Monday, 8 September 2014

Some Penguins Will Wear Blue

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been dropping hints about their upcoming unveiling of their new alternate uniform on September 19. There have been Twitter mentions, a few blogs have speculated on what they look like, and even some mainstream media folk have thrown their opinions in. While it's true that the Pittsburgh Penguins will wear a new alternate uniform that reportedly strays away from their blue alternates in recent memory, one set of Penguins has decided to embrace the blue as they will wear the color on their alternate uniforms.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins showed off their new alternate uniform this morning, and it distinctly looks like the baby blue uniform the NHL Penguins wore with some minor tweaks. Obviously, the chest logo is going to be that of the AHL Penguins. That's a no-brainer. The shoulder patches feature the logo of the NHL Penguins which is a standard across the AHL in terms of representing the NHL affiliate. However, the only true change the AHL Penguins made was to add a black cuff on the sleeves near the gloves. Other than that, they are virtually identical to those uniforms that the NHL Penguins used. While I appreciate the fact that the players on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins want to make it to the NHL, there's no reason why an AHL franchise can't have its own identity, especially on an alternate jersey which is used a handful of times per year.

Fans hit the AHL Penguins' Facebook page with less-than-enthusiastic messages.

Look, I know a lot of NHL-owned AHL franchises copy their NHL affiliates' looks. This seems to be the trend, and it's becoming bothersome in that the NHL's dream of marketing is overriding a lot of the civic pride. It makes no sense for an AHL franchise to look identical to an NHL franchise whatsoever, and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the loss of the unique AHL looks may turn some fans off from the game.

For the longest time, the AHL was a great minor-professional hockey league that had great bonds to the communities in which it had franchises. Places like Rochester, Hershey, and Springfield are home to a history of hockey deeper than most NHL teams can boast. Newer franchises like those in Syracuse, Manchester, and Portland seem to go through a uniform change annually as they change affiliations. Why can't they keep the same jerseys they've worn historically like the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Chicago Wolves, and the Providence Bruins? What is so wrong with that idea?

I'm all for teams building their brands through good marketing, but ramming the NHL affiliation down the throats of the AHL fans is sickening. They support the AHL franchise because of the AHL franchise's work done within that community. If Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin start doing meet-and-greet events in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton throughout the year like the AHL Penguins players do, I'll retract this entire column. However, we know they cannot and will not based on Pittsburgh's required community service contracts, so why does the AHL allow the NHL to market to AHL fans with NHL branding?

I like the AHL Penguins as a franchise. I think there has been excellent work done there in developing players for the next level, especially after the myriad of injuries the Penguins suffered last season. What I don't like, though, is the loss of the AHL Penguins' identity. They used to have such a fun and engaging presence with their weird and wonderful uniforms. Alas, it seems to be no more.

Such is the trend in the AHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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