Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Hockey Wing Strikes Back

There aren't too many times that a sequel outdoes the first movie in terms of its popularity. There have been a few, and perhaps the most notable movie to do so was George Lucas' The Empire Strikes Back, the follow-up to the immensely popular Star Wars. In this case, Uni Watch's Phil Hecken and myself had collaborated with other members of the Hockey Alliance, and we broke down the 19 new alternate jerseys in terms of worst to first. Part One is here in case you missed it yesterday. Today, we bring you the best of the best of these new uniforms. I'm happy to say that these are fairly eye-pleasing uniforms, and it should be no surprise that colour leads the way.

Again, a huge thanks to Phil for his work and his inclusion of me in this project. Without further adieu, here is the second half of the Uni Watch alternate jersey examination. Once again, comments are welcome here, but I'll be over at the Uni Watch Blog site discussing these uniforms. Come find us there if you want to chat!

#9: New York Islanders: If there is a team whose fall from the top has been more painful, I’d like to meet them. The Islanders decided to bring back the look that carried them to four straight Stanley Cups, and it’s a good look. Except for the poorly-designed socks and off-colour pants. Ok, the jersey is nice. Johnny Flanagan thinks these have a “nice look, great logo. A clean design, that I think should be the base for the Isles' full-time jerseys.” Jay Palmer concurs, “Damn, these look good. While not exactly like the 1972 unis that they were supposed to represent; changing the numbers from orange with a white border to white with an orange border certainly improved the look of the uni. The whole uniform lost MAJOR points though with the socks. How hard is it to have the stripe completely go around the sock?” (Scroll down to see 360 degree overview.) Luke Mohammed agrees with the socks: “Not too bad, but why do the stripes on the socks just stop at the back?”

#8: Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks brought back a highly-popular look with the stick-in-rink jersey. However, they did alter the logo slightly. The jersey itself looks good, though, and the re-introduction of Johnny Canuck on the shoulder is an excellent look back at the team’s history before they arrived on the NHL scene. Sammy Barbour thinks that “on the Canucks, the blue and green colors look good, and the stick-in-rink logo is simple, but effective. “C” for Canucks, right? Add the shoulder logo with Johnny Canuck’s head and this is really cool.” Jim Thorburn feels they “should have switched to this uni years ago instead of going with Shamu the Whale. Very nicely done, colorful, and unlike Toronto, they know how match logos on their pants. Glad to see Johnny Canuck makes an appearance on the shoulders as he is always welcome to show his face. Seeing they use these colors in their normal unis, they should have paid homage to another era of their history and made a third of the flying skate days and brought back the black, red, and yellow. I would have loved to see the 'Flying V' jersey, but I think I am the only person on the face of the earth to be a fan of those.” Matthew Lepke concedes “Vancouver has always had loud unis, so this just harkened back (with slight tweaks) to the team’s early days at Pacific Coliseum. What I love about this sweater is the return of the Johnny Canuck character, featured on the shoulders inside the letter ‘V.’ Not only is this a nod to the city’s pre-NHL days, it’s a great alternate logo. You get the city name, a character associated with the team name (and Canadians, to some degree as well), and he’s even wearing a toque! I’m glad this is on the shoulders rather than as the main logo, though ― perfect.”

#7: St. Louis Blues: Teebz really likes these jerseys. They have that same potential that Edmonton’s alternates had from a few years ago. The new logo has that old-time hockey feel, and the incorporation of the St. Louis Arch into the logo really gives it a distinct St. Louis feeling. As an alternate, this is the standard in which other teams should look to when they are designing something new. Jim Borwick feels St. Louis has a “nice classy uniform that eschewed all the gawdy doo-dads that festoon most new Edge jerseys. However, if they wanted to pay homage to the arch why couldn’t that have been the whole crest? You don’t need the wordmark (home fans generally know who they’re cheering for) and they already got a blue note on each shoulder. Overkill.” Andrew Merritt feels “using the arch was an absolute coup. With the Blues’ resume of disastrous looks, this is the easy winner for all-time best Blues jersey. It’ll be the home sweater soon, I feel. Great touches, like the subtle color of the arch behind the logo to keep it from overwhelming it, and great, small uses of the yellow to give the sweater some vibrance.” Daniel McCue adds that “the Blues already have an iconic sweater, the featured eighth note (technically it’s a sixty-fourth note). While past prototypes echo the Ducks’ disastrous third sweater from 1995, the crest look is iconic and classy. I like incorporating the arch, though it makes me want McDonalds.”

