Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Less Is More A Practice Jersey

Back when the San Jose Sharks were a relatively new team, they wore very little color on their uniforms outside of the stripes on the hem and sleeves. They had their pristine whites, as modeled by Igor Larionov to the left, and their bold teal road uniforms which sold like hot cakes. Over time, the Sharks added elements to their look, they changed primary colors from teal to a grayer shade of teal to black, and they threw some orange in to shake the color palette up in their color scheme. However, the Sharks decided to go back to the future with their newest uniform updates, and I'm not so sure that I like the look.

The San Jose Sharks unveiled their new home and road looks today, and I actually approve of the idea that less is more on a hockey jersey. The Sharks have been simplifying their looks over the last few years, but I believe they may have taken this simplification a wee bit too far. I'll explain more below, but here is the home jersey template with all the accoutrements.
The Sharks removed the black shoulder yoke from the uniform, leaving the uniform one color. I can live with this due their grayish-blue hue being one of the best solid colors in the league. There's no piping, there's much less orange, and there's a lace-up collar. We'll categorize those features as good, indifferent, and overused. The stripe on the sleeves has also been made smaller than in previous iterations of the home jersey. However, the one major flaw that I saw? No hem stripe.

There have been other teams that have done the no-stripe thing. Toronto was one of the first teams to do so in 2007, but they gave in to public outcries and the hem stripe returned in 2008. It has worked for other teams, though, as the Phoenix Coyotes are still without a hem stripe since the introduction of the Reebok EDGE jerseys, so maybe it's a southwestern thing? In any case, the Sharks will play this season without the hem stripe.

The changes seen on the home jersey were also copied for the road jerseys as seen below, but I will point out why the changes on this jersey bother me.
On white jerseys, there needs to be some sort of coloration in order to prevent the uniform from resembling a practice jersey. The Coyotes get around this by employing a shoulder yoke on the road jersey only. Otherwise, you get a road uniform that looks like a practice jersey instead of something worn by a pro hockey team. Now some will rise up and want to tear me a new one for criticizing this uniform, but when you see Dan Boyle skating in it, are you sure he's not at a practice? And yes, I'm aware that the player in the image is Raffi Torres.

Apparently, the reason for the lack of a hem stripe and the inclusion of the lace-up collar wasn't about style, but about weight! If you noticed in last year's playoffs, the Sharks went with their black alternates rather than their normal home uniforms. Why? The black uniforms are lighter in terms of total weight! In fact, the Sharks were 7-0 in those uniforms in last season's postseason. With numbers like that, the obvious move was to downsize the current uniforms to make them more lightweight as well. Doug Wilson was quoted as saying,
The jersey was designed mainly with performance in mind. Remove extra weighting. Make it as efficient as our third jersey, the black jersey. From the performance side, just the weight of it. If you take a look at our black jersey, the players really love that one. Not only the success they had with it, but weight of it. For movement and everything. The players and trainers had the most input.
Look, I get that the players can't be weighed down by a pile of extra weight on the ice where speed can be a deciding factor in a game. But how much extra weight was the neckline and the stripe actually adding? Is this another one of those claims like Reebok made about the uniforms making players nine-percent faster? Personally, I just think it's player preference, but maybe there is a significant weight difference.

In any case, the Sharks will go stripe-less and yoke-less for this season, and try to encourage fans to spend $300 on a jersey that has less fabric, less stitching, and less overall work put into it than most other NHL jerseys. I'm not sure that's a sound business plan, but if the Sharks can win the Stanley Cup in these lighter jerseys, expect a number of teams to follow suit in simplifying their looks.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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