12/31/2013 12:41 EST | Updated 03/02/2014 05:59 EST

Winter Classic 'ripe for counterfeiters' selling merchandise

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the NHL plan to crack down on fake merchandise being sold at the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.

The Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan before a potentially world record-setting crowd.

The NHL says in a media release "counterfeiters will be eager to take advantage of this high-profile, once-in-a-lifetime event as the excitement and demand for team gear increases."

The NHL will be assisting Homeland Security investigators and other law enforcement agencies, all of whom will be enforcing federal, state, and local laws prohibiting the sale of counterfeit merchandise.

“When you consider the size of Michigan Stadium and the number of fans planning to attend the game, this is a sporting event that's ripe for counterfeiters," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations Detroit.

“Our ultimate responsibility to NHL fans is to ensure that their experience isn’t tarnished by the counterfeiters and their substandard merchandise. We want to be certain that our fans take home products that will last as long as their memories from this once-in-a-lifetime event," said Tom Prochnow, NHL Enterprises group vice president, legal and business affairs. "A counterfeit t-shirt is not a keepsake if it contains a typo or shrinks three sizes when you put it in the laundry.”

Telltale signs of fakes

There are telltale signs of fake clothing, including subpar packaging and crooked stitching on clothing. But one miscue often sets the fakes apart.

"Because they come from China, there is often a lot of spelling mistakes in the English translation [on tags]," RCMP spokesperson Annette Bernardon previously told CBC news.

Athletic jerseys and sweaters are only authorized to be sold by certain people and stores licensed to do so.

Since 1993, the NHL, through its membership in the Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports logos, has been involved in the seizure of more than 10.5 million pieces of counterfeit merchandise featuring the logos of various professional sports leagues and teams, colleges and universities. the seized merchandise had a value of more than $400 million US.

In connection with the 2012 NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia, more than 1,100 unauthorized NHL products, valued at over $250,000 US, were seized.

“With two Original Six hockey teams playing in this year’s NHL Winter Classic, we know Red Wings and Maple Leafs fans will be flocking to Ann Arbor on January 1, but that means counterfeiters will be there, too,” Prochnow said.

To avoid being victimized by counterfeiters, Prochnow urges fans and retailers to do the following:

- Look for the NHL hologram sticker or hangtag and a sewn-in label identifying the merchandise as "official" and authorized by the NHL.

- Shop at, the official online store of the NHL and all 30 teams, and other legitimate retailers, including official locations both inside and outside of Michigan Stadium, rather than buying questionable items from street vendors, flea markets, or other such sources.

- Beware of ripped tags, typographical errors, poor quality screen-printing, or irregular markings on apparel.

- Be suspicious of items when the price is too good to be true.