#6: Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers already had a black home jersey, so they had to go back to the orange. Selecting the orange jersey from the Broadstreet Bullies’ days was a step that was unexpected. However, it’s a great step, and a good look for this team rich in history. Keeping the white nameplates like they did in the 1970s is an amazing addition to the historical aspects of these jerseys, but the Flyers need to decide on a font and stick with it. Jim Wooley says you “gotta love the fact that they actually went FROM black TO orange ― added marks for the white nameplate.” Sammy Barbour feels “Philly’s biggest mistake was choosing black uniforms to be their primary during the Edge transition. The orange is far superior, and the black should be their alt. As for these, I’m not a fan of the white nameplate. It’s not endearingly dorky or cool in a kitschy kind of way to me, just kinda stupid. It would be cool for a game or two, but over the course of a season, or multiple seasons, if this design sticks, people will probably get tired of it.” Luke Mohammed thinks it’s a “great throwback, nice to see the orange back. But they look too new age/silly. I don’t know why. When I pictured the Broad Street Bullies, I think of big heavy orange sweaters, not thin, somewhat shiny jerseys. Nothing the Flyers could do about that, though.”

#5: Edmonton Oilers: Edmonton gradually transitioned themselves away from the blue-and-orange of the 1980s into a blue-and-copper look by the mid-1990s. They had an extremely popular alternate uniform at the turn of the century, but the Oilers decided to stick with tradition on their new alternate jersey and go back to the look they wore in the 1980s. High marks for tradition and colour in this new alternate, and this new alternate jersey is nearly identical to what was worn by Gretzky in Edmonton. Jim Borwick objectively states that “having grown up in Calgary watching Gretzky and his boys wear these to beat my Flames, I can’t help but hate them.” Jay Palmer also has memories of the Great One: “This brings back memories of watching Gretzky make his appearance at the Nassau Coliseum. This is back when I was young and stupid enough to think he wore '99' because his contract ran through 1999 (yes, I was young and stupid.)” Andrew Merritt loves them, stating, “You don’t mess with history, and when your history is particularly spectacular, you hold on to it. Beautiful colors, perfect hockey font, an absolutely great look, top to bottom. The Oil’s home and away sweaters are among the prettiest in the league, and this provides a perfect complement.”

#4: Chicago Blackhawks: They’ve worn a black alternate jersey before, so the Blackhawks went down the safe path and reproduced that look again. There have been other examples of black sweaters/jerseys worn by the 'Hawks throughout their history, so they do have tradition on their side. The didn’t mess with their timeless logo either, and that’s huge. Overall, simple is better than tacky. Sammy Barbour feels “they didn’t take too much of a risk here. Black uniform, as they had before the Edge, symmetric to their red and white uniforms. Still, they look sharp. The primary logo is always great, and I’m a big fan of the shoulder logos ― a “C” with crossed tomahawks.” Daniel McCue agrees: “Another classic sweater, Chicago commits to the Indian. It would have been interesting to see that as a shield (like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Minnesota), but that might be sacrilege. It’s good to see the NHL back in Chicago again.” Matthew Lepke feels “the black alternate has been a staple since the heady days of the mid-90s when Starter and Nike roared into the game and started encouraging teams to go new directions with their sweaters, even if it just meant slightly different materials. I don’t consider Chicago to be on the black bad-boy bandwagon of the early 90s because black has long been one of their colors. The Indian Head will always be a classic, even if I grew up a North Stars fan hating Roenick and Belfour.”

