It was announced by the IIHF that the Champions Hockey League, consisting of the top teams across Europe and Russia, will be outfitted by Reebok in the Rbk EDGE jerseys much like the NHL is. Reebok will be the "exclusive outfitter and key marketing partner of the Champions Hockey League". With the number of problems that Reebok faced in their attempts to outfit the NHL, I would assume this venture would go much more smoothly. Personally, some of the jerseys have the potential to be decent, and I would hope that Reebok will market these jerseys in North America as well as in Europe. Let's take a look at each team's new look.
HC Kosice (Slovakia) - A fairly basic jersey. However, it appears that Reebok has learned nothing about hockey designs as the sleeve striping fails to go completely around the arms again much like Edmonton and Florida. Is it really that hard to make the stripes go all the way around? And why does Reebok insist on making teams wear aprons?
SC Bern (Switzerland) - Apparently, it's not that hard to have the stripes go all the way around. I guess SC Bern opted not to have that ridiculous piping down the sleeves that forms a wall that stripes can't penetrate. In any case, decent jerseys for SC Bern, and it appears they will be wearing a patch on their left shoulders.
Sinupret Ice Tigers (Germany) - Again, a fairly basic jersey. Not too much "EDGE flair" on this one, and that's good. The logo is interesting, though, and it will be interesting to see how the embroidery looks on the stretchy material of the EDGE jerseys.
Kärpät Oulu (Finland) - Karpat appears to be heading to a block party as they are also wearing the apron design. I really like the contrasting colours on this jersey, though. I'm not sure what the logo is, but it appears to be a mink or ferret or some member of the weasel family.
Eisbären Berlin (Germany) - The Polar Bears might have the most basic design of all. Simple sleeve striping. No added piping. No side panels of a different colour. A solid logo on the front of their jerseys. I like this look, and this is how a hockey jersey should look. Simple, yet classy.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk (Russia) - Nothing like a block party in Russia. You've got fire under the stars in the logo, and a solid apron to take home with you. what really impressed me was how Reebok has three-stripe piping on the apron portion of the jersey. It might be a sort of quiet tribute to the company that owns Rbk. Really, there's nothing special about these jerseys. They could have been better, but they aren't. And that's sad for one of the storied Russian franchises.
HV71 Jönköping (Sweden) - Team 71 looks great! Bottom hem stripe on the jersey? Check. Sleeve striping that goes all the way around? Check. Lack of apron design? Check. I have nothing bad to say about this jersey. This is the epitome of how these teams should look. Well done, HV71!
Espoo Blues (Finland) - Reebok really went out of their way to design these jerseys. Three sets of sleeve stripes that end at the piping down the length of the sleeve? Check, check, and check. Solid apron design? Check. These might be the best example of everything that's wrong with Reebok's designs. The only redeeming quality on these jerseys is the Blues logo.
The third team to join Group B will be the winner from the Qualification Tournament.
This Group will officially be called the Apron Group. Thanks for the innovative design element, Reebok.
Salavat Yulayev Ufa (Russia) - The colour of the Ufa jerseys is excellent. They are the only team to stray from the traditional base colours of black, blue, and red. Again, I am disappointed with the sleeve stripe being cut off by the ridiculous piping, and the apron look sucks. But the colour combo that Ufa uses could possibly save this design. I like the colour scheme.
Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia) - I'm not going to talk about the sleeve stripe or apron design. I refuse to believe that Reebok continues to push this design on teams. I will say that I am a fan of Slovan's choice of colours as they incorporate the main colours from their flag into the design. The logo is decent as well.
Mountfield Ceske Budejovice (Czech Republic) - Did you say you were having a BBQ? Well, if you're from Mountfield, you break out the fancy apron with two-layer piping! The red primary colour is indicative of the Czech flag, and that's alright with me. However, this entire jersey looks like something you'd see from an NCAA team or a third-tier European league, not "The Champions League".
Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) - I'm not sure how the sound effect would appear in writing, but here goes: YAWN. Slavia's BBQing attire comes complete with broken sleeve stripes and ridiculous sleeve-length piping. They're from the Czech Republic, so, surprisingly, they're wearing red. The only redeeming quality is the logo. I like the look of it, and it is distinctly unique.
ZSC Lions Zurich (Switzerland) - The Lions have the exact same jerseys as Berlin does, and that's a bonus. Again, a quiet, simple approach to the design, and a solid logo on the front. This is how a decent Rbk Edge jersey should look. No ridiculous amounts of piping, no stupid apron design, no broken sleeve stripes. Well done, Lions!
Linköpings HC (Sweden) - Linkopings gets the same design that Magnitogorsk has, and it's still underwhelming. At least they won't be out of place in the Champions League of BBQing. That apron design is atrocious. Their logo is solid, but will not make up for the horrendous jersey design.
There are a few other things that bother me about these designs. Reebok has emblazoned their name below the neckline on the front of each jersey. No longer is it simply acceptable to have their logo on the neckline at the back, but the full name of their company has to go on the front. Why? What purpose does this serve aside from everyone knowing Reebok made the jerseys? Was the logo on the back too small to see?
The article written states, "[t]he Champions Hockey League provides Reebok with another global platform to underscore its commitment to hockey, while cultivating its existing relationships with the European ice hockey community. Reebok will work with the Champions Hockey League on long-term brand development, enhanced game presentation and unique and innovative fan experiences that will define the Champions Hockey League as the must-watch, must-experience league for hockey fans in Europe".
How does Reebok cultivate its existing relationship when it had nothing to do with international hockey until this opportunity came up? Nike outfitted all the international teams previous to this, so how does Reebok even claim a statement like this to be true?
How does an apparel manufacturer think it will help with "enhanced game presentation and unique and innovative fan experiences"? They did nothing of the sort for the NHL - their biggest purchaser of hockey jerseys - but they will for the Champions League? Unless Reebok is planning to get into the TV broadcast and marketing departments of international hockey, this is nothing more than marketing jibberish and spin doctoring for themselves to look better.
Between weak designs and poor elements on these jerseys, I'm not really looking forward to these teams taking the ice on September 12th. Granted, the hockey action should be great, but the Champions Hockey League could have, and should have, demanded better. Reebok is a multi-billion dollar company, and these jersey designs are bush league.
Good luck to all the teams in the tournament! Enjoy the action, hockey fans, and cheer on your favorite teams and players. As for Reebok, another opportunity to improve some hockey designs falls to the wayside with this sub-par effort.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!