CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- National Hockey League players aren't allowed to endorse or sell alcoholic beverages, but the NHL is now putting its signature shield logo on small production Napa Valley wines.
To promote its Jan. 1 outdoor Winter Classic game in Chicago, the league has partnered with Miner Family Vineyards, an upscale Napa winery, to produce a limited-edition red wine as a keepsake for the game. Bottles were spotted on shelves in Chicago liquor stores for about $30 a bottle. The proceeds will go to charity.
On its face, hockey wine seems a bit like opera beer. After all, watching a player pull his opponent's jersey over his head so he can throttle him blindly doesn't exactly seem like a Merlot-sipping occasion. But the league's VP-consumer products marketing, Jim Haskins, said the league's fan base is more of a wine-drinking crowd than the sport's blue-collar stereotype suggests.
"While certainly there is a blue-collar following in many cities, on the whole it's a very high-end demo," he said. He added that the league boasts one of the top median-household incomes among major sports, in part because the scarcity of ice time in many cities makes it expensive to play.
The Winter Classic bottling is actually the latest in a series of NHL-licensed wines from Miner, which has also released bottles for the league's All Star Game and to commemorate retirements of star players. The winery's owner, Dave Miner, is a huge hockey fan, Mr. Haskins said. He was hooked up with the league by San Jose-based wine retailer Bert George, a season-ticket holder of the league's San Jose Sharks.
Miner has produced 220 cases of the Winter Classic wine, slightly less than half of which wound up in Chicago. The balance went to individual teams and to Mr. George's shop. Proceeds of the NHL bottlings go to the nonprofit Hockey Fights Cancer, and other local charities.
The NHL has done some specialized packaging with its beer sponsor, Anheuser-Busch, most notably on its Bud Ice brand, but those efforts have tended to be "on a broader scale," Mr. Haskins said. "This is a very premier platform, a very small lot of wine," he said. "Wine does lend a luxury element."
The full lineup of NHL wines can be viewed at: http://www.josephgeorge.com/winesNHL.html