about time to leverage the fact that we’re the No. 3 team sport in the world, if you go by the number of countries that have the sport,” he said. “And the suitors are lining up.”

According to numerous sources, there are three major contenders to land worldwide hockey naming rights. One is the Ralph Lauren Polo brand, which would be the launch point for a line of athletic wear called Polo Flair. The designs, has learned, bring back collars and sleeves for the jerseys and slim stylish designs for the men’s shorts and women’s kilts. The game would be renamed Polo Hockey, an appropriate name for the sport because, like field hockey, polo is only played right-handed.

The second contender for naming rights is Red Bull AG, the energy drinks company. The effects would be immediate as every artificial pitch playing Red Bull Hockey would be painted blue and silver, every hockey stick would be red, and the ball would be painted yellow, all to match the logo. Red Bull advertising would be all over international stadium infrastructure, Red Bull would be served instead of beer at every international match, and each and every team would be required to use the phrase Red Bull in their club name.

“That might take some getting used to,” said Cait Duvall, the head Red Bull Hockey coach at Parkton Hereford (Md.), whose team nickname would likely be rebadged Hereford Red Bulls. “But what will you do about other animals? I know the lions, tigers, and bears wouldn’t be appreciative of becoming a bovine species. Plus we just spent money on our artificial football field which we use. Are we supposed to paint that pitch blue and silver, too?”

Finally, it was learned that real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has expressed an interest in rebadging the sport. It would not be his first foray into sports, as he bought an interest in a United States Football League team 30 years ago.

Trump has put his name on steaks, on buildings, on beauty pageants, and on casinos. But rebadging a worldwide athletic competition?

“There’s a problem, though, with the Trump effort,” said one FIH member president. “Instead of calling the sport ‘Trump Hockey,’ he wants to simply call the sport ‘Trump.’ That’s not going to fly at all. I mean, are you going to call up your friends and try out for your local ‘Trump’ team at your local high school every fall? What people are going to associate with that is a deck of cards.”

The marketing meeting is expected to lead into a long comment period, which will culminate in a final vote scheduled for April 1, 2017.


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