NHL and Reebok

Article by Jeremy Milks explains

NHL, Reebok Pulling Fast One?

It would be hard to imagine that in one year, all original-six NHL teams would drastically alter their uniform style. You could imagine the outcry from diehard fans that for decades have seen little alteration in their treasured jerseys. Would you believe then that not only is this unthinkable change becoming a reality starting next season, but that the NHL head office in New York is the culprit behind it?

Word is that the upcoming All-Star game in Dallas in 2007 will see the unveiling of the new across-the-board NHL jersey style (designed by Reebok) to be worn by all teams for the 2007-08 season. The new uniform style, which was previewed by a few teams in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, will be tight-fitting, lighter and strangest of all, be tucked into the hockey pants. So what’s the big deal you say?

It means that teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will have to eliminate their horizontal striping on the bottoms of their jerseys, virtually bringing an end to a historical visual style and making 20 of the NHL’s current jerseys a retro-sweater.

Mike Heika, a writer for the Dallas Morning News recently wrote a story about the new sweater style and spoke to NHL executive commissioner Bill Daly, who all but conceded that teams would have to drop their traditional look to make the new sweaters look proper. Heika writes that Daly says “horizontal striping is still possible, but … it would probably negate some of the positive performance aspects of the new jersey.”

Daly is referring to the idea that a slimmer and “equipment snug” jersey will not allow defenders to grab onto any loose sweater material and thereby eliminate a lot of obstruction. It’s hard to accept this premise when the league has already cracked down on holding and obstruction through the rulebook, and so that leaves the main reason for the switch crystal clear.

The NHL is relying on a new gimmick to sell the game to American markets where they feel that people will relate to the football-style jersey. Mike Heika goes on to make another good point in his revealing article.

“The main purpose of the hockey sweater is for fans to wear them in the stands. And… hockey fans are generally a traditional lot – much more like baseball than football or basketball.”

Not content with putting out a few ugly third-jerseys every year, the NHL is also counting on fans throwing away their old sweaters and buying the new tight fitting ones, thereby ensuring a nice profit boost and a lot more beer guts straining through the new tight threads in the stands of the arenas.

You can bet that the Buffalo Sabres had this league switch in mind when designing their new sweaters for this season. It features no horizontal striping but rather relies on “swooshes” that ride up the underarms. There are already some jerseys out there that won’t radically change, such as Buffalo, San Jose, Philadelphia and Colorado among others. But sadly, many of the league’s most popular uniforms will no longer be the same.

The NHL is mindlessly tinkering with something that was already cash in the bank. Fans, especially under the CBA with all its frantic player movement, generally cheer for the sweater and not the player. The identity of many teams has been built up through generations. Some will argue that it’s not such a big deal because the logos will be unchanged. That just isn’t so. Imagine if the Habs or the Maple Leafs decided to add a brightly colored swoosh in behind their logo, much like Ottawa did with their awful home jerseys. The fan revolt would be deafening.

Unfortunately, the NHL has decided to downplay the massive change about to take place and try to ram it through at the last possible moment to head off any sort of prolonged protest. Undoubtedly, they watched closely the Buffalo situation where fans were talking about the sweaters more so than the players on the team. Gary Bettman should stop listening to the money-hungry wolves at Reebok and start listening to the core hockey audience before he gets buried under a mountain of rejected hockey jerseys.

In addition, it was announced on December 2, 2006, that the Toronto Maple Leafs will alter their emblem to suit the new uniforms and it is rumoured that Dallas and Boston will do the same. Furthermore, Buffalo tried to bring back their original emblem into their new look, but Reebok told them "That it was impossible to do on their new form-fitting uniforms and went with the slug because it was smaller and viewable." Just in case you don't know what is a form-fitting uniform -- remember the olympic hockey uniforms in Turin.

Imagine if the Pittsburgh Steelers, Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees have to change their look! What do you think hardcore football fans and baseball fans will react?

We, the undersigned, call on the NHL to eliminate and ban the new form-fitting uniforms made by Reebok and to preserve the history, heritage and dignity of hockey as it is rightly deserved from the true die-hard hockey fans.

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The Ban the NHL's form-fitting uniforms petition to NHL and Reebok was written by Waseem Ghurani and is in the category Sports at GoPetition.

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hockey uniforms jerseys NHL Reebok