PURPLE & GOLD = GOOD. MEDIEVAL TIMES = BAD.

[This post originally posted on March 21, 2011.]

What is your preferred jersey? " LA Kings Insider
This has been a very poorly kept secret, but the Kings are likely to change their primary uniforms next season. The current third jersey — the black jersey with the "LA" logo — is scheduled to become the full-time home jersey, while a newly created white version of that jersey would become the full-time road jersey. The current home jersey, the black-and-purple jersey with the crown logo, would become the third jersey. Is that confusing enough?

No, it's not confusing. It's terrible.

Even the infamous Burger King jersey three or four times a year -- it being so ugly and misguided that no one would ever consider it for full-time use -- is a better option than the Medieval Times jerseys FULL TIME! 

Yes, I know it would be embarrassing to pull the plug on your new re-design. Please, do it anyway. Seriously, have you not talked to the fans? I beg you to talk to some people. 

And by "people" I mean real people. 

DON'T LEAVE IT IN THE HANDS OF MARKETING PEOPLE. Market research will not get you something great, iconic, classy, or any other desirable adjective. It will get you boring and middle-of-the-road. And that's best case. 

I'm going to use bullet-points from now on, in an attempt to make my feverish anger and disappointment seem more rational. 

  • Back in '88, the Kings started the trend toward black. For twenty-plus years, it's been spiraling out of control. The Devils ditched green for black. Calgary added black. Hartford turned into Carolina and they went black. Philly went uber-black with their thirds. Dallas went black with green. Anaheim went to something that either is black or may as well be black. San Jose was of course black and teal right out of the gate. Ottawa is black, too, aren't they? I can't tell really.
  • It's too much. The Flames uniforms without the black were better, in my opinion. Philly with orange and white and a little black was classy and scary. My wife called them "The Pumpkins" but so what? She also called the Wings "The Santas." (This is mostly because she only saw home games and that was back when it was white at home and dark on the road -- you know, the way it's supposed to be).
  • Going even more black is going in the wrong direction. Why don't we just dress them in Members Only jackets?
  • Here's another bad idea that's much much better than what you're apparently planning on doing: go back to the Gretzky-era chevron jerseys. That would be preferable to paying homage to them, only "improved" with piping and a bad logo.
  • I'm willing to bet some marketing genius thinks black is sleek or cool or intimidating or something. But you know what's really sleek and cool and intimidating? The Red Wings uniforms. The Leafs uniforms. Montreal's. 
  • Aside from the monochrome, monotonous, unimaginative, tedious, snooziness of the palette, there's the issue of the logo. It sucks.
  • Even people who like the Medieval Times jerseys usually are just barely tolerating the logo. It looks like it stepped out of the Renaissance Fair if the Renaissance Fair had focus groups. 
  • Check out the comments over at LAKi. People who like the Medieval Times outfit add, "but couldn't you use the crown instead?" I guess they don't understand that once the change is made we're all going to have to suffer with that upside-down house shape for several years
  • I am 100% sure this is a marketing firm-generated focus-group-sanitized logo. The tell: there is nothing interesting about it. The font is like a bad Mac font that you try and then recoil from. It suggests Anglo-Saxon Arthurian pageantry and splendor -- but so what? We're not putting on plays here. This is a hockey team.
  • (p.s. the stupid plastic dry-ice castle is stupid for the same reason, but we can leave that for another day.)
  • The logo is shaped like home plate. I know it's supposed to be a crest. The buffaslug was supposed to be a streaking bison. That didn't stop people from mocking it. 
Let's take a moment to remind ourselves of jersey fouls of yore. In this New York Times article, which camp do you think the Medieval Times jersey fits? 

Buffaslug Among Cartoonish Logos to Go Extinct - NYTimes.com

The Buffaslug is gone, and no one is sad to see it go.

The widely reviled crest — a legless bison that most fans associated with an invertebrate or a disembodied toupee — that had adorned the front of the Buffalo Sabres’ uniforms since 2006 is out. The Sabres, celebrating their 40th anniversary, will now wear a version of their original uniform, a crest with a bison and crossed swords. "Honestly, I’m glad that the old logo has gone now," Thomas Vanek [said]. "For me, our throwback jerseys are the best in the league. I loved the buffalo with the crossed sabers already as a kid."

