Saturday, 13 February 2010

Walking The Olympic Hockey Catwalk

We see the jerseys of the various national teams more and more often now with the IIHF World Championships, the IIHF World Junior Championships, and the World Cup of Hockey being covered by media and bloggers alike. While there is no doubt that wearing your national team's jersey evokes feelings of pride and patriotism, there is some concern about the way these jerseys are starting to look. In particular, there seems to be an abundance of "flair" on these jerseys that wasn't seen in the past. Whether this is due to Nike's competition with Reebok in the world of hockey jerseys or simply a lack of good taste in the people who approve of these designs from each country's hockey governing body, the fact is that some international jerseys are starting to slide. Today, I'm proud to partner with Phil in looking at the 2010 Winter Olympics Men's Hockey Tournament from a uniform perspective.

I'm not ranking the jerseys in terms of who should be awarded the gold, silver, or bronze medal in terms of the design. I simply want to run through each team so that you will be able to identify who is playing who when you happen upon a game on TV. I'll run through the tournament in alphabetical order, and both Phil and I will provide some commentary on each country's look after a brief introduction on the country's Olympic hockey history.

Also to be noted: the images provided from the IIHF website show some significant differences as compared to some of the jerseys worn in the pictures. I've located the most recent pictures I could find in each case, but the Olympic jerseys may still be different.

BELARUS: The 2010 Winter Olympics will mark only the third time that the former Soviet state has qualified for an Olympiad in men's hockey. Belarus' best showing at a Winter Olympics came in 2002 in Salt Lake City where they finished in fourth-place after the Swedes and Tommy Salo took the upstart Belarussians for granted in the quarter-finals. They finished in seventh-place in Nagano in 1998.

Teebz: The picture from the IIHF website shows some serious problems. Truncated sleeve stripes? Check. Superfluous armpit colours? Check. I do like the logo, however, and that adds some life to the jerseys.

The Belarussians looked pretty good in their Nike Swift jerseys in the pre-Olympic exhibition games. I'm not fond of the vertical stripes on the arms and shins that do nothing except to add a little flair, but overall the look isn't that bad. However, the back of the jerseys leave a lot to be desired. What is with the band of material under the numbers? Did Nike outsource their jerseys to some Grade Seven Home Economics class? The red jersey has the green hem, and I really like how sublime it is.

Phil: It's Christmas in Canada. Wait, no it's not. Actually, I don't have too much of a problem with this jersey. That will be a pattern, surprisingly.

CANADA: Canada has competed in every Winter Olympiad in men's hockey with the exception of 1972 and 1976 when a protest was staged against the Soviet squad. Because the Soviet players were trained year-round, the Canadians protested that the Soviet squad was a professional squad, and refused to send teams to those games. Canada has won gold medals seven times, the most recent in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

Teebz: I had lots of thoughts in my August 17, 2009 article when the new uniforms were debuted. I like the artistic incorporation of the First Nations' symbols into the Maple Leaf, and the jerseys themselves are clean and simplistic. There are no unnecessary armpit colours or trendy colours. They even did away with the black jersey! Personally, I like the look of the Canadian team in these jerseys. I can even live with the truncated sleeve stripes on these jerseys.

Phil: I like this one, and I like the little pattern thingy inside the maple leaf. AND, they didn't do BFBS. Can the Canadians actually win gold in an Olympics they have hosted (which, they've never done in any sport, in any season, btw)? This could be the year, and this could be the sweater in which they're finally gold.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic has played in the past four Winter Olympiads. Their best showing was at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics where they won the gold medal. They have finished no lower than fifth-place in all four Olympic years.

Teebz: I'll be honest - stripes that go nowhere and end with no reason bother me. As a result, the stripes on the front and back of the Czech Republic's jerseys bother me. The blue stripes end unceremoniously half way up the sides of the players. Why can't they go all the way around the body following the hemline? The superfluous blotches that run from biceps to pectoral on the jerseys also serve no real purpose. I do like the Coat of Arms logo, though.

Phil: This is actually one of my least favorite -- I like the Coat of Arms, and that's about it. Too many bumper stickers on this one.

FINLAND: Since 1952, the Finns have played in every men's hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics except one - 1956. Their best showing was a silver medal performance twice, in 1988 and in 2006. They have never finished lower than seventh-place, and have brought home two bronze medals along with the two silvers in their history.

Teebz: If you notice, the two Finnish jerseys actually differ quite a bit. The blue jersey has the dark blue running up the arms into the armpit panel. The contrast doesn't look that bad, but the white jersey doesn't have any contrast on the underside of the arms. What does bother me are different sleeve and shin stripes. The blue jersey looks normal, but why does the white jersey have arm confetti that ends at the elbow? Vertical stripes look dumb if they go nowhere. This needs to stop. The traditional horizontal stripes of the blue jersey look much better.

