Sports Fans Beware: Counterfeit NHL Merchandise on the Rise During 2024 Stanley Cup Final

June 13, 2024

WASHINGTON— With the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers competing in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) and the National Hockey League (NHL) are reminding sports fans to be wary of counterfeit sports-related merchandise and apparel during the championship series. Large sporting events, such as the Stanley Cup Final, are prime targets for increasingly savvy criminals who often set up sophisticated fake websites or e-commerce marketplace storefronts with the sole intent of scamming sports fans.

“During high profile sporting events such as the Stanley Cup, criminal groups attempt to take advantage of fan enthusiasm by passing off fake merchandise as real,” said acting IPR Center Director Michael Ball. “Counterfeiting is not a victimless crime. These bad actors rob unsuspecting consumers of their hard-earned money and also harm small businesses, legitimate manufacturers and trademark holders.”

Law enforcement authorities from the IPR Center and other federal, state and local partners continue to team up with the private sector to identify online marketplaces, flea markets, retail outlets, pop-up shops and street vendors engaged in the selling of counterfeit goods.

“The NHL is extremely grateful for the assistance of the IPR Center, HSI, CBP and their law enforcement partners in protecting hockey fans from being tricked by con artists and counterfeiters, particularly during the Stanley Cup Final,” said Tom Prochnow, senior vice president of the NHL’s legal division.

Between February 2023 and February 2024, more than 94,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $28.1 million were seized during Operation Team Player, a year-round effort developed by the IPR Center to crack down on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports-branded merchandise.

Here are a few tips for sports fans to keep in mind when making purchases:

  • Shop only at trustworthy retail locations, such as the official team stores, rather than buying items from street vendors, flea markets, online auctions or other questionable sources.
  • When purchasing merchandise online, be aware that criminals often use legitimate product photos on their websites despite selling fraudulent products. Consumers are advised not to buy expensive items from untrustworthy websites.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. While some counterfeiters may attract fans with a low-price tag or a 2-for-1 deal, just as many try to legitimize their merchandise with a higher price point.
  • Look out for ripped tags, poor quality, sloppy stitching and irregular markings on apparel.
  • Check statements — keep a record of purchases and copies of confirmation pages to compare against bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.

The IPR Center’s message to consumers is simple: Purchase from reputable dealers, be cautious when shopping online and use common sense. If a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is, and is likely to either be a rip-off or even a threat to personal and public safety. Purchasing authorized merchandise guarantees the quality and life of that souvenir, while also providing a reputable source for concerns, returns and exchanges.

For more than two decades, the IPR Center has led the government's actions that combat global intellectual property theft and enforce trade laws. Comprising federal agencies, international law enforcement, academia and private sector partners, the IPR Center develops initiatives, coordinates enforcement actions and shares information related to intellectual property theft and trade fraud. The center was established to address the theft of innovation that threatens economic stability and places the public’s health and safety at risk.