BTLNHL #10: Vancouver Canucks

By JVDW
In BTLNHL Countdown
Feb 8th, 2012
50 Comments

Oh boy, here we go. If you read my Calgary Flames post and the comments that followed it, you know I love the Canucks and I’m going to have to defend placing the Canucks so high in these standings. But, let’s be honest, 10th isn’t really that high, is it? In elementary school, you’d only get a participant ribbon for coming in 10th (Yay, I showed up!). We’re not talking super-elite here, but better than decent, worthy of a little praise and generally better than most.

And I would say that this logo is easily better than most. The concept is totally there. It’s got elements of style, strength, character and a definite link to the area it’s representing. It has a concept of simplicity ingrained in it, but yes, it could definitely take some cleaning up as some parts are superfluous and erratic.

But first, a very short biology lesson. The animal in this logo is a killer whale. Not an orca. Okay, it is an orca, but a very good biologist friend of mine has informed me that Orca (or Orcinus) is a species name. And there’s a fish and a butterfly which is also called an orca. Strange but true. So, to keep all of you hundreds of trained biologists who I know read this blog about hockey religiously, I’ll only refer to it as a killer whale. Stick-tap to @agignac for the info!

Back to sports. I have gone to great lengths to critique the use of animals in NHL logos, with the Panthers and Sharks for example. But never did I say that it couldn’t be done. It’s just hard to do well. The Wild did it well, but there were other issues with the logo that kept it lower. And there’s two more teams with animals in their logos that haven’t come up yet (the Penguins and the Coyotes, and the Blackhawks, if you count humans as animals). Even some minor league teams have veered away from the cartoonish nature that can plague animal-based logos, and it can work very well.

So why does it work for the Canucks? First, for Vancouver, the use of the killer whale is a no-brainer. If you have not been to Vancouver or the surrounding area, I might be able to understand not knowing that killer whales are extremely prevalent in the waters around Vancouver, but seriously, they’re everywhere. They build statues of killer whales in Vancouver, both by professional artists, and as charity items. Also, at the time this logo was created, the Canucks were owned by a company named Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment. Orca? Tsk tsk. Obviously, they didn’t consult an educated biologist like I did.

But, it’s also the styling of the killer whale that connects the logo to the city. Every single element specific to the killer whale is designed with traditional native motifs, including the white element on the dorsal fin and the teeth. The nose/eyes are more of an extrapolation from other parts of Native designs. And like killer whales, the Pacific First Nations’ culture is prolific in Vancouver. If you’re not familiar with the stylings of this culture, it might look strange and unfamiliar, but trust me, this whale is designed specifically with Vancouver in mind. This statue is outside the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. It’s a killer whale in the Native style and it’s as Vancouver as you can get. I’d say in terms of connecting a logo to its city through its design, the Canucks are easily in the top 3 in the league. That scores major points.

And I’m a fan of the Native design style as it’s incredibly distinct, but still uses very simplistic elements to create it. The teeth are simple and not cartoonish. The eye gives an element of anger and strength, but it’s not overdone. The element on the dorsal fin is a small element that compliments the rest of the whale perfectly and allows the eye to follow the contours of the C. Without it, it looks a bit bare. With it, you know exactly the style that the designer was going for. The nose, meh, unnecessary and at small sizes it’s almost undistinguishable as anything. That, you could definitely lose.

The killer whale is also done well in the sense that it’s kept minimalist, using only one colour plus white, with very simple features to distinguish it as a killer whale: two fins and teeth and eyes. Aside from the nose thing I already discussed, it’s as minimal as necessary. As I’ve said before, more is not more. Less is not more. ‘Just enough’ is more.

Okay, I’ve beaten the killer whale to death. Moving on to the “C”. The shape of the letter itself is really nice, elongated to give it some style, solidity and more of a contemporary edge. As a letter standing on its own, it would look something like this. A little thick on the left, but it has a contemporary yet classic feel to it. It’s actually similar to another iconic “C” in hockey, but it’s modified enough that it’s still distinctive and independent of its Montreal cohort. It’s fitting that they use a similar foundation for their logos, as Canucks and Canadiens mean the same thing. The differentiating point between the two is that the Habs have that notch at the top right part of their C, the Canucks have their C a little more angular, coming to a point on the left.

The colour scheme is nice as well, basically two-tones of blue and a grey, keeping it very simple, and mixes nicely with the green of their jerseys. Is the green necessary? I’m not totally convinced, but it’s a nice callback to their original jerseys and logo. And the new colour scheme flatters the logo a lot more than the original colours of the logo. That’s just crazy ugly, and a little more typical of ’90s design. It shows you how much colour can destroy a decent logo.

Before I convince myself on how great my team’s logo is and push it farther up the standings, I’d be the first to admit that there’s some negatives. First, and most obviously, is the ice that the whale is busting out of. I like the concept of incorporating the whale into a “C” in a way that somewhat makes sense for a logo, but breaking through ice with shards flying everywhere is a bit over-the-top and, again, typical of ’90s (Xtreme!!!) design. It’s bordering on cartoonish and could be refined. Here’s a version with things toned down, and with then nose removed too. A little more sleek, a little more simple.

Also, the extra grey outline seems unnecessary.  I know sports logos generally love outlines of all sorts, but there ends up being three outlines around the bottom part of the C, which is usually one too many. Nobody likes to see too many outlines, except David Caruso who would otherwise be unemployed.

So, there you have it. My impassioned plea to everyone who hates the Canucks logo. To me, it’s a damn fine logo. Great concept, good execution and connects itself to the city. Are there flaws? Definitely, but that’s why it’s in 10th place and not higher.

