The Vancouver Canucks officially introduced their new Rbk Edge Uniform System-designed sweaters to an enthusiastic crowd of Canucks fans at General Motors Place.
The dramatic unveiling, which saw Markus Naslund charge through a cloud of blue fog in a retro-coloured sweater, drew raucous applause. While the ceremony was a runaway hit, opinions on the designs were split.
“I love the colours, and I like the whale,” said one fan, “I’m just not sure about the word ‘Vancouver’ over the top.”
As many have pointed out - including Canucks CEO Chris Zimmerman - debating the merits of various sweater designs has become a civic pastime. The fervor reached its zenith Wednesday afternoon.
Opinion polls across the city were divided. Half the fans loved the new look with its homage to the team’s history in the form of the killer whale design; the other half were irked by the lettering across the chest and lack of certain “old school” insignias.
The players themselves weren’t nearly as hung on the fence. PAST AND PRESENT
“I think they look great,” said Naslund who, like all Canucks fans in attendance at the unveiling, was seeing the new jersey for the first time.
“I don’t think there’s anything not to like. I really like these colours and they’ve managed to put it all together with the two logos. This is a great step for us; we’ve got a new fresh outlook and hopefully it‘ll be a positive thing.”
For fans and players alike, the most popular aspect of the new uniforms was undoubtably the return to the original 1970’s vintage blue, green and white – symbols of British Columbia’s abundant natural beauty.
Though less apparent, the use of the original stick-and-rink logo as a shoulder patch, the horizontal striping in keeping with traditional Canadian-style hockey sweaters, and the text ‘Vancouver’ emblazoned across the top of the jersey are a nod to the Stanley Cup Champions Vancouver Millionaires sweaters, as well as the old WHL Canucks jerseys. The entire design is a reference to Vancouver’s rich hockey history.
“It’s strong and bold,” said Kevin Bieksa
. “When I first heard about the Vancouver across the jersey I was a little skeptical, but after seeing it, it looks good.”
Some fans voiced concerns that prominently displaying the city’s name on the new uniform is redundant. The city, they say, is represented well enough by the logo and the colours. There’s no need to spell it out.
While the city mark seem like overkill for the already-fervent Canucks fans living in B.C., it’s definitely a way of showing off pride for an ever-growing fan base outside the province.
“It’s a city we’re all proud of being a part of,” noted long-time Canuck Trevor Linden, who realizes the importance of representing the city as much as the team. “It’s one of the top cities in the world. I think [having ‘Vancouver’ on the jersey is] the right thing for sure.”
The main crest – the Orca Whale logo – saw a few minor tweaks as colours were dropped, but the design remained. The whale returned with a slightly altered palette minus the deep red and silver colours in favour of a more clean-cut blue and white.
“The orca symbolizes the West Coast and certainly the native artwork is also a big part of it,” said Linden. “I think they did a nice job of bringing things together.”
In addition to local connection, the design provides a much-needed sense of consistency and continuity with the fans - especially those who have supported the team through thick-and-thin over the past ten years.
“It’s a great combination,” said Linden who, entering his 16th season with the team, has seemingly worn every Canucks jersey in existence. “I think that ultimately the goal is to tie in where we’ve been and where we’re headed.” EVOLUTION OF THE DESIGN
All great art is controversial – the new sweater is no exception.
For those ushering in the new Canucks era, the process of coming up with a new look was about as smooth as getting hit by truck. When you’re messing with a symbol that’s as closely attached to people’s hearts as the Canucks, you’re going to struggle.
“Doing a project like this is a combination of research, intuition, gut-feel, and sometimes personal taste for some of the people involved in the process,” said Zimmerman, who admitted that although the team is happy with the new look, he understands if not all the fans will feel the same – at least at first.
Having a multitude of previous looks, colours, and logos stacked up in the rearview mirrors didn’t exactly lessen the burden of re-branding the team sweater. With preference ranging from the original 1970’s stick-and-rink sweaters, to the pre-NHL Johnny Canuck look, and even the made-for-Halloween flying V’s, fan expectations were bound to be a formidable obstacle. Re-uniting Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake would’ve proved easier than designing a look with universal appeal.
In the end, the goal was to incorporate the best that history had to offer into a single design.
“The process of developing the new jersey was all about recognizing that probably more than most teams, we have quite a bank of different looks, feels and colours,” said Zimmerman. “What we needed to do was determine what were the elements that could both reflect the past as well as where we’re going in the future.”
Exactly what was tossed around the boardroom table? Nearly everything, including resurrecting the old Johnny Canuck logo. And while Wednesday’s unveiling showed that the popular lumberjack won’t be making a return this season, Zimmerman concedes that the door hasn’t necessarily been closed just yet.
“[Johnny Canuck] was part of the exploration. Obviously we didn’t make that decision. We have that opportunity [in the future] if we choose to.” WE ARE ALL CANUCKS
Canucks.com rounded up several fans eager to share their thoughts on their favourite jerseys of all-time, as well as what they thought of the Canucks new look. While the general consensus was resoundingly positive, some fans admitted they might need some time to get used to seeing ‘Vancouver’ printed across their chests.
“I like the old colours with the new symbol, but the ‘Vancouver’ is a little bit much. We already know where we live,” said one fan.
Others seemed to approve of the new look, but think the team might have been better suited to stick with the vintage logo as the primary mark.
“They’re very nice, but I like the old ones though,” said another.
And while there was no consistent opinion, there was no debate about the passion fans showed in packing into General Motors Place on one of the rare pristine days this summer.
“To see as many people out today for the release of the jersey just tells you how special the Canucks are in the community,” said Port McNeill, B.C.-native Willie Mitchell. “It’s a big deal - it’s the Canucks. Everyone from B.C. wants to know what’s going on.”
Linden echoed the sentiments.
“It seems like every year I’ve been here the team gets more and more popular. People are very passionate about the team and its successes. I think it really shows here when you have 8,000 people out to a jersey unveiling in the middle of a summer day like this.”
With the new sweater launched, the only hurdle to the season start is training camp which opens September 7th in Victoria, B.C. And yes, they’ll be sporting the new threads, though public sales won’t begin till September 14th when the league begins selling new duds across North America.