Washington, DC - The 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic netted a win not only for the Washington Capitals, but also for intellectual property rights (IPR) advocates. Law enforcement seized $25,130 worth of counterfeit National Hockey League (NHL) gear and other merchandise leading up to the New Year’s Day outdoor game that featured the Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

The operation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with assistance from the Metropolitan Police Department.

The $25,130 value is based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the 680 items of counterfeit NHL gear and other sportswear seized by law enforcement.

The operation, dubbed Operation Team Player, resulted in seizures of jerseys, hats, t-shirts and posters. Although most of the seized items were fake NHL merchandise, agents also seized other counterfeit items bearing the trademarks of professional sports teams. The seizures were part of a crackdown on IPR violators leading up to the NHL Winter Classic. Operation Team Player is an effort by the HSI-led IPR Center that targets counterfeit sports merchandise from all of the major sports leagues.

“Major sporting events across the country attract counterfeiters who sell unauthorized and poorly made knock-off merchandise for discounted rates,” said Clark E. Settles, special agent in charge of HSI Washington, D.C. “What most people don’t realize is the sale of those counterfeit products costs their fellow Americans jobs and results in a loss of revenue for legitimate American businesses.” 

“The NHL very much appreciates HSI's efforts to protect hockey fans from being victimized by counterfeiters and to ensure that legitimate businesses playing by the rules will not be harmed by these illicit activities,” said Tom Prochnow, group vice president, legal and business affairs for the NHL.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.

The HSI-led IPR Center is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 23 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety and the U.S. economy.