In the first edition of our monthly NHL column, we look at concerns around gambling endorsements in ice hockey
The advert begins in a small hockey arena. Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid sticks around after practice to take multiple shots on a nameless goaltender. Every shot finds the back of the net, naturally. Behind the glass nearby, hockey great Wayne Gretzky approaches a man who tells him, “Connor’s just finishing up, he’s going to be pumped you’re here.” No rush, Gretzky replies, glancing down at his phone, and seeing the New York Knicks have just taken the lead in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers. “Come on!” Gretzky shouts in frustration, throwing McDavid off. “Trying to practice here, Wayne,” McDavid tells him. “You need it,” Gretzky replies.
Two of the biggest ever stars of ice hockey are together to promote what’s on that little screen: BETMGM, one of the latest in a plethora of sports betting sites that have, since the US and Canadian governments opened the door to single-game betting, flooded NHL broadcasts with advertising – relying on big names to do it. McDavid and Gretzky aren’t alone. Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews has his own spot, for Bet99.net, a Canadian sportsbook. They are inescapable, relentless, and for many, extremely annoying. “These gambling ads are out of hand,” one Reddit user posted in October. “We’re not even finished the first period of the Leafs game and there have already been around 10 DraftKings ads. This is ridiculous.”