A sports memorabilia store in Halifax says it's getting out of the jersey game after a CBC Nova Scotia investigation found it was selling counterfeit NHL jerseys.
There's no denying Patrick Voyer's love for the Montreal Canadiens is real — but he doubts two jerseys he bought at the Locker Room are authentic.
Voyer is from Montreal and has been working in Halifax for the past few months. When he saw a signed Guy Lafleur Habs jersey displayed in the store, he was willing to open his wallet.
He later returned to the store — located inside Bubba Ray's Sports Bar on Spring Garden Road — and bought another Habs jersey, spending close to $400 in total.
"I'm very superstitious, so I really feel that if I have some gear, or some hockey stick or puck that a real Canadiens player has touched, I feel we always have a chance to win," Voyer said.
"Makes me feel like I'm a part of the game."
It wasn't until he checked the official Canadiens site on counterfeit jerseys that he realized the jerseys he bought might not be authentic.
"This store is right next to a popular bar. You wonder with a few drinks during a good game, someone could fall in love with one of these pieces, it's easy for them to not ask questions and just pay the price," he said.
"I'm really pissed off. Down the line, I do this for my team."
Counterfeit jersey sold
Equipped with a hidden camera, CBC News returned to the store to buy another jersey. A Washington Capitals jersey, with a Reebok logo stitched on the back, cost $80.
When questioned, the clerk reassured us it was an authentic jersey.
The NHL doesn't think so.
After reviewing photos of the jersey, a representative for the corporation points out the front wasn't sewn on properly and there were spelling errors.
"Advanced athletic pereormance," reads the tag.
The jersey is also missing an NHL hologram.
"In identifying counterfeits, the best defence for fans is a good offence," said Tom Prochnow, vice-president of legal and business affairs at NHL Enterprises. "Most important is the NHL hologram that is affixed to all licensed NHL products."
A spokesperson wouldn't comment on individual enforcement matters, but said the NHL is involved in hundreds of enforcement actions each year against counterfeiters.
'We made a mistake'
Brad Hartlin, owner of the Locker Room, said he didn't know the jersey was fake.
"We made a mistake," he said.
Hartlin says he has built a business on authenticity.
The former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League player sells signed memorabilia, most of it sports related. But take a look around the store and you'll see a James Dean-signed cheque and a Charles Schulz-signed cartoon.
Hartlin said he buys hundreds of jerseys from trusted collectors every year. Now and then, unsigned jerseys are thrown into the collection, according to Hartlin.
He stands firmly by the signatures, but said the store will stop selling unsigned jerseys because the risk is too great.
"Going forward, after you brought this to our attention, it's just not worth it for us to do that. We can give them away, throw it out, whatever it is. Even if it is authentic, it's not worth it," he said.
"You assume the jerseys are real jerseys. But we don't know. It's almost impossible to tell the difference without doing some major research into it."
He compares it to fake IDs.
"On a weekend we can confiscate 100 IDs a night. It's absolutely insane what goes on out there. Every now and then one is going to slip through the cracks," Hartlin says.
'Slip through the cracks'
The Locker Room has a money-back guarantee.
"That kind of goes in itself, to say we stand by everything we sell," said Hartlin. "Things can slip through the cracks."
Voyer said it wasn't made clear to him the jerseys might not be authentic.
"Who can we trust now? We shouldn't be asking ourselves if it's real or not," he said.
Voyer says he now will get his Habs gear from the official Canadiens store. He wants other sports fans in Halifax to be wary.
"It's not a fun shopping experience," he said. "Be aware when you buy. Now before I buy these types of stuff, autographs, I want to make sure it's a real one. You need experts sometimes."