Got a great deal on that Blackhawks jersey? Be careful, it might be a fake.
NHL officials say a glut of unlicensed merchandise traditionally hits the streets when the playoffs roll around, so league honchos are teaming up with law enforcement to crack down.
"All products need to be licensed by the Blackhawks or the NHL to make sure there's a level of quality," says Tom Prochnow, the NHL's VP of legal and business affairs. "It's not the t-shirt that falls apart when you throw in the washing machine, you have to remember that there's secondary effects. These individuals don't pay taxes, and the merchandise is often created by criminal syndicates that sell drugs and other illegal items, not to mention it hurts mom and pop shops that sell legitimate items."
Prochnow says a number of items were seized along Madison Street after Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, belonging to a crew from California that drove to Chicago with a shipment of fake merchandise.
Figures aren't yet available for this year's playoffs, but Prochnow says in 2010, during the playoffs and Stanley Cup victory parade, 3,300 counterfeit items were confiscated with a street value of $431,000.
"The No. 1 thing to look for with legitimate merchandise is the hologram sticker or hang-tag. When you turn it, it flips between the NHL and NLH shield," Crochnow said.
Crochnow says a number of stores selling counterfeit merchandise are also starting to pop up on the Internet, many based in China.
"Buy from someone you trust, outlets that you already know, brick and mortar stores and official online outlets," Crochnow says. "Stay away from the guy with the duffel bag."