Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Hockey Wing Of Uni Watch

Officially, I have been doing some moonlighting away from this blog. If you didn't already know, I have an enormous amount of respect for Paul Lukas' Uni Watch Blog due to its trove of amazing information and the knowledge of the people who gather there daily. There are a few of us who make up the "hockey wing" of the Uni Watch corporation, and we're generally kept in a locked room until hockey season rolls around. Sometimes, it feels like we're Morgan Freeman's character from the new Batman movies: Lucius Fox. But you get the idea.

However, Phil Hecken, the bench coach over at Uni Watch, asked me to provide some insight on the new NHL alternate jerseys introduced this season. He informally polled most of those who reside in the hockey wing, tabulated the results, and then asked for a little input from me. This is what I've been concentrating on the last few days, so I apologize if it seemed that I was ignoring this place. Believe me, I'm not.

Without further adieu, here is what Phil and I have been working on. Phil ok'd the cross-publication of this on both blogs as it is primarily his work, and I am eternally grateful for his work, and for the friendship we have forged.

Ok, enough of the sappy, mushy stuff. Let's get to the article! Please note that Uni Watch Blog has the unedited version. I removed some of the questionable language because of my blog's PG-rating.

A few weeks ago, Sports Illustrated came out with a “ranking” of the new NHL third (alternate) uniforms. Many of us, particularly members of the UW Hockey Wing, disagreed with those assessments. With that in mind, I sought out members of that forgotten branch of the UW world, along with Hockey Wing President, Teebz, to compile a much more accurate listing of those thirds. The rankings have been derived by taking the responses I received to my survey, and averaged to come up with a rank. We’ll list them in reverse chronological order (worst to first) over the weekend, beginning with 19-10 on Saturday, and 9-1 on Sunday, along with comments from those who participated in the survey. Big thanks to everyone who submitted their lists! If I somehow forgot you, I apologize. — Phil

First, I want to say thanks to Phil for putting this whole thing together. While I know some of you cringe whenever the hockey wing starts blabbing, I’ve always maintained that hockey sweaters/jerseys are the best uniforms in sports. However, as we’ve seen over the last few years with the introduction of Reebok’s designs, there have been some very questionable and very poor designs that have been put out on the ice. Thanks to Phil’s yeoman work, the hockey wing has tabulated the results of some informal polling, and we present to you the 19 alternate uniforms that the NHL unveiled this season from worst to first. I’ll be making a number of comments throughout the article, so please be gentle in destroying my credibility. Enjoy, and I look forward to the comments! — Teebz

And with that, President Teebz and Phil give you... the Worst Alternates of 2008-09. Agree? Disagree? Think we’re full of crap? Be sure to let us know what YOU think!

#19: San Jose Sharks: The blackest of the black jerseys was showcased by the San Jose Sharks. The black jersey doesn’t bother Teebz, as seen before on the Sharks, but the complete sell-out of an entire uniform set does. Naming these uniforms “BlackArmor” to help promote a portable hard drive made by Seagate, a partner with the Sharks, is the equivalent to European hockey jerseys. Why not just sublimate “Seagate Systems” on the back hem? As a North American professional sports team, selling an entire set of uniforms to a company is the lowest move one can make, and San Jose gets the lowest position for it. Jim Thorburn weighs in with this: “Pretty sure how the brainstorming for this uni went: Guy #1: CRAP! We forgot to make our third jersey for this year and the design is due in 30 seconds. Guy #2: QUICK! Just take our current jersey, make it black and add a tail to our logo! BAM! Done!” Not everyone hates the new Sharks unis, however. Matthew Lepke lets it be known that, “The BlackArmor thing never bothered me. It’s Silicon Valley, and I write this at a computer set up with three Seagate drives — so maybe my brand loyalty is blinding me. I really liked the original black alternate — the teal and white offset the black body well. Not having a stripe at the hem has always bugged me with this uni, though — it leaves the sweater looking unbalanced, especially when worn by anyone off-ice.”

#18: Atlanta Thrashers: The University of Atlanta Thrashers really went for the collegiate look. Not only does it appear that they’re using basketball jerseys, but there are almost no design aspects that anyone can work with. Simply put - horrible. Why couldn’t they do something like this? (credit Teebz for that mockup!) UW reviewers were not kind. Jay Palmer states, “Do I really need to tell you why this is possibly the ugliest uniform of all time (in ANY sport)? I don’t even know where to begin (other than firing the designer)…so use your imagination and pretend that each player is skating in their underwear; at least that would be an improvement.” Daniel McCue agrees, “I think this sweater is a metaphor for the franchise. Atlanta and hockey fans deserve better.” Johnny Flanagan hates it as well, “This is awful. Simply awful. The shoulder logos are stupid, the chest logo looks awful, the sleeves look ridiculous, and the colors are simply not nice to look at. How did this happen!??! I’m surprised they didn’t make this jersey black. Imagine that!”

