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Blackhawks fans: it’s time to ditch the knockoff sweater

Enough is enough.

St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Six Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I’ve had this same conversation at least a dozen times.

“Hey man, do you want to go in on some cheap Hawks jerseys with me? They come from somewhere in Asia, so they’re really cheap, and if you buy 5 or 6 together it helps save on the high shipping cost.”

“Are they legit?”

“Of course they are. They’ve got the fight straps and everything!”

I’ve usually walked away by that point.

There is a plague among us, Blackhawks fans, and with a few months of downtime before next season, it’s time we address it.

We need to stop buying and wearing counterfeit jerseys.

(Sidenote: I know segments of hockey fandom demand you call them “sweaters.” I use “jerseys” and “sweaters” interchangeably. Some people would die on this hill. I would not.)

The Hawks uniforms are among the best, if not the best, in the NHL. The Internet does not dispute that, either. Just check or here or here or here. Chicago is always near the top of rankings of league uniforms.

But within the last decade, I’ve started seeing things wrong with the sweaters around the United Center concourse. The chest and shoulder logos started looking weird. The numbers on the sleeves and on the back seemed off to me. And the shade of red that’s supposed to adorn the jersey didn’t match what I was seeing on the ice. And now? These damn things are everywhere. Like, say, the person wearing the Jonathan Toews jersey in the photo atop this article. Or this guy:

This is not a shaming of new fans, either. I’ve seen plenty of longtime Hawks fans fall victim to this facade. It’s an inferior product. It’s a cheap knockoff of a sweater that deserves to be worn proudly when it’s properly made. These counterfeit items detract from the excellence that is the Blackhawks sweater.

I’m guilty of it as well.

In 2010, I bought a Toews’ Winter Classic jersey on eBay, thinking it was legit. I even wore it for a year or two. But after much deliberation, it was banished to the back of the closet and I’ll never wear it again. I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve changed my ways. And now I’m asking you to join me.

Also, buying these from overseas companies affects the Hawks in another way. When you don’t buy league-licensed products, the money doesn’t go into the pool of hockey-related revenue (HRR). And it’s a percentage of that HRR that forms the league’s salary cap, which, as we well know, hasn’t risen like it should’ve in the past. So, yeah, wear that knockoff jersey. If you’d like everyone to know that you’re part of the reason that Teuvo Teravainen was shipped to Carolina.

‘But they’re so expensive,’ you say.

And I agree with you. Hockey sweaters aren’t cheap. A good replica will probably run you in the $150-$175 range these days, with authentic ones checking in around $300. But these are high-quality products. Hockey sweaters last longer than any other pro sports jersey you can buy. The Tuomo Ruutu one bought from HawkQuarters in 2005 is still in great shape.

Keep an eye out for sales. Last season, the United Center was selling road whites at a huge discount. And the Blackhawks’ official website actually has some pretty good deals as I type this. The Lids’ website (yeah, Lids) was selling jerseys for under $100 a few summers ago. There are discounts to be had, if you’re patient.

But what if neither of these solutions work for you? What if you don’t want to commit the cardinal sin of buying a knockoff jersey, don’t have the money for a legit one, but still want to show your support for your favorite Hawks player? There’s one perfect remedy for this problem.

Solution: the shirsey

It’s typically referred to as a T-shirt jersey, but I’ve always liked the alternate name of “shirsey.” You’ve seen these around, I promise: a plain T-shirt in team colors, team logo on the front, player name and number on the back. An easy way to flaunt your fandom without breaking the bank. The majority of these are in the $25-$30 range, and full customization options are out there, if that’s your desire. And you’ll have the added bonus of finding an upside down logo when it arrives in the mail.

You’ve got two months til training camp starts, Hawks fans. Start purging your wardrobes of these sports atrocities. Some tips are included below to help you get started.