ST. LOUIS - A warning tonight from the NHL to Blues fans -- beware of more and more counterfeit Blues merchandise turning up as the team competes in the Western Conference Finals.
Blues merchandise is big time business these days for the owner of Hats-N-Stuff, Andy Shifter. People are buying everything from hats to t-shirts. And counterfeiters are looking to prey on the fan excitement by selling unofficial Blues gear.
That can be costly for legitimate businesses like Andy's.
"Business can get hurt because I am paying a premium price for the right to have licensed merchandise with the manufacturers so where I might be paying $12 for something somebody could produce that illegally or counterfeit for $5," Shifter said.
Andy says the most important thing to look for in making sure you're buying official merchandise is the NHL hologram. Andy tells us t-shirts are the most commonly counterfeited items.
"It's the easiest thing to print quickly and less expensive. Hats involve generally embroidery," he said.
Besides holograms, NHL officials say consumers should look at the overall quality of products and buy from established retailers.
During last year's playoffs, NHL officials say they were involved in the seizure or voluntary surrender of more than 5,400 pieces of unauthorized merchandise with an estimated retail value of about $137,000.
More than 2,900 listings for fake NHL products were also removed from internet marketplaces during the 2018 playoffs. Those products totaled some $385,000.
NHL officials call fake merchandise a serious problem.
"It's definitely a big problem and it's definitely one that hurts the league and hurts the Blues. Genuine merchandise supports the team, believes in the players, so whenever counterfeiters are out there it's going to have a negative impact on that," said Jia Wang, the Associate Counsel for the NHL.
"The consumers should be smart about their purchases," Shifter said. "My dad always used to say, 'If something's too good to be true it probably is."