The NHL needs revenue and CBD companies want to sponsor professional sports. How long until we see an NHL-CBD sponsorship deal?

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What a day: Trump Impeached Again and the NHL opened its pandemic-delayed season with a slate of 5 games – played to empty arenas. This comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that the league expects financial losses due to Covid to be in the billions of dollars:

The magnitude of the loss when you add it all up starts with a ‘B.’ We’re out of the ‘M’ range and into the ‘B’ range. That’s just what we have to deal with and that’s what the clubs have decided they’re prepared to do.

To close the revenue gap the NHL has given in to something hockey purists have long fought against – allowing sponsorships on helmets and even toying with the idea of allowing corporate logos on player uniforms.

There is, however, another idea that would generate instant revenue: allow CBD companies to sponsor the game. We even have a North American professional hockey league precedent to look to: The National Women’s Hockey League and their deal with VEDA, AG Health’s Endocannabinoid nutrition brand. VEDA sponsors the Player of the Week Award, makes its CBD products available to the NWHL’s athletes, and the league’s players receive a 50 % split of the revenue of the sponsorship in addition to their existing salaries.

Aside from revenue raising, it seems the players would also be on board because of CBD’s health benefits. For instance, the NHL Alumni Association has teamed up with NEEKA Health Canada to see if CBD-based therapies can reduce the severity of post-concussion brain disorders in former NHL players. Association president Glenn Healey explains:

NHL alumni gave everything they had during their careers, but the physical consequences after they hang up their skates can be devastating for both players and their loved ones for the rest of their lives. This study offers alumni the promise of help and hope, and we are excited to participate in what could become a true game changer.

And Edmonton Oiler Captain Connor McDavid (above), voted the leagues top player the last 4 years in a row, has spoken favorably of CBD:

I say this more talking about the CBD side of it, obviously: You’d be stupid to at least not look into it. You don’t want to be taking pain stuff and taking Advil all the time… You’re seeing a lot of really smart doctors look into it. If all the boxes are checked and it’s safe and everything, then I think you would maybe want to hear them out.

With the coming change of government in Washington the remaining trick to it all, according to the sports business website Sportico, is the league’s collective bargaining agreement:

 [The leagues] will still need to make modifications to their respective collective bargaining agreements, because if [the substance] is prohibited for player use you’re not going to see the leagues trying to monetize it.

That seems easy enough to do in the NHL as cannabinoids aren’t prohibited as performance enhancing drugs and players aren’t disciplined for recreational use. They are, however, tested for them – think THC here – and if the player is thought to have a substance abuse problem he can be referred for treatment. That treatment clause is found in the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health portion of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and the fix seems straightforward: since CBD is nonpsychoactive and nonaddictive, simply amend the SABH to explicitly exclude CBD and voila, you’re home free.

As you should be. Former NFL star Kyle Turley, who has his own CBD company, says the marriage between cannabis and athletics will only get stronger in the years ahead, particularly once advertising restrictions are loosened. As he wisely observes:

Look at how big sports have made the alcohol industry. And now you’re talking about something that helps people, and doesn’t hurt people? C’mon.

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