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Coyotes Crafted Original Logo to be Unique, Grow Fan Base

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – The Coyotes will push rewind on March 5 to celebrate the team’s original logo and uniform as part of Throwback Night at Gila River Arena.

For the first time since the club changed its branding/color scheme in 2003-04, Coyotes players will wear the team’s black jersey with the Kachina-style logo in a game against the Vancouver Canucks.

"Those are very cool jerseys," forward Sam Gagner said. "It should be a fun night."

Fans first got a peek at the original logo in April of 1996, just six months before the team played its first official game as the Phoenix Coyotes after a move from Winnipeg.

The logo, created by the Phoenix-based graphic design firm Campbell Fisher Ditko, was unlike any NHL logo in its concept and its intricacies. It depicted a Kachina-style coyote standing upright with a hockey stick; the most striking feature was the mask drawn in Southwestern style to show off the team’s new colors: forest green, brick red, sand, sienna and purple.

"It was an exciting design but it was certainly not a traditional hockey presentation," said David Haney, who served as Creative Director for the NHL at the time. "It was hockey as interpreted with a Southwest feeling and the result was most intriguing. All of those different elements within that interpretation of the coyote on the skates with the stick were just fascinating to look at. It was a very complex logo, which was a good thing because it was giving you the opportunity to see something new every time you looked at it. Perhaps that’s why fans who fondly recall the logo gravitated to it. It was very engaging."

Greg Fisher, who actually designed the logo, agreed.

"There’s a lot going on in that logo and I think it accomplished what they were hoping it would accomplish, and that is to give the fan base some visual cues that make them know this is an Arizona team right away," Fisher said. "It was very complicated. For instance, most people don’t realize that the words ‘Phoenix Coyotes’ are enclosed in a hockey puck on its side. The real hockey fan is going to pick up on that, but not everyone will."

Sean Burke. Photo by Getty Images.

Fisher recalls being asked to stay away from designing a logo that featured an angry animal and to focus on a hockey-meets-the-southwest theme. He also remembers lots of give and take between his firm, the team’s owners at the time and the NHL regarding details such as the color palettes and type fonts within the logo.

Haney recalls seeking and getting the approval of Hopi leaders in Arizona before the final Kachina-style logo was made public.

"The key to this logo design was figuring out how we can create an identity that would bring in a larger base of fans," Haney said. "We had to get to a wider audience. The logo had to open things up to new fans and young fans. I remember there was a lot of support for a non-traditional logo so we created a non-traditional logo on purpose. There was a lot of enthusiasm for this logo. The fan base embraced it."

Goaltending Coach Sean Burke, who wore the logo/jersey while playing for Phoenix from 1999-2003, said he and many of his teammates liked it.

"I’m not sure it’s everyone’s favorite, but I can tell you after wearing it for four or five years that I really liked it," Burke said. "I think they succeeded in what they were trying to do. Everything seemed to represent a desert feel."

Shane Doan. Photo by Getty Images.

He added, "I enjoyed playing here and the teams we had here, so that logo and jersey represent a lot of good things for me."

Captain Shane Doan will become the only member of the Coyotes to wear the black Kachina-style jersey in a game then and now. Like Burke, Doan said seeing the logo/jersey trigger pleasant memories of teammates with which he once played.

"That logo is cool," Doan said. "There is definitely a lot going on there and it’s definitely unique. It grows on you. The collars on the jersey are a little bit much but everything else is pretty cool."

Gagner is looking forward to wearing the “throwback” jersey on March 5 because he once played for a youth team that wore replicas of the Kachina-style jerseys.

"I was playing in Florida for the Coral Springs Coyotes and we wore those jerseys," Gagner said. "So it’s exciting for me to get the chance to wear it again in a real NHL game. That logo is great. I liked it when I was a kid and I still like it today. It’s going to be an honor to wear that jersey. I still have the one I wore in Florida."

Sam Gagner (way back when).

Fisher is pleased the Coyotes have decided to celebrate the team’s original logo.

"I really enjoyed being involved with that project," Fisher said. "It was fun to be part of the inner circle of the Coyotes as they were getting ready to launch. It was very exciting at that time and we were having a lot of fun."

He added, "Nostalgia is great. I think Throwback Nights across all the leagues are awesome. It gives fans an opportunity to touch base with the history of the franchise. That logo will forever be part of the Coyotes legacy."

EDITOR’S NOTES: David Haney is now the Managing Director of Joe Bosack & Co. – a Pennsylvania-based brand design agency whose recent work includes creating new logos for the NCAA’s 89 sports and championships. Greg Fisher is the founder of Fisher, a Phoenix-based graphic design firm, and he serves as President, Business Development Director, Chief Creative Officer and Strategist.

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