#17: Carolina Hurricanes: Red and white? Ok. A touch of black? No problem. But to go completely black and incorporate gray as a secondary colour? Epic fail. Anyone who blacks out their primary logo deserves a failing mark, and that’s exactly what Carolina has earned with this alternate jersey. Oh, and try using a little colour (Teebz’ rendering again). Johnny Flanagan opines, “This jersey wins the prize, for being the worst alternate in all of hockey. First, it’s black. Secondly, I understand what they are trying to do with the main logo, but what’s the point in the triangle behind it? Thirdly, you can’t really see the shoulder logos... looks like bird droppings. The design across the bottom is ridiculous…There is no silver square hurricane flag. It looks like a Mexican Indian design, not the bottom of an NHL hockey jersey. Awful, awful, awful.” A little kinder was Jim Wooley, who simply states, “Apparently they should have two flags as the logo, but still, it’s a bit of a bore.” Jim Thorburn, however, was not: “Carolina Tropical Storms! If you’re going to use a flag as your secondary logo at least make sure it’s the RIGHT FLAG! And did they run out of red dye for the bottom? The gray squares just seems out of place to me. Should have thrown Hartford a bone and did a Whalers throwback, but coming from an organization that uses the wrong flag, they probably would have used a dolphin and not even noticed...”

#16: Ottawa Senators: A nickname? Really? That’s the best the Senators could do? For a team with a rich history of prominent sweaters, why not use their secondary logo of the “O” like they did in the 1930s? Or perhaps one of the logo patents they registered in Canada? Nothing says “beer league” like a nickname. Sammy Barbour feels “It’s black. It has a lot of random color blocking in red and white, creating a random whirl of colors on the ice. The crest is a boring wordmark, and it’s an abbreviation of the team name. Ottawa has two perfectly good Senator logos — use them.” Andrew Merritt was more emphatic in his description: “Worst. Decision. Ever. The Sen’s have such a great color scheme, and a mascot that lends to plenty of great options — hell, even setting up a contract with Warner Brothers and going with a black-crimson-white Marvin the Martian would have been cool. Instead, we get what looks at best like one of those knockoff 'fan jerseys' clueless parents buy for their kids because ‘it looks sharp.’ Hey Sens, you see that flag you’ve got on the shoulders? Next time, USE THAT!”

#15: Phoenix Coyotes: Teebz is a fan of the sand and brick red colours they have in their colour scheme, so someone needs to explain to him why they went black. The new shoulder patch is alright, but what is that thing on the front? Border collie? A rabid animal? A Red Fox? Luke Mohammed remarks, “An ugly logo, as well as going black for the sake of black = ugly. Plus, two different shoulder patches, come on. They also wear it with their red helmets.” Jim Borwick agrees with the anti-black sentiment, “‘Hey, lets use black and a logo that kinda looks like our primary logo but is a bit different.’ Bad idea.” Jim Wooley simply asks, “Is that roadkill on the front?”

#14: Tampa Bay Lightning: The good on this jersey is the return to the blue colour. The bad is the nickname. The Tampa Bay Bolts? We’re sorry, but the franchise is called the "Lightning". Always has been. Always will be. Whoever thought putting “Bolts” on the jersey needs a kick in the nuts-and-bolts. Matthew Lepke states, “Ugh. Lee. Ugly. This is what casual hockey fans and other non-initiates think of when they think Florida hockey? It’s too bad; I liked the updated logo. How much does one venture to guess that the same designers on this project were given the Ottawa job? This sweater wouldn’t pass for a senior league team, let alone an NHL club. I really don’t like the half-moon stripes on either side of the chest; will someone please make them go away? The stripes on the sleeves don’t match the body hem stripes, and this looks dumb. I’m glad Melrose doesn’t have to coach a team that occasionally looks this bad.” Less effusive in his praise was Daniel McCue, who remarks “‘BOLTS’ Really? Maybe they blew their design budget on Mike Smith’s new 'Saw' helmet.” Finally, some good news, as Jim Borwick feels “This uni had the most imagination put into it. Team nickname, new colour — too bad they used such a cartooney typeface. Why not lose the side piping and put a bolt down the front? Shazam! That’d be nice.”