The Islanders’ long succession of oddly designed, strangely colored jerseys has also ended, with a return to the simple design of their original uniform. Watching the team skate onto the ice for training camp wearing its new jerseys, the team’s former public-relations head, Chris Botta, wrote on Twitter, "15 years later, the New York Islanders finally have major league uniforms again."

These two latest uniform changes are part of a wider trend over roughly the past three years, away from the memes of the 1990s and early 2000s — cartoonlike logos or snarling animals that were often rendered in black or teal.

The Vancouver Canucks, also 40, have brought back their original crest and colors in a uniform design that fuses the old. Other teams, like Washington, Phoenix and Minnesota, have gone to a traditional look in recent seasons. The Pittsburgh Penguins added a 1960s-vintage uniform, made popular in the first Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day 2008, as a permanent third jersey.

The Philadelphia Flyers have dropped a black jersey and gone back to their early-’70s orange. "We don’t know how we did this to ourselves, but somehow, our black jerseys, which started as our third jerseys, became our regular uniform," said Peter Lukko, the Flyers’ president. "But we’re a very traditional team. We said: ‘What are we doing? That’s not who we are.’ So we went back to our original look, back to our roots."

Exactly. And aren't we Philly West? Aren't we bound by this credo in some way? 

Keith Leach, the director of merchandise for N.H.L. apparel for Reebok, the league’s uniform manufacturer since 2005, said: "It’s a trend in the N.H.L. Teams want to go back to build off their deep history, a time when they were successful, and teams in general want to pay homage to who they are and where they’re from." [...]

"When they came out with the slug, I was livid," said Charles Pritt, a fan who reacted so viscerally he started one of several antislug blogs that sprang up, along with one online petition with more than 30,000 signatures. "I just kept burning and burning." The Sabres heard their fans’ objections. "We always wanted to go back to the original uniform," said Larry Quinn, the Sabres’ managing partner. He said the slug design was an effort to find a fit for the trim, postlockout Reebok uniforms mandated by the league. [...] The Sabres first abandoned their original uniforms in 1996, when the N.H.L. was dropping traditional looks in an effort to win more fans by seeming more cutting edge.

[...] Drawing on a nautical theme, [the 1995 Islanders'] new logo featured the image of a fisherman, and the jersey was awash in wavy stripes of orange, white and two shades of blue. Botta reluctantly supported the change. ("My most shameful moment in nearly two decades with the team.") On the day the change was announced, Botta took the new fisherman logo out for a test run. He and his wife drove to Jones Beach, where they strolled while he wore a cap with the logo. "People looked at me like I was a serial killer," Botta said. The uniform became the butt of derision, especially from Rangers fans, for whom the fisherman was redolent of the logo on Gorton’s seafood packages. "Fish sticks!" they chanted when the Islanders played at Madison Square Garden. [...] 

Why do these bad jerseys always remind people of chain restaurants (Burger King, Medieval Times) and mass-marketed processed snack food? Because they're dreamed up by the same marketing departments. 

"In a sport like hockey, whose fans are very tribal and very loyal, you have to realize your fans are everything," said Edward M. O’Hara, the senior partner and chief creative officer of SME, a branding company that has worked on uniform designs with a dozen N.H.L. teams. "You have to listen to them."

:)

Jennings said the Capitals realized their mid-’90s move from red, white and blue uniforms to an angry eagle in blue and copper did not connect with their identity. Jennings said the Capitals told him: "We shouldn’t have changed. We are red, white and blue. This is where we play. These are our colors." The Capitals’ new star-spangled look has resonated with old and new fans, helped along by the appeal of a Stanley Cup-contending team led by Alex Ovechkin. [...]

Chris Smith, a Fort Myers, Fla., graphic designer whose popular blog, Icethetics, tracks hockey jersey design, calls that trend "marketing for kids." He added, "Kids want something that’s cool and flashy, and something that looks like it’s from the 1920s isn’t cool."

Also not cool: Camelot. (Don't start. Holy Grail is probably my favorite movie. But I don't want a hockey team based on it. Who would be so stupid as to base a hockey team on a movie anyway...oh, ha ha.)