Phil: I'm not generally a fan of two toned jerseys, but for some reason, powder (for lack of a better word) blue and navy blue work really well together. That being said, they really did NOT need the pit stripes on the dark sweater. But the rest of it is very nice. Well, except for the vertical stripes on the shins. That bothers me.

GERMANY: From 1928-1948, Germany was a decent team, finishing with a bronze medal in one of their four Olympic appearances. In 1952, the West Germans played in the Olympics as the country began its split into West and East Germany. However, 1956-1964 saw the two countries unite and play as the Unified German team. 1968-1988 saw the two teams separate and play as the West and East Germany, respectively. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, though, the Germans returned as a unified squad. Since 1992, the Germans have finished no higher than sixth-place, and no lower than tenth-place.

Teebz: Everything is right about these jerseys. Traditional horizontal stripes, great colour contrasts, and a solid logo. I'm not a fan of black hockey jerseys, but this is one country that pulls it off quite well. I even like the sublimated design on the sleeves. High marks for the German squad for their look.

Phil: Like Teebz, I'm rather fond of this one. I actually like the sleeve design and since this is one instance where the uni is NOT BFBS, I can live with it. On the white sweater, I would do without the black piping under the arms and the pits, but it's not so obnoxious as to really ruin the look. Good stuff from Deutschland.

LATVIA: Latvia's Olympic history is a little strange. They first participated in 1936, placing 13th. Their next appearance didn't occur until 2002 where they finished in ninth-place. In 2006 in Torino, Italy, the Latvians finished 12th. The Latvians are looking to place higher than ninth-place in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Teebz: There's a lot going on across these jerseys, but they incorporate some interesting aspects. The name is made part of the hem stripe, so it doesn't stand out but is still conspicuous. The logo is just noticeable enough to draw you away from the maroon-and-white, but it doesn't really stand out either. The stripes are traditional, and that deep maroon colour is very distinct. Overall, I really like the contrasts on these jerseys, and Latvia's look ranked high enough that I bought one of the old-style Latvian jerseys. If there was one issue, it's those wavy side stripes that do nothing. I just can't support that.

Phil: This could be my favorite jersey, at least the dark sweater, because I love the color. But what's that "cream/gold" wavy pattern next to the two bold white stripes down the side? I'm not sure why that's there, but it's totally unnecessary. Overall, it's a pretty nice looking uniform however, and I like the contrasting black breezers paired with the white and maroon (or is that burgundy) top.

NORWAY: Norway's first appearance in men's hockey came in 1952 where they placed ninth. They didn't qualify again until 1964, but only missed once between 1964-1994. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be Norway's first appearance since 1994. They have never finished higher than ninth-place, and have finished as low as 12th once.

Teebz: I don't like the Norwegians' lack of imagination on these jerseys. Norway had a very interesting logo with a polar bear in earlier tournaments, and I like that much better than the Rangers-esque diagonal name. The sleeves are a little busy on the old jersey, so the new sleeve design with the traditional stripes are a plus. The red jerseys aren't overly outstanding, but the colour does stand out. These are middle of the road for me.

Phil: Once again, I agree with Teebz in that Norway's previous unis with the bear thingy were better. But this is the Olympics, and you pretty much need your name or some kind of National crest (or tre kroners) on your uniform. So we get "Norge" which is fine. There really aren't enough red, white and blue jerseys in the game today, however. At least their dark jersey is red over blue pants, so that's a bit different. Kind of a yawner, but nothing awful either. No bumper stickers and nice striping make up for the bland design.

RUSSIA: Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian squad has played in four Winter Olympic Games since 1994. They have never finished lower than fourth-place, bringing home a silver medal from Nagano in 1998, and a bronze medal from Salt Lake City in 2002.

Teebz: The one thing that struck me as odd is how the armpit panel runs into the shoulder panel, creating a tank top look for the Russians. However, if the same jerseys are used as what was seen in the IIHF World Championships, the Russians should be ok. Again, nothing overly spectacular about these jerseys, but the yellow logo does stand out against the red very well. I just hope those shin triangles don't show up at the Olympics.

Phil: OK... not a fan of the blue half-loops on the shoulders with the numbers, and I don't like the blue pit patches and underarm stripes, either. But I do like the sublimated design on the jersey itself. Usually, I'm not a fan of these kinds of Nike uni-machinations, but in the instances where that appears on the Olympic uniforms, I can live with it. I love the crest and the funky font for spelling out "Russia" in cyrillic (?) as well.

