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Color of Hockey

Color of Hockey: Sharks logo creator behind 'Unite' warmup jersey

Smith's latest design, promoting diversity and inclusion, will be worn by San Jose on Saturday

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / Staff Writer

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past nine years. Douglas joined in March 2019 and writes about people of color in the game. Today, he profiles Terry Smith, the artist who created the original San Jose Sharks logo and designed a special warmup jersey the Sharks will wear Saturday.

It's not about the teal this time.

The San Jose Sharks will wear special warmup jerseys before their game against the St. Louis Blues at SAP Center on Saturday. The jerseys will represent a call for unity, celebrating diversity and inclusion and paying homage to Terry Smith, the Northern California artist who designed the jerseys and created the iconic Sharks logo 30 years ago.

"The Terry Smith Unite" jersey features a hockey player of color above the word "Unite" as its crest instead of San Jose's usual stick-chomping shark. 

The menacing logos are on each shoulder, but not in the team's traditional teal color scheme. Instead, they are awash in hues that represent various racial and ethnic backgrounds with the words "diversity' above the shark on the left shoulder patch and "inclusion" above it on the right shoulder.

"This wasn't about teal, which is what the Sharks are known for," said Smith, president of Terry Smith Creations. "Everything I did was to provoke conversation. It's a conversation starter that gets people talking, coming together, uniting … to talk about problems, racial problems that the country's not talking about. Hopefully, it will cause enough of a stir, if you will, that a conversation will take place."

Doug Bentz, the Sharks vice president of marketing, said the adidas jersey is "really about Terry" and reflects hockey and society.

"He's got a unique perspective having been involved with us for 30 years," Bentz said, "and he's seen a lot that's gone on in hockey at a very different point of view than a lot of people and brings an authentic story of what his experience has been like in hockey.

"We actually talked to the NHL a lot (about the jerseys) because this kind of broke the mold for even what the NHL has traditionally done with these warmup jerseys. It doesn't have a lot of Sharks branding and it really is unique artwork. We hope that really breaks through and kind of continues conversations about diversity, inclusion and belonging in hockey and the NHL."

Kim Davis, NHL Senior Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs, praised the Sharks' Teal for Change Council for developing the warmup jersey idea. The council, comprised of members of San Jose's front office staff, was formed in June 2020 to the organization's support of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice.

"We've often said that diversity generates creativity and innovation, and I think this is the prime example of that," Davis said. "It's exactly what we want to see happening where ideas are bubbling up from a grass roots perspective in impacting the faces and voices of the game, and that's where the real change is going to happen."

The Sharks will auction the jerseys after the game with proceeds benefiting the Housing Industry Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals and families remain in or return to stable housing.

Smith said he had long wanted to become more involved in helping hockey grow after he created the Sharks logo, which became a merchandising juggernaut when the NHL's 22nd team debuted in 1991-92.

His desire increased after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor during encounters with law enforcement and other high-profile incidents involving Black victims.

About the same time, Smith suddenly found himself in demand by a sports media that knew his history and was hungry for content when most professional and college sports had paused due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. 

"Then everything started happening, obviously, with social issues that were going on," he said. "A couple of people said, 'Hey, a Black guy designed the Sharks logo.' To some degree I became the soup du jour, but out of that came exposure.

"Other people in the hockey community started contacting me. I saw this as an opportunity to use my creative skill to do something more. I like nothing more than to use my art to represent teams, merchandising, sales, those types of things, but does that really change things? Now I have an opportunity to use the art in a different capacity to bring about social change, which is more important to me." 

Smith was asked to design the custom Bauer skates worn by Sharks forward Evander Kane, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair and other NHL players last month that honored Willie O'Ree for becoming the NHL's first Black player when he debuted with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens 63 years ago.

One side of the skate features a brown clenched fist, a peace symbol, the words, "Respect," "Equality," "Diversity," "Inclusion," "Inspire," "Change," "BLM," the initials for Black Lives Matter, and the phrases, "The work isn't done yet," "Make the impossible possible" and "A movement, not a moment." 

The other side features a likeness of O'Ree and one of his favorite sayings, "All I needed was the opportunity." It's a message Smith related to.

"Well, it was it's same way here," Smith said, "except instead of an opportunity on the ice it's doing things off the ice and using my skills as an artist and designer."

Smith said he hopes this leads to "conversations with other groups, organizations, manufacturers that are associated with hockey to allow me to be creative in a way where I can help them help them help the sport and grow the sport by making it more inclusive."
Bentz said the Sharks are exploring having other items featuring Smith's artwork on its e-commerce site later this season.

"It allows us to expand the message of the artwork and continue conversations and have people wearing something that shows support for Terry and our (diversity and inclusion) initiatives," he said.

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