The 2023 Winter Classic at Fenway Park set merchandise sales records for an NHL outdoor game, according to the league.
Game-day concession merchandise sales for the Jan. 2 matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins were the highest ever recorded for an outdoor event. They rose 61% from the 2022 Winter Classic between the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Those records extended to online retail as well. The NHL said its e-commerce sales, at its U.S. and Canadian online stores as well as across the Fanatics network of sites, were the highest for a Winter Classic game and up 200% from the 2022 edition.
According to Jim Haskins, NHL senior vice president of consumer products licensing, "all the stars sort of aligned" for the Fenway Park Winter Classic.
"We had amazing jerseys designed by Adidas. Some of the best design work we'd done around these games. We had a first-place team in the Boston Bruins, so the energy levels on that marketplace are super high. We had a team in the Pittsburgh Penguins that has an incredible national following and their fans travel well," he said.
Haskins said the fact that the game-time temperature was above 50 degrees Fahrenheit also helped.
"On-site, it wasn't the coldest Winter Classic but it made for a good fan experience. It allowed you to go and do the things you wanted to do instead of feeling like you're huddled under a blanket," he said.
Haskins felt that the jerseys' unique designs helped sales. The Penguins wore sweaters with a large yellow "P" on the front, a departure from previous designs and a reference to the Pittsburgh Pirates, an NHL team that predated the Penguins in the city.
The Bruins' jerseys marked the first time their outdoor game sweaters had only the city name and not the team's nickname, too. But Haskins said it was the logo underneath "Boston" that really drove interest.
"That 1976 eccentric bear ... their fans just have a love affair with that bear. You see it in all the comments online. And of course, they have a lot of nicknames for it," said Haskins, referring to the logo that Boston fans have affectionately monikered the "Meth Bear."
Haskins said the planning is already underway for the 2024 Winter Classic in Seattle between the Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights.
"We'll go into the marketplace. We'll do sort of an audit of visuals and DNA inspirations. We'll sit with both the teams, and certainly even some fan kind of focus groups, to begin to create the design work not only for the uniforms but for the décor that we're going to bring," he said.
But the next NHL merch reveal will be for the All-Star Game next month in Sunrise, Florida. The jerseys for that event are expected to be inspired by the Adidas "Reverse Retro" jersey line that teams have worn this season.