O’Hara said: "Teeth and nails, that was the trend, but it’s over, at least I hope so. [...] He said that a new paradigm now held sway for hockey fans, whom he called the most tribal in all of sports. "Home, where you play, is becoming much more important," he said. As proof, Quinn pointed to the popularity of the Sabres’ new third jersey, a traditional design in the Sabres’ original royal blue, with "Buffalo" spelled out across the chest in the script of the old Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League. "People are looking for something that speaks to their pride in their community," Quinn said, "something that goes deep into the city’s hockey history. You can tell these uniforms give our fans get [sic] a warm feeling."  

That describes my reaction to the purple and gold throwbacks, to a tee. Or is it T? Anyway, more bullets:

  • Going hog-wild with the monarchy theme is a little embarrassing. What if the Raiders suddenly went all peg-legs and eye-patches and ARR! Or, the Lakers decided to go all-in with a "lake" theme? "Lakers" meant something once, but now it's lost that old meaning and acquired a new one, which is: we are the best team in the world. 
  • The Purple and Gold jerseys are classic. They are simple. They are beautiful. The colors echo those of the Lakers in an understated way -- like how the Penguins' colors were changed to suggest the heritage of the Steelers and the Pirates. 
  • You know how sometimes you'll watch a Red Wings/Leafs game just because the uniforms look so beautiful on TV? I get that feeling watching the Kings in the purple and gold. I feel like I'm watching a hockey game.
  • I'll admit, the Kings uniforms seemed lame in the 70s, but that's because they were new, they were not original six. But now, forty years later, they feel closer to that Original Six era than this corporate/mass-marketed one. It's strange to suddenly realize this, but the Kings are one of the oldest, most historic franchises in the league. The purple and gold embodies that. 
  • Back to TV. I remember being kind of annoyed that the Gretzky-era jerseys didn't really show off the greatness of my TV. But now we've got 50+ inch HD, NHL 11 on XBox, etc., etc., and have you seen how those jerseys shimmer and leap right off the screen at you? There's a limit to how good those black jerseys can look. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I can always turn the contrast up if I want the black to really look black. But the purple (or the red in the Wings, or the blue in the Leafs) is beautiful. 
  • This might just be me, so feel free to ignore. Those rich colors -- Detroit's red, Toronto's blue, the King's purple -- actually are mouth-watering. They literally make me hungry. Like I said, maybe just me. But maybe not. Our brains are wired to respond to color in this way. I'm sure there's someone in the food industry who can back me up. 
  • Remember the feeling of going to a game live and seeing the players' in uniform up-close and how dramatic the difference was compared to watching at home? That's what you get now watching the throwbacks in HD. And I think we can assume the resolution is going to get better. 
  • My son plays a lot of NHL 11. The first thing he does is always to dress the Kings in purple, because it looks so good. Same with the old Seals jerseys, and the Whalers, and the Jets; they all look fabulous in the game. Whether it's EA Sports digital, or live in HD, those colors just pop. 
  • The last thought is one I keep coming back to. I picture the Dodgers uniforms, and the Lakers -- both classic, iconic designs -- and then I picture the Medieval Times jerseys next to them. Stupid, right? Black jerseys with a shield; they look like the mean, evil team in a hockey movie (the rich bullies our heroes have to defeat -- they always wear black) and the uniforms in the movies always look, well, not like real uniforms. The Medieval Times uniforms have that inauthentic look, too. 
  • But when I picture the purple and gold with the Dodgers and Lakers, that fits. At least, for me it does. It seems right. 

I expect the Kings to win the cup someday in the (near?) future. As happy as I will be on that day, picturing the Medieval Times guys skating around with the cup...from a purely aesthetic perspective, it's not much better than watching the Ducks do it.

I kind of feel that way every time one of the newer teams wins the cup, Carolina, Tampa, Anaheim -- no offense to those actual teams, but I definitely have a twinge of "who let those guys in?" I don't mean the teams; they earned it. When the Yankees win the World Series, it may be irritating, but it also reaffirms what is great about any sport with a long history, and the uniform is part of that. The bad guys are still bad, good guys still have a shot, archetypes that resonate because they have a history. 

Seriously, ask some people. In the nose-bleeds, at Staples. Which jersey do they want to see hoist the cup? 

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