Toronto Maple Leaf winger Leo Komarov is the new global ambassador for NordicBet, a European-based betting website. Canadian media report the sponsorship deal is the first of its kind for an active NHL player and could mean a more liberal attitude emerging within the sport regarding active player affiliations with gambling.
Todd Diamond of International Sports Advisors Co., the agency that represents Komarov, said the arrangement was cleared with the Leafs front office before it was finalized. Indications are that neither the league nor NHL Players’ Association, objected to the arrangement. As the NHL expands to Las Vegas starting next season, it could mean more of these deals could be developing in the hockey world.
“It doesn’t violate our rules as long as he isn’t directly promoting sports wagering and as long as the advertising is limited to where NordicBet’s business is legal,” deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet, the Canadian sports media giant.
Sportsnet says Komarov was actually approached by multiple betting companies, according to Diamond, and found NordicBet most appealing because it is a publicly traded company in Sweden.
Sportsnet also notes that there has always been a much more liberal attitude towards betting in the European sporting culture than in North America and that English soccer teams such as West Ham United (Betway) and Stoke City (Bet365) carry the logos of prominent betting websites. Numerous European-based athletes have been part of individual sponsorship arrangements for many years.
Komarov, 30, is an Estonian-born Finnish–Russian, capable of playing all three forward ice positions. He’s an alternate captain on the Maple Leafs and is the first Estonian-born player in the NHL. Komarov was a member of the gold medal-winning Finnish national team in the 2011 IIHF World Championship.
NordicBet was launched in 2002 as the first bookmaker to specialize in Nordic Sports for Nordic Customers – those from Norway, Sweden and Finland.