#13: Dallas Stars: We’re almost certain that if you create a white jersey in the same design as your home jersey, you have a road jersey. But Dallas calls it their "alternate jersey". Wouldn’t this jersey be an alternate since it, y’know, looks different than the other two? Sammy Barbour feels “SI put these at the bottom of their list, and I’ll admit that they are pretty boring. But it’s white: plain and refreshing. They could have done worse. I’ve always liked the Stars’ colors and striping pattern, and I do here as well.” Luke Mohammed doesn’t understand “why people hate this jersey. Here are their complaints: ‘It’s boring‘... ok, the other end of the spectrum is to be busy/ugly. ‘They’re white'... if they weren’t white they could be black; wait, everyone hates black jerseys though. ‘They’re made for the road, which is bad marketing’... shame on them for not doing everything for money. What type of jerk in this day and age doesn’t do something to maximize their money? These jerseys are simple, sharp and classy.”

#12: Los Angeles Kings: Instead of playing like a good team, the Kings decided to pretend to dress like one. This is a great uniform. This is a cheap, $1-bargain-bin knock-off. See the difference? Bonus marks, however, for bringing back the mid-90s helmet stickers. Jay Palmer thinks “maybe the Kings will win games because opponents will fear being touched by the repulsiveness that is this jersey. Shoulder yolks (sic) should end at the shoulders…not go all the way down to the wrist. The crest doesn’t work at all and quite frankly the rest of the uniform is just 'blah.'” Andrew Merritt thinks “The Kings have sucked pretty hard since switching to the purple, so I don’t have a problem with harkening back to the Gretzky-era colors. The front crest is a little blah, but it still mostly works. It could have been a lot worse, and it doesn’t use any obvious purple, which is a huge plus.” Johnny Flanagan isn’t enamored with the “stupid, boring logo. Who’s idea was it to have the letters ‘L.A.’ and a crown, inside home plate??? They were trying to have a clean, strong 'shield' type of design. It came out looking simply stupid. The only way it could be worse is if they loaded it up with a bunch of purple.”

#11: Buffalo Sabres: Does it bother anyone else that the Sabres took a classic jersey from the 1980s, and replaced it with a hybrid of their new garbage? Bring back the royal blue and yellow! That’s how the Sabres should look - not this garbage with the navy and gray piping! Andrew Merritt likes them: “About as perfect as you’re going to see. The old logo and jersey never should have gone anywhere, and while the Buffa-Slug is still a disgrace, at least there’s some solace to be had in the Sabres’ classic third. My bet is that within two years, the third takes over as the home sweater, and with it comes a Stanley Cup. OK, the cup may take three years.” Matthew Lepke is amazed “How much Buffalonians have adopted the Buffa-Slug. On a recent trip to the city, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people wore their team’s colors about town and on gameday, even if the new logo seems sub-par. Perhaps it’s a cathartic thing, as everyone looks to forget the dark days when the team was in bankruptcy after the Rigas family disaster, and a new look signifies the breath of life owner Tom Golisano brought to WNY (Western New York). Regardless, I’ve always been a big fan of the classic swords-and-charging-buffalo logo, and this is a solid update to that icon. I really dislike the strange silver half-circles at either side of the chest, and feel the same for the silver under the armpits, but barring these facets, I’m happy to see the Sabres once more wearing the blue and gold.” Jim Borwick feels the Sabres "coulda been a contender but adding the side piping and the ridiculous upper jersey number wrecks this one for me. Why do you need another small number less than 6 inches from the one on the sleeve?”

#10: Boston Bruins: Why do teams with black jerseys introduce black alternate jerseys? The Bruins could have done so much more with all the past jerseys they’ve had. We’re not saying they should have gone yellow like they did once, but why not a hybrid of a Bobby Orr/Cam Neely white jersey with an angry bear? (mockup: credit Teebz) Daniel McCue thinks there’s “too much black. A yellow yoke (like the kid in the left side of the frame of the header) would move this up. I’m okay with a deviation from the ‘Spoked B.’ The NHL needs New England to care about hockey again.” Jim Thorburn opines, “If I saw the bear head make a reappearance on a BOS uni this year, I probably would have shot my TV every time I saw it. When organizations use logos they have in the past (plus it’s on their shoulders currently) show they are proud of their history. This is one of the few teams I give a ‘pass’ to for using a black third because they have always used black as one of their primary colors. Good uni, and glad they kept the ‘Spoked B’ within eyes reach and placed it on the shoulder. Maybe they could have used striping on the bottom hemline but I am happy the way it is now.” Jim Wooley was somewhat non-plussed: “I would have preferred a late 60s/early 70s throwback, but this is a nice look.”

Well, that’s the first batch. Let’s have at it!

Comments are certainly welcome on here, but I'll be spending most of my time discussing these comments over at Uni Watch Blog. Join us there if you like!

Until tomorrow when we bring you the #1 through #9 rankings, keep your sticks on the ice!

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