Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Change Is Inevitable

If hockey is in its off-season, you know that changes are coming. Granted, some teams are still playing, but there are very few who are, so most hockey franchises are pushing ahead with business as usual. Today, we'll take a look at more uniform changes, including one uniform change that involves a new city. In other words, it's just another ordinary summer for hockey.

Generic Hurricane Warning

The WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes, as you may have heard, were warned by the NHL's Washington Capitals to change their uniforms due to the Lehtbridge Hurricanes looking quite a bit like the Washington Capitals. Granted, they do look quite a bit alike, but there's no denying that the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Washington Capitals run in different circles. Either way, though, Washington is looking to protect its branding, and I get that side of it.

Lethbridge has now come up with a new look, and it feels more like the branding on a grocery store or restaurant than it does a major junior hockey team.
Is that a new Hardees logo? While the swoop at the bottom will interpretively imply the Hurricane portion of the team's name, I'm not certain that this logo will stand the test of time. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the logo and uniform used by Lethbridge on their alternate jersey is already infinitely better.

The colors will remain the same as they were last season - red and white primary jerseys with blue accents - so the Hurricanes won't have to rebrand their entire organization like the Prince Albert Raiders did. That being
said, it appears the logo will change depending on where the Hurricanes are playing. Home will feature the red logo above while road jerseys in red will have the blue logo to the right. Are there any other teams that swap the colors of their logo based on where they are playing? I can't think of any at this moment.

All in all, the WHL's Hurricanes just got a little more generic with these changes.

Checkers Do Stripes Right

With the news that the Carolina Hurricanes had changed their look last week, their AHL affiliate followed suit this week as the Charlotte Checkers debuted new uniforms. The one thing that never made much sense on the Checkers' uniforms was the tropical storm warning flag stripe on all three jerseys, but, like the Hurricanes, the Checkers will see a significant change.

The Checkers will look quite good in their new uniforms. Yes, they are very similar to what Carolina did with their new uniforms, but the major difference is the addition of the black stripe to hit on the key color elements of the Checkers' logo. The additional black also helps to add some contract to the lighter red and white, so the addition of this stripe, even in black, gets a thumbs-up from me. The use of black as a contrasting color is well-executed on the new Charlotte uniforms.

Other than that, nothing else is significantly different than what the Hurricanes debuted last week, but the changes are significant compared to what the Checkers wore last season. But for the middle-of-the-road grade I gave to Carolina, Charlotte gets things right with the contrasting stripes. Thumbs-up from me.

Coast To Coast

With Vancouver having abandoned their AHL affiliate in the Chicago Wolves and purchasing the Peoria Rivermen as their affiliate, you knew things were changing already with the Canucks franchise. With Peoria announcing it was returning to the SPHL as the Rivermen, you also knew that the Canucks were shopping their affiliate to potential cities. We found out where they landed yesterday as the Utica Comets were officially introduced to the world.

The rather soccer-esque shield used by the Comets is rather uninspiring to say the least. Does Utica have anything to do with space or comets? This rather uninspired name is right from the a list of classic generic team names on might find on EA Sports' NHL '14 when creating your own team. Needless to say, the logo itself is even worse than the generic name considering that it says nothing about the city and has no history itself o drawn upon in terms of justifying the team name. Pretty poor effort from the Canucks, if you ask me.

However, the Canucks laid everything out via their website as to how Utica's newest AHL team go its name: "The brand development for the Utica Comets was taken on by a secret task force within the Vancouver Canucks organization. Their objective was to create an identifying mark/brand that is timeless, strong and practical. A classic hockey logo and jersey design, with a modern take, that honours the Comets heritage, hockey, the city of Utica, New York and draws a connection to the Vancouver Canucks, is the result." Um, what?

Well, apparently the name comes from the Clinton Comets, a very famous team in the EHL, that worked 10 miles away from Utica in Clinton, NY. The Comets put together some amazing seasons in the EHL, including the 1967-68 Comets team that dominated in going 57-5-10 in that season. Needless to say, the Comets are the most famous team from the Utica area.

Vancouver, in looking at Utica's history, decided that it was fine to absorb the history of the Clinton Comets since no one else was using it. The funny thing is that none of that history came in Utica whatsoever. They were and still are two distinct cities that are 10 miles from one another. This would be like the New York Islanders absorbing all of the Brooklyn Americans' history simply because they are moving to Brooklyn! I can't tell you how much this annoys me, but know that I am annoyed. Greatly. Enraged even.

The team will resemble the Canucks in terms of what they wear on the ice. Nothing magical or unique here, but I will say that the logo on the uniform looks much nicer than it did up above in the graphical version. That fact alone won't redeem Vancouver in stealing another team's history to use as their own, but at least it appears they'll look respectable while living a lie.

Vancouver had reportedly wanted their own AHL franchise to move closer to them - aka move to Abbotsford, BC - but with the Flames locked into their contract with Abbotsford for a while yet, it appear that Utica will be the temporary home for the Comets until the Flames can come to some sort of agreement to move the Heat elsewhere. Once the Flames have vacated Vancouver's backyard, I expect the Abootsford Comets to be a reality. After all, Utica to Vancouver is only 2295 miles... or about 523 miles less than Chicago.

All that for a poorly-named AHL affiliate who stole the history of another team, all while wanting to cut costs on a team-owned affiliate until they could move out west? Wow. Well done, Canucks! Excuse the sarcasm.

Now some may say "Teebz, they only had a couple of months to get this ready" or "Teebz, the Clinton Comets moved to Utica in 1972" or whatever. First, don't rush the branding on a team you want success for because teams live and die by their branding. They have also been affiliated with two former IHL teams - Winnipeg and Chicago - where the AHL affiliate had some autonomy on signing veteran AHL talent. In other words, Vancouver couldn't just stock their roster with their own talent because those AHL teams could add some talent if they felt it necessary. That had to stick in Vancouver's craw at some points because their young guys wouldn't necessarily be playing all the time. Thus, their own affiliate was necessary, and they went out and got it.

Secondly, I don't care if the Comets moved - the histories are entirely separate. The Winnipeg Jets today do not get to absorb the Jets' history from the past. They are entirely different franchises. No ifs, ands, or buts about that - history follows a timeline. Teams can rebrand as the old team name, but absorbing the history of something one didn't do makes for very complicated problems when explaining the history of the Comets team.

Thirdly, Utica has been trumpeting their city for some time as a proper AHL destination for a franchise, and they have approached a few not-so-solid teams with some sweetheart offers. Vancouver's affiliation with Chicago was solid, but the Canucks most likely wanted more say over the operation of the affiliate, so they got one available in Peoria and needed to move it. The planning for this had to have been well over a year out, so the fact that they rushed the move, and the name with it, makes no sense. I get how the timeline works, but they didn't need to make an announcement in June when they had until September.

Regardless, I expect this Comets franchise to be in Abbotsford at some point in the future. Sorry to inform you of your pawn status, Utica, but you may want to ready yourself for an invasion of Heat in the future.

Expect more changes as the summer pushes on. Rumor has it that the Islanders may be looking to do something with their move to Brooklyn, so keep your ear to the ground on that one. If anything else happens, though, I'll have it here!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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