Shop NHL already has Pens, Wings Cup champs gear on sale

Please recall last year when the Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup champions gear was released before the Wings actually captured the 2008 Cup in Game 6. Well, some intrepid fans have discovered that 2009 Stanley Cup champions gear for the Red Wings is already posted to Shop NHL and can be added to one's shopping cart with no problems.

As of 1:50 p.m. EST, the Wings locker room shirts ($21.99) and official hats ($27.99) had active URLs on Shop NHL (thanks to Dan Tencer's Twitter, where we saw it first). If the links go dead, here's a screen shot.

Now, before the tin-foil hat society starts claiming grand Game 7 conspiracies, know this: The Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup champions shirts and hats were also available this afternoon, too.

Here's the thing: If you try searching for specific terms within the items, nothing comes up; these are Web pages pre-built to go live when either the Wings or Penguins win the Cup on Friday night. Teams do this with draft picks and free-agent signings, too.

So we're thinking someone played the URL game and hit the jackpot. You know, the game in which you take the numerical part of a Web address and then go one digit up or down to see what's next?

(UPDATE: An NHL spokesperson just confirmed that theory for us.)

Example: Product No. 3633078 is a Reebok Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Playdry Polo; Product No. 36333079 is a Reebok Detroit Red Wings 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Ring T-shirt. You can thank us later for killing your afternoon productivity.

This goof isn't as egregious as last season's release of Red Wings championship gear, because we're headed into a definitive Game 7 on Friday night. (It's also not the huge embarrassment of the Alexander Ovechkin Hart Trophy gear being released prior to the NHL Awards last year.) Plus, both teams have gear available; thus, no angering of the Hockey Gods.

The issue would be if any of the "losers" gear actually made it out of the warehouse.

We've been working on story, ready to roll on Saturday, about the production of this year's Cup gear, from conception to the arrival in stores. We get into what happens with the swag from the losing team, and here's what Jim Haskins, NHL Vice President of Consumer Products, had to say in our upcoming story:

Ever since New England Patriots Super Bowl "champions" shirts were found on poor Nicaraguan children after their loss to the New York Giants in 2008, the notion of "losers" surfacing in odd places has been a sports fan legend.

Haskins said that the "the 144-200 [units created] for the non-winning team are ultimately destroyed or used as a donation to charity in third-world countries."

World Vision, the Christian humanitarian organization that gave irrelevant New England Patriots Super Bowl gear to Nicaragua, compiles promo T-shirts and uses them in third-world countries, according to Haskins. "All the Leagues have been very, very satisfied with that charitable endeavor," he said.

In other words: Better hurry if you want the ultimate ironic T-shirts to impress your hipster friends.

What do you think of this year's designs?

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