Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Loss Of An Identity?

With the announcement yesterday that the Canadian Olympic Committee will not seek an exception for Team Canada's hockey teams to use the logo to the left, it occurred to me that the outcome of this decision can go two ways: a new logo or a different jersey. There were a number of indications that Hockey Canada was going to have to make a change prior to this ruling, so Hockey Canada should have seen this was coming. However, they had hoped that the Canadian Olympic Committee would push for an exception to the rule. This seems like a futile attempt considering the number of nations that had to comply with this rule at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee forbids national sport federations from using their logos on team uniforms at the Olympics. Olympic Committees from participating countries were warned that the IOC would be strictly enforcing this rule over two years ago, and they appear to be holding true to their word. It happened in Beijing this year as a number of soccer federations had to cover up their logos on their national team uniforms to comply with the Olympic rule, and it appears that hockey is not getting an exception either.

"They made it clear after Torino that the national sport federation logos were out," Rudge tells the Globe & Mail. "We knew it would be an issue with sports of high profile, and it was an issue for Brazil and Argentina in Beijing."

Here is what Brazil normally wears in competitions, compared to what they wore at the Beijing Olympics. Clearly, the IOC is getting its message across.

So the ball - or rather, puck - is now back in Hockey Canada's rink. Hockey Canada can complain all they like that their logo is an identity of Canadian hockey, but the fact of the matter remains that it is representative of the national organization that oversees all of hockey in Canada. To be honest, there's a simple solution: create a jersey that is only used in Olympic competitions.

Look, Hockey Canada's iconic logo can still be used for any IIHF competition. It can be worn for the World Junior Championships, the World Championships, international sledge hockey competitions, the World Under-17 Championships, and so on. There's no rule in place with the IIHF preventing Hockey Canada from using their logo at these events. It's only at the Olympics that they need to change their logo, and this would be a perfect marketing opportunity to get a different look for the biggest winter event on this planet. And what better place to market the new Olympic look than in Vancouver in 2010?

By preventing Hockey Canada from using its logo, there are also a number of opportunities that Hockey Canada can capitalize on by using some other Canada jerseys that have been worn in the past. They wore the Winnipeg Falcons jersey at the World Cup of Hockey, and they looked pretty darn good. The jerseys worn at the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympic Games could be used as well. Bring back the 1976 Summit Series jerseys if you want a classic Team Canada look. Paul Kariya looks great at the 1993 World Junior Championships, so why not revive that look? As a secondary function, it gets rid of the black in the uniform as well, making Canada red-and-white again.

Hockey Canada could also work with their ringette program to come up with a new jersey in similar fashion to what the 2007 Team Canada Ringette players wore. It's different, but still has the modern flair and looks stylish. The logo is distinctly Canadian, and the colours work well in keeping the current colour scheme of Hockey Canada.

The key with all those jerseys, however, is that the Hockey Canada logo hasn't been used on any of them. And that's all the IOC's ruling states: the Hockey Canada logo cannot be used. So why not bend the rule a little? It seems like this is simply Hockey Canada wanting its familiar logo out on the ice rather than them playing by the rules.

On the other hand, what about a team like Finland? The logo is their hockey federation's logo, so they're going to have to change as well. Yet the Finnish logo is certainly one of the most recognizable at the Olympic ice hockey venues. It's as recognizable as Sweden's Tre Kronor.

All in all, the IOC runs the Olympics, and they make the rules. Hockey Canada can abide by them or not participate. The latter is extremely unlikely since the 2010 Olympics are on Canadian soil, and Canada is a hockey-mad nation when it comes to international events. Since the Winter Olympics only happen every four years, I'd create a separate jersey for Olympic competitions if I were in change of Hockey Canada. It's the easiest solution, and provides a new source of revenue in merchandise sales.

Isn't generating revenue the reason why Hockey Canada is in the business as it is? And isn't that revenue the reason why Hockey Canada's programs are so successful as they can bring in top people and operate a first-class organization?

This decision should be elementary.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Anonymous said...

There's also the possibility of getting the entire nation involved. There could be a competition for the citizens to design the logo. That would create another layer of country pride.

Anonymous said...

It's the usual thing about this discussion, that being it begins and ends with money. The IOC wants their cut of revenue.
Walt AKA All Sports on the Web
All Sports on the Web