SLOVAKIA: Slovakia hasn't has the same success that the Czech Republic has had since the dissolution of Czechsolvakia in 1993. The Slovaks have played in four Winter Olympiads, and have finished no higher than fifth-place, but no lower than 10th-place. Slovakia is looking to build on its fifth-place finish from the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Teebz: I've never really been a fan of Slovakia's jerseys. If the jersey is supposed to represent the country, it feels as though Slovakia is simply trying too hard to be noticed. While I prefer the Slovakian white jersey due to how good the logo appears on it, the blue jerseys just seem way too busy. I just don't like the look of Slovakia.

Phil: Again with the bumper stickers. Ugh. And the red, white and blue again. I mean, if it's a nation's colors, I can't really complain, but these could be my least favorite of all. I like their sock stripes though.

SWEDEN: The Swedes have had a men's hockey team at the Winter Olympics since 1920, and have only not participated twice - 1932 and 1976. In that time, they have won two gold medals, two silver medals, and four bronze medals. They have never finished lower than fifth-place in their history.

Teebz: Honestly, this is a traditional national jersey. The Tre Kronor hasn't changed very much since Sweden began using it as their jersey design, and it has stood the test of time. While some may argue that each hockey team should have a white and a dark jersey, I say Sweden's uniqueness in wearing yellow as the home team is what makes them special. High marks for Sweden for not giving into gaudy designs and "en vogue" fashion.

Phil: You gotta love Sweden, right? Well, yes and no. I like that they've kept a very traditional uniform. Surprisingly, however, what bugs me is actually the yellow jersey -- not because it's yellow, but because it's the ONLY yellow (versus white) in the Games. You want yellow? Fine, replace the blue jersey with the yellow, and you're gold (no pun intended). And wear a white sweater as your "light" jersey. I DO like how the yellow and blue jerseys are basically inverses of each other, and there are no annoying superfluous stripes or shapes anywhere. Overall, one of the best. I think the gold jersey may be my favorite of all in the Games -- just swap the blue for white and we're good to go, ok?

SWITZERLAND: Switzerland has been in and out of the Olympics with some regularity. They did not participate in 1932, 1960, 1968, 1980, 1984, 1994, or 1998. However, they have had some success since 1920 as they have two bronze medals to their names, won in 1928 and 1948. The Swiss have never finished higher than third-place, and have finished as low as 12th-place.

Teebz: The Swiss actually had excellent jerseys in their pre-Olympic exhibition games, so I'm not sure why they wouldn't wear these jerseys without the billboards at the Olympics. The white jersey is simply too white for me to say "that's Switzerland". What I don't understand is that if the pictures of the jerseys from the IIHF website are true, why is there so much blank space on the jerseys? Perhaps the Swiss are following Atlanta's lead with a football number in the middle? Not a very good set, Swiss, if the pictures are true. Not at all.

Phil: Red and white.. but no blue. Well, the jerseys are nothing if not neutral. Kind of a bland jersey set, but of course, why would they want to ally themselves with any jersey pattern? Pretty independent thought involved in seeking to offend no one, but overwhelm none either. Perhaps the timing is off, but they could be one to watch.

USA: The USA have participated in men's hockey since 1920. The only year that the USA didn't field a team was at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games. The Americans have won the gold medal twice - 1960 and 1980 - in stunning fashion, and have also brought home seven silver medals and one bronze medal. The Americans have never finished lower than eighth-place.

Teebz: This might be the best-looking American men's hockey team in a long time. I love the simplicity of the home and road jerseys, and the throwback alternate representing the 1960 USA team that won gold is magnificent. The sublimated design that the USA will be sporting on their uniforms looks like this. If I'm Team USA, though, I'm wearing the throwback every chance I get. Overall, though, the Americans rank very high with their design.

Phil: USA! USA! USA! Ok, enough of that. It's hard to say "I love this uni" and not sound like a homer, so, at the risk of sounding like a homer, I like this a LOT. I really love the Squaw Valley throwback, and they should wear that like, oh, every game they can. But I guess Nike wants to move the merch, so that's why the USA has an alt (which is totally unnecessary in this sort of tournament). Nevertheless, all three looks are good, with the 1960 unis (in which they won the Gold at Squaw Valley) being tops! Go USA, Go! (sorry)

There you have it, folks. Now that you've read all that, hunker down in front of your television set, and watch the best players in the world battle for Olympic gold! This tournament should be an absolute beauty, eh! Big stick tap to Phil for his effort! Thanks, Phil!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Kate said...

Phil went to town with the Swiss jokes lol.

My two cents:
Sweden looks classy.
Germany looks scary-good.
USA looks like the NYRangers.