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Discussing the Best and Worst of Sports Uniforms

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Toronto Maple Leafs Re-Design
football
tombierbaum
It was just a couple days ago that I learned the distressing news that hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs are reportedly re-designing their uniforms for next season as part of a celebration of the team’s100th anniversary. I found this distressing for two reasons – first their uniform is my favorite in the NHL by a mile and it will be crushing to see any sort of trendy re-design of a truly classic uniform, and second because the news motivated ESPN.com’s Uni Watch columnist Paul Lukas to announce a Maple Leafs re-design contest and it seemed impossible that I could participate.

In addition to having little enthusiasm for re-designing a uniform I love, the demands of my job have been pretty brutal the past couple of weeks, leading to a condition of physical exhaustion that’s put me behind on all kinds of commitments, including just about any holiday activities this Christmas season.

So a couple of times I made the firm decision to just skip this contest, but nevertheless found myself still kicking around ideas and sketching potential logos. Things like an impossible deadline and an unappealing assignment can sometimes really unleash the creative impulses – what have you got to lose? -- and before long, I found I had enough interesting ideas ratting around that I had to invent the time and get those ideas down on paper.

So here it is, my reluctant re-design of the Toronto Maple Leafs…



These are the home and road uniforms I came up with, and the contest requires a throwback, so I went back to the team’s 1919-20 and 1921-22 look as the Toronto St. Pats (since the team has already done throwbacks to just about all the wonderful versions of their classic “Maple Leaf” designs of the 1920s-1960s)…



My overall approach to the home and away designs was to do something different, since the team has already honored its history with a very nice set of standard uniforms and throwbacks over the last 23 years. I personally would leave the team alone, but the mandate of the contest was to do something, so I came up with a few ideas that felt very traditional and very much contrary to current trends, which is what I think the team should always be. Let the recently added teams experiment with uniforms that in 10 years will look hopelessly dated, the Leafs should wear designs that stand the test of time.

So I came up with a kind of "barber-pole" approach that had actually occurred to me for the Penguins, a striped jersey where the contrast of the stripes is in subtle colors so it has the tradition of old hockey jerseys (and the great Pittsburgh Steelers "bumblebee" throwbacks), but is toned down enough that it might be palatable to contemporary tastes as an everyday jersey.

I also gave their crest kind of baseball-inspired scipt over a slightly more realistic leaf and then added one of my patented cartoon mascots as a secondary logo. And I'm here to tell you, it's a bit of a challenge to anthropromorphize a leaf, but I did find a recognizable hockey pose that worked fairly well.

The contest also requires a 100th anniversary commemorative patch, and I first thought of the numeral "100" with the middle of one of the zeroes filled by the current Leafs logo; then thought the other zero needed something, so in went the classic logo of the 1920s-60s; and then realized the one now needed something and the shape seemed appropriate for a silhouette of the Stanley Cup. That might seem cruel to the beleaguered fans of the Leafs, who haven't seen their team hoist the cup since 1967, but I think it's an appropriate reminder of what the current team's goal is and of the 13 times in its history the team has indeed captured the cup (and note the "XIII" down the side of the base of the Stanley Cup in my logo, commemorating those 13 championships).


As you can see, I went a little crazy with the opposing teams, determined to advance my obsession to restore bright vivid colors to the palate of current sports uniforms.  I started with just images in my mind of really bright, eye-catching combinations -- color schemes that would grab your eye as ESPN was running through the highlights of that previous night's games. Then I started thinking of teams that would make sense in those color schemes.

First is the Boston Bruins in yellow and brown, with dark-gold trim. The Bruins have briefly used yellow and brown in their past and since the name Bruin is literally from the Dutch word from brown ("bruin"), that really does seem like an appropriate color scheme for the team. And just to do something with a little extra sizzle, the gold trim occurred to me as a way to really give the scheme some impact. And when I was envisioning fun cartoon mascots, a bruin character immediately jumped to mind.

As I thought about other teams in the league, as soon as I thought of the Calgary Flames, this color scheme popped into my head, essentially making every player look as much as possible like individual licks of fire streaking across the ice.

And finally, I love yellow with red highlights and it occurred to me the New Jersey Devils would look a lot better to my eye with that color scheme than their current red and black (or their original red and green).

So there you have it, the 100th anniversary Toronto


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Your first logo proposal is intriguing. Tempted to track down a suitable typeface to go with the leaf design, probably a script-style font.

Your "100" logo proposal could be counted as incitement to riot against Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) by the Toronto police. Especially given how long it's been since the Leafs last won the Stanley Cup. Some of that timeframe being ensured by the actions of previous owners of the Leafs, come to think of it. And while MLSE hasn't been anywhere near as proud or blatant about that being a policy as Harold Ballard was...some still harbour suspicions of the current management.

I've started looking for that font to match from amongst the script-styled.

Thanks, Dwight, it would be interesting to find a font that more or less duplicates the script I envisioned. It was largely inspired by various scripts on baseball jerseys and mimics a script for a Toronto Hawks baseball team my brothers and I designed when we were kids (a few years before there was a real Toronto team).

And agreed the inclusion of the Stanley Cup on the logo might be a little provocative for a team that's closing in on a half-century since their last win. Based on the actual unveiling of the team's new logo and comments by team officials, I think their interest is in an updated identity that focuses on a determination to return to the competitiveness of the team's early years, and in that spirit I'd hope the fans could get on board with the spirit of my logo. (I'm not a big hockey fan, but the Leafs are my favorite team -- I think I adopted them in 1966-67, which ended up being the season of their last Stanley Cup win -- so I can empathize with the frustration of its fan base.

One thing I've found: there's no shortage of script-styled fonts out there, and several of them come close to what you'd be looking for. Comicraft's Spills won't do the job, as it seems better suited to baseball teams in general...

I found one font called "English Script Hand" that isn't too far off, but couldn't figure out how to download it without spending $40.

Playball Pro-Regular might do the job for your design at US$14.98 if you get it from MyFonts.com before February 12th.

Speaking of MLSE again for a moment...

...they've done some new-jersey unveiling of their own in recent days.

http://www.icethetics.co/blog/2016/2/2/maple-leafs-marlies-reveal-new-logos

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