Sports Design Blog is proud to welcome a guest columnist today who is going to infuse the site with some serious hockey knowledge. I am the first to admit that I'm a bit weak on hockey, so today's column is authored by Johnny Griswold, the editor of the great hockey design blog PuckDrawn. Johnny's blog is outstanding and his knowledge of hockey logos, graphics and uniforms is top notch. Johnny has been a regular contributor to the site, so I'm handing control of the site to him today. Enjoy!
By Johnny Griswold
Back the late 70's, when I was a wee-lad, I discovered that I had a talent for drawing. Do you remember those "Learn to Draw" ads inside the TV guide? Well, I could draw the pirate and Tippy the Turtle better than anyone this side of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania! I loved drawing and I also loved sports, so it was only natural that the two would come together and I would be obsessed with drawing sports logos and designing uniforms.
I went to many Phillies games as a kid and thought the uniforms that Mike Schmidt wore—the baby blues with the maroon stripes and disco "P"—were fantastic! I also loved the Eagles' uniforms. Eagle wings on a helmet? That's frickin' awesome! And I loved their Kelly green uniforms with the great big green and white stripes.
I was definitely a fan of the home team's logo and uniform design.
Then in 1983, my dad took me to my first Flyers hockey game. I remember they played the Buffalo Sabres and I was mesmerized by the colors flying around the ice. The uniforms were bright, colorful and bold; all popping off the bright white ice and the ad-less dasher boards. I loved the speed of the game, the hitting, the fighting and the insane fans at the Spectrum. Instantly, hockey became my favorite sport and I was obsessed with hockey jerseys and logos.
I think I redesigned every hockey logo and uniform at least a million times as a kid. That giant Crayola crayon box was full of nubs by the time I got through with my rebrands. At the time I didn't realize that some crests were untouchable, but if needed, I could have supplied the Flyers with enough logos to put on third, fourth and fifth jerseys—as well as shoulder patches for each. I would have been a marketing director's dream designer. An endless supply of images to use for all their merchandising needs.
As I look back, I realize that every single one of those logos and uniforms were horribly designed pieces of garbage. Hey, we can't all be the Picasso of sports design.
Getting back to that first Flyers game; I remember all the colors on the ice that night were so vivid. There were no baby blue or all-black jerseys, no Reebok horizontal piping, no cartoon mascots biting a stick in half and no Disney-sponsored idiots parading around as a real hockey team.
The 80's, for me, were the height of great uniform design. Just look at any photo from that era and it's unmistakably 80's. The bright, almost neon colors, the simple, yet bold and elegant crests, and the hem stripes—which seemed like they were a foot high!
In the 80's you didn't have teams trying to out-black each other. You knew, instantly, who was on the ice at any given moment just by glancing at the colors skating around on the tv screen (If you were lucky enough to get hockey on tv in America that is). In a split second you could tell that the Flyers were playing the Kings. Purple, yellow and orange are unmistakable. Try doing that now with all the black or dark blue jerseys. For instance, if you turned on the tube to watch a game and the Dallas Stars were playing the Anaheim Ducks, you'd have to really study their generic beer can of a jersey to tell who was playing who.
And some people (I'm lookin' at you, Paul, over at UniWatchBlog) have pure hatred for the color purple in sports uniform design. But, I defy you to find anything cooler than those purple and gold uniforms of the Los Angeles Kings of the 1980s. I know it's just a matter of time before the Kings re-introduce a purple and gold uniform permanently. I predict they will introduce a "retro" purple and gold third jersey modeled after the 80's beauties—fans will go gaga over it—and it will become their full-time jersey as quickly as the league allows them to do so.
My problem with modern hockey jerseys is the lack of creativity and the fine art of thinking outside the box for no good reason at all. Just look at this third jersey that the St. Louis blues almost trotted out on the ice before Iron Mike Keenen squashed the idea. There's no reason to replace the blue-note crest for that monstrous American Bandstand third jersey design.
I blame the 90's for introducing a lot of nauseating design concepts: Primary blacks for just about every team, "Vegas gold," teal, swooshy and 45-degree angle stripes and angry, stick-biting, cartoon mascots.
In the 80's, jerseys had style and an elegance. There were no Reebok templates, where teams just filled in different colors on each panel of the jersey like it was paint-by-numbers. And vertical piping? Gimme a break.
Thankfully, teams like the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers are bringing back the classic designs of the 80's. Some will call it retro, but I'd like to think that teams are realizing that you don't have to over-think sports uniform design. I don't think this "retro" period is just a short-term novelty; I believe that those teams (and hopefully ALL teams) recognize that the style, color and personality of the uniforms in the 80's are something worth bringing back for the long-haul.