History of Rink Board Advertising

What does the history of rink boards look like?

For anyone who has watched NHL games in the 80’s and 90’s the boards are plain white. Perhaps an odd thing to see when compared to current times when the boards, ice, and uniforms are all adorned with ads.

So when did advertising on boards first start?

According to the Hockey Writers ads first appeared in the 1978-78 season – when NHL teams were allowed to sell board advertisements for a whopping $3,000 a space. This trend quickly caught on to the rest of the league by the end of the decade.

As is usually the trend – once the NHL started using the board ads other leagues and rinks followed-suit. Community rinks started looking at selling board space as an additional source of revenue – and you probably know the local businesses that appear on your local rink boards!

Funny enough there we’re some odd instances of pushing back against the introduction of board ads. Some teams did not start advertising this way until later in the 1980’s – while certain broadcasters worked to not include board ads in their television broadcasts.

For example, in 1980 CBS televised a New York Rangers game and refused to show the rink board ads during the broadcast. Whenever players skated near the Madison Square Garden ads the cameras made sure to focus on the players skates, or other parts of the game. Supposedly CBS and other broadcasters wanted a piece of the revenue generated by the board advertising.

Obviously since the 1980’s advertising on boards has become more common practice – and likewise the costs of those ads has increased.

Since their original use in the 1980’s the cost of board advertising in the NHL has soared to a reported $600,000 back in 2008 – referenced in this Toronto Star article

This is in addition to the fact that the NHL ordered rink-board ads reduced in width from 3.6 metres to 3.2 metres to accommodate more ads in the rinks.

There are also various rules to help improve the aesthetic. About a decade ago, the league created new standards to require board ads have white backgrounds – to ensure a bit of uniformity on the appearance of all the ads.

Certainly advertising in the NHL has taken more steps beyond just board ads to include things like ice advertising, uniform advertising, and other digital forms of marketing – however I think it’s safe to say that rink board advertising has become an effective form of marketing.