Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Mature Panthers

The Florida Panthers are still an up-and-coming team. Sure, they have the immortal Jaromir Jagr playing for them which automatically increases the team`s average age by about 30 years, but there's no denying that this is a young team that still has a lot of good hockey ahead of them. It took me a couple of days to digest and properly assess the new-look Florida Panthers, but I think I can handle making some commentary now without a ton of references to Major League Soccer.

The Panthers had used their leaping cat logo since coming into the league in 1993. They've made minor tweaks to that logo over the years before today's entire rebranding which moves the Panthers into a new era entirely. Owners Vinnie Viola and Doug Cifu had input into the rebranding, and they can honestly say that this is now their team with this new look.

"We wanted to really put a bold emphasis on the idea that this was a new era for the franchise," Vinnie Viola told's Jameson Olive. "It's not necessarily a new direction, but a new evolution, a new maturity for the franchise."

We'll start with the logo which now incorporates a shield and the Panther face. The logo is reportedly inspired by the patch for the Army's 101st Airborne Division in which owner Vinnie Viola served. Personally, I liked the leaping the cat, but this logo is far more mature in its design. No longer are the Panthers defined by an era where the leaping Panther either has or doesn't have a broken stick in its claws, and the shield logo brings about an immediate respectability for the franchise. It moves into more of a "timeless" feel, and that's always good for a brand.

From the logo, we move to the jersey itself. I'm not against a chest stripe on any jersey as that gives the jersey a nostalgic look. I appreciate the matching sleeve stripes that follow the stripe across the body as well. The logo on the white jersey really pops, but the shield gets eaten up in the red on the home jersey. In seeing them a few times, here's hoping that they look better against the white ice than the maple dressing room stalls.

I have said numerous times that the lace-up collars need to end. Some have alluded to the fact that the criss-crossed laces pay homage to the Florida state flag, but I don't buy it. A simple collar would have worked well here, and I stand by my opinion: lace-up collars are a trend that needs to end.

Because of the placement of the new patches on the shoulders and the stripes on the arms, the numbers have been pushed on top of the shoulders for both jerseys. Honestly, I don't mind this. While it does resemble a football jersey, the sleeves feel cleaner and sharper. If the Panthers decide to add a patch for an anniversary or some other reason, they have a lot of real estate with which to work. The captaincy designation may clutter up a few jerseys, but the numbers on top of the shoulders works for this jersey.

The back of the jersey is clearly missing the stripe that went across the chest, and this feels like a miss to me. That number on the back wouldn't lose its effectiveness if the stripe went all the way around the player, so this may be something upon which the Panthers can improve. Otherwise, the name and number are legible and easy-to-read, so there shouldn't be any confusion as to who has the puck when the Panthers are on the ice.

As stated, the patch on the arm certainly has more elements to it than just the old palm tree crossed by a hockey stick. The Panther is prominently featured atop the Florida state flag with the word "Panthers" or "Florida" situated above the Panther. The captain and alternate captains will also have a tab above that if they earn the designation, something done in the military ranks in sticking with the theme. From the sounds of it, it will work somewhat like the vertically-arched names in Detroit where players who make it out of camp will have earned the right to have their names written in Detroit's traditional font.

"The Panther tabs above the flag are basically earned by the players," Vinnie Viola said. "The idea is that they'll come to training camp and they'll only have the flag on their shoulder. Once they make the team, they earn that tab. And, of course, the captain's tab sits above the panther. It speaks to the idea of earning a place. It heralds you making the team."

And what of the leaping panther? Well, he's been modernized slightly and will rest atop the players' helmets as a sticker all season. While most of the leaping panther logo has been retired, there will still be a tie to the past via the helmet sticker as the Panthers move forward in their evolution. The leaping panther will serve as the team's tertiary logo where it will be seen as a helmet decal for both home and away contests. It's not going away, but just being modernized to fit the team's new look!

Overall, I was initially shocked at the changes as the team resembled a soccer club more than a hockey club. However, I have looked at the photos over the last couple of days and found myself warming to the new look of the Florida Panthers. While it's not going to be a timeless design two days into the new look, there are definitely traditional aspects that make this design a good one.

Thumbs-up from me, Florida!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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