#3: Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto has worn these alternates before, and, like Chicago, they went down the safe route with their new alternate jerseys. But to be honest, these are timeless as well. Teams with a rich history such as the Leafs should bring back their older jerseys for new fans to enjoy. Jay Palmer feels the Leafs are “PERFECT!!! The socks, the laces, the modern leaf on the pants (breezers) with the retro leaf as the crest is all great. When you pair that with a shoulder yolk (sic) and horizontal arm and waist stripes…it’s a thing of beauty.” Jim Wooley is a “big fan of the retro style crest and this is a step up from the bland current style.” Jim Thorburn says “they have always used this version of a third so it was no big surprise when they released the design. One of only two teams to have only two colors on their unis and their third jersey is no different. Once again, the classic shoulder yokes make for a very easy uni to look at and I love that they stuck with the menage a trois of stripes on their socks. Little annoyed that they have a historic logo on the jersey but still have the modern logo on the pants. Wake up people; it’s a fashion faux pas not to match!”

#2: Montreal Canadiens: The number of historical jerseys worn by the Canadiens this season can be summed up with one word: beautiful. These jerseys are precisely how hockey uniforms should look, and the Canadiens have always had a classy, timeless look. Montreal has certainly earned their place on this list. Matthew Lepke asks, “Has Montreal ever had a sweater that wasn’t classy? I can’t remember any. They’re ultra-clean, the rouge numerals stand out with the bleu/blanc outlines, and there aren’t any weird, out-of-place adornments on the breezers or socks that don’t look traditional. In short, they’re everything we’ve ever expected from a Habs sweater.” Sammy Barbour agrees that “pretty much any uniform that this team wears is classic and beautiful. It’s hard to go wrong with red, white and blue along with a legendary logo, and all the throwbacks are good to see. A historic team, and historic uniform.” Likewise, Jim Thorburn states, “I swear your put that logo on a tree stump and I’d buy it. Such a classic and historic organization when I heard they were coming out with a line of jerseys for their 100th season celebration I had no worries because you know they’d go historic and they would be done accurately and beautifully. All the thirds were done so nicely that it makes me want to tune into every MON game to make sure I don’t miss any action.”

#1: Pittsburgh Penguins: Another team that has used history to their advantage. The Penguins were nothing more than an easy two points when these jerseys were worn in late 1960s, but they were resurrected at last season’s Winter Classic, and they have been flying off the racks in Pittsburgh stores ever since. They are gorgeous, and completely different than Pittsburgh’s normal black-and-Vegas-gold look. As an alternate jersey, the votes in the informal poll show that this jersey is the winner. Well done, Penguins! Luke Mohammed loves them, but “being a Pens fan I’m a little biased, but these jerseys are perfect. They represent such a different third look for the team (hence the name, third jersey) and they reflect their history. The baby blue is sharp and as much as the joke of a franchise Atlanta Thrashers would like to think so, baby blue belongs to the Penguins. However, I hope this stays only a third jersey and black and gold remains the primary.” Jim Borwick feels that “even though they went retro they made a gutsy move by sticking with a decidedly unmanly colour. Just try selling a batch of baby blue in this day and age.” Johnny Flanagan says, “I love this jersey. If I didn’t hate some of the current cast members of the team, I might even purchase one. When I first heard 'baby blue', I wasn’t so sure how well it would look. However, this jersey is an absolute home run. I generally like classic-looking circle shield logos.”

So there you have it: all 19 jerseys in a two-part review from some of the esteemed members of the Uni Watch Blog comment section. You may disagree with the rankings, and that's entirely acceptable. We all have different tastes, and our likes and dislikes vary from one individual to the next. That's what makes this game so great!

Again, if you want to weigh in, please head on over to Uni Watch Blog where I'll be hanging out for most of the day. All comments are welcome!

Lastly, I want to thank Phil for his impressive work that he did on this article. I am proud and honoured to be a part of this project, and am happy I could help out with it. There will be other collaborations, so stay tuned for further Uni Watch/HBIC efforts!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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