Fender NHL Telecaster Electric Guitars

Y’all ready for some pickin’n grinnin’???  If there was one thing I could collect more than hockey-related vinyl records, it would be guitars.  Like, any guitars; doesn’t have be hockey-related.  My wife put a cap on my collection, and I’d go real broke, real fast doing that.  But I do want to share something that crosses my path that could be worth the cold, hard cash.

In the years 1999 and 2000, Fender made a limited run of guitars for the teams in the league, all limited to a maximum of 100 per club and painted with the team’s logo, plus another potential 100 featuring the NHL shield. (It depended on how many were ordered as to how many were produced. Oh, except for Atlanta who got TWO different paint jobs because….ummm, I really don’t know why. Maybe they just loved both of their logos so much and couldn’t decide which to go with; I’ll ask Don Waddell next time I see him. Seriously, if you were gonna do 200 Telecasters of one team because you wanted it to sell, it should have been Nashville by a country mile!

Not all pickers are grinners. Not all grinners are pickers.

While there are a good number of promotional guitars featuring a paint job of a team and prominently displayed on the walls of sports bars, 99 times out of ten it’s some piece of crap that was never really meant to be played (at least not well). But these NHL Telecasters are very different; they are American Standard Telecasters, an excellent guitar for the money and one typically going for around $800 new at the time.

And they’ve held their value well, because that’s about the minimum you’ll pay for a one of those teles these days on  Reverb.com.  Being limited edition, and the teams and league getting their cut, that’s not what these guitars sold for new at the end of the 20th century. In information I received from Fender, the MSRP was $2499.99!!! Holy moly, that’s a lot of dinero to be forking over at the time; easily custom shop-level pricing.

These were clearly special guitars, because the custom shop did the paint on body AND the pickguard, that plastic slab that protects for the body from your terrible picking technique and covers up any routing through the top of the body. Strangely enough, they continued the paint of the logo under the pickguard, which I wouldn’t have seen if someone selling a Blackhawks guitar hadn’t done some mods and shown the pictures.

The only other thing that made these physically special was the neck plate on the back, which listed the number the guitar was out of 100, the team it represented, that it was part of the NHL Premier Edition, and a refractive sticker on the back of the headstock with the team logo. Beyond that, it has  the stock pickups, wiring, pots, 22 jumbo frets, maple neck and fretboard, alder body, and a standard hard shell case. WHICH IS GOOD, but not $2500 good.

These were ONLY available from the Fender Custom shop dealers (read, mom and pop music shops that spent a LOT of money to carry very expensive guitars), and each team’s official store.

Why were these made? Great question, and I don’t know a specific reason to it, but I can guess. The NHL was doing pretty well for itself at the time, with lots of cash was flowing in and the US economy riding high. The league finally got rid of that glowy puck on TV and lots of other companies were getting guitar painted with their logos for promotional stuff, so why not the NHL too?

But WHY such a good guitar?  Like I said, most promotional painted guitars are cheapos that someone will put on the wall of their man cave, or give to a kid who will just get frustrated and toss it in a closet and never learn. And I can’t see myself hanging out in the team store thinking, “I could buy the entire roster of my team’s authentic jerseys….or I can buy that overpriced American Telecaster over there.”

Looking back at these guitars, they are kind of neat in that many of them use NHL team logos that have since changed in the past 20 years, though I could not find photos of all of them. Some of the pictures tell an interesting story of the instrument’s life since they were bought. Some were modified, like that Blackhawks one I mentioned before. Many are autographed, by one player, or the whole damn team!; these I find sad because I know they were never played.

Maybe some were bought by the team and auctioned away to raise money for charity like this Atlanta Thrashers model; maybe they were giveaways or prizes if someone shot a 200-foot goal, or just kept in some high-end staffer’s office.  Perhaps a few still sit in their cases untouched for the last two decades.  I mean, if I owned one I know what I would do with it:

You can usually find a couple of these guitars available for sale, but and sometimes at wildly varying prices. Three can be found on Reverb (Capitols, Blue Jackets and Thrashers) and asking $1300 and up to the original $2500.  Oh, I’m sorry, every one of those has been sitting there for the past 6 months to a year and have been marked down from where the sellers were asking $2300 to $10,000!Past auctions have shown a Dallas Stars tele with Brett Hull’s autograph sell for a very fair $768. Someone was trying to sell a Detroit guitar with Steve Yzerman’s Handcock for… $65,000!!!!

I’m pretty sure Tom Dundon wouldn’t pay that much for Stevie Y’s services! There’s another that he signed (in blue!) on eBay right now that you can have for $5500.

A mint purrrrfect Panthers tele sold a couple years ago for $800 or less (if an offer was accepted) a couple years ago. A Flyers one was up for $1400.

An Avalanche Telecaster was up for $1000, but the guy took the whole thing apart in the pictures to show that the manufacture dates were listed on the neck and the body, plus you can see where they painted the whole body, then repainted the pickguard to match what it’s covering up.

Another owner did a superb job of making a display case after getting a lot of Maple Leafs autographs on his guitar.

So what happen to those that didn’t sell? It appears that Fender took them back and scavenged the parts for regular American Standards and the workers got to take home the painted bodies like the modded Blackhawks one I mentioned above; maybe painted over like a Rembrandt lost to the ages.

These are all the pictures I could find as of now on the interwebs, and 16 was the highest number I could find on any of the neck plates which belonged to Detroit.

Which one do you like the most? Personally, I think the Red Wings logo fits so well on the body shape, but I also love the old Penguin Corporate logo.  Klassy!

The Vancouver Tele looks pretty sharp too.

Do you own one of these guitars or know someone who does? Ever see one hanging in your local sports bar? Tell us in the comments below!

Jim Howard is a Carolina Hurricanes fan and reformed baseball card collector who is trying to keep the hockey collection from becoming overwhelming. And while he wishes he could give Crosby the business with his mitt, he is in fact NOT the goalie for the Red Wings. 

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Author: Jim Howard

Hockey enthusiast who pays the bills as a traveling geologist. More of a lover than a fighter, he's a fairly cheap date; just ask his wife. He'd prefer to be outside in the rain that stuck in the office on a beautiful day.

2 thoughts on “Fender NHL Telecaster Electric Guitars”

  1. If only they were Gibson’s instead.

    I’m not a Fender guy but of all the Fenders, the Tele would get a pass from me. But you are right, $2,500 for a wall hanger is steep.

    Woodrow made a whole bunch of sports related paintjobs on their Northender guitars but I’m not sure those are very good. I see those way more often than these Teles.

    What a find!

    1. If they were Gibsons they’d be $5k! I’ve seen some other painted hockey guitars and your right, most are crap. Wall hangers in their own right because all they’re good for is decor. I wouldn’t pay $2,000 for one of these; not even $1,000. But if it was in great condition I’d think about it around $700 and try to deal them down. Fender and the NHL’s marketing has come a long way in two decades.

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