Are you convinced?

Either way, that officially brings us into the top 10 and finishes off the Northwest Division.

 

The BTLNTL Countdown Posts

BTLNHL Finals: Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings
BTLNHL #3: Philadelphia Flyers
BTLNHL #4: St. Louis Blues
BTLNHL #5: Montreal Canadiens
BTLNHL #6: Pittsburgh Penguins
BTLNHL #7: Chicago Blackhawks
BTLNHL #8: Toronto Maple Leafs
BTLNHL #9: Phoenix Coyotes
BTLNHL #10: Vancouver Canucks
BTLNHL #11: Edmonton Oilers
BTLNHL #12: New York Rangers
BTLNHL #13: Calgary Flames
BTLNHL #14: Buffalo Sabres
BTLNHL #15: Winnipeg Jets
BTLNHL #16: Minnesota Wild
BTLNHL #17: New Jersey Devils
BTLNHL #18: Nashville Predators
BTLNHL #19: Carolina Hurricanes
BTLNHL #20: New York Islanders
BTLNHL #21: Ottawa Senators
BTLNHL #22: Tampa Bay Lightning
BTLNHL #23: Columbus Blue Jackets
BTLNHL #24: Washington Capitals
BTLNHL #25: San Jose Sharks
BTLNHL #26: Florida Panthers
BTLNHL #27: Dallas Stars
BTLNHL #28: Los Angeles Kings
BTLNHL #29: Colorado Avalanche
BTLNHL #30: Anaheim Ducks

 

 

50 Responses to “BTLNHL #10: Vancouver Canucks”

  1. DJames says:

    Hey man,

    As a design student and hockey fan (a Canucks fan to boot), stumbling across this site today was an absolute joy. Cheers.

  2. brisulph says:

    I found your re-design of the current logo to be a bit worse honestly, but then again the current logo is no hell either.

    I think my real dislike of their logo is that unless you are seeing it up close, it is hard to tell just what you are looking at. If you are not able to get a decent view of it (common occurrence in a game, the most likely place to see it), it has a sort of unsettling to the visual part of the brain effect, trying to subconsciously process and comprehend it (as our brains often do). It has this look of a jumbled mess in that situation (not unlike the Wild’s logo, though that one is way worse for that).

    However, your blog, you’re the design guy (not me), and you’re a Canucks fan. I’ll just chalk it up to half my not being a design guy and half to you being a homer.

    • Admin says:

      I’d actually argue the opposite. If you look at it from a distance the shape is nothing more than a C with a killer whale with a large fin, which is exactly what they were going for. The breaking ice was just a way of making that concept (kind of) make sense.

      Though, as you mentioned, I have an emotional vested interest in the logo, but I tried my best to disconnect myself from that.

    • Chris says:

      What gets me a little is that the nose looks 3d and the rest looks flat. Brain says ow.

  3. Marc Aune says:

    OK, I’ll admit you have a pretty good defense of the Canucks’ logo. Still not my favorite, but I appreciate what they were trying to do.

    How do you feel about the pairing of “VANCOUVER” above the logo on the front of the jersey?

    • Tim says:

      I was wondering the same thing. I know it’s not part of the logo, which is what this list is analyzing/ranking, but the jersey would look so much better with just the C/killer-whale logo. The arched VANCOUVER with no flare to it looks like an afterthought that claims, “People won’t understand the logo, so we need to tell them more.” That in and of itself deflates the impact of the logo. Either let the logo stand on its own or head back to the drawing board.

      As a Blues fan, I can’t tell you how frustrating it was in the 80’s when Ruth Ornest added that obnoxious BLUES over a miniature version of the blue note logo. The same could be said about this Canucks logo.

    • Admin says:

      I agree with both of you. I think the “Vancouver” is unnecessary. I’m not sure what the reasoning was behind it, but I heard rumours that it had something to do with the Olympics coming to Vancouver, so they wanted to advertise that as much as possible. Not sure of the validity of that though.

      Hopefully they follow the Blues’ lead and eventually eliminate it. I remember the Blues’ ’80s jerseys and yeah, definitely an unnecessary element that took away from a great logo.

  4. Chris says:

    Aha!

    I would like to postulate that you ranked VAN so high because as a fan, you understand the logo’s history. I did not know a single thing about the native motifs you’ve explained, and now that I’ve read your explanation I have a LOT more respect for the logo.

    But I still think it’s ugly, sorry. However, I understand why they designed it the way they did, and I totally understand why you like it. My only critique of your review is that you referred the the CH as “another” iconic C. Slipped that in, eh? 🙂

    In seriousness though, I’ve been sending you little tidbits of Flyers history, and I hope other fans have done the same. I would be really interested , when the rankings are all finished, in learning if the process of doing these rankings has taught you anything that would have changed them.

    • Admin says:

      Haha, a fair point! And yeah, you caught my slip for sure. I didn’t even notice that myself.

      And I definitely appreciate your tidbits of Flyers history. Helpful for the upcoming Flyers’ post for sure.

  5. Peter says:

    Like you, I love the use of the killer whale and native elements in the logo. My problem with the logo is not that the breaking ice is overdone, it’s that the breaking ice is there at all. There’s no way to make it so that doesn’t look cartoonish.

    So is there not a way to do away with the ice altogether? Can we, perhaps, take a traditional native killer whale and rotate it so it becomes a C?

    • Admin says:

      I actually played around with doing just that a little bit, and wasn’t crazy about the results, but with more time, I might have gotten something good.

  6. fog says:

    I was looking forward to the point where this logo would be on the list. I knew, from past posts, that Vancouver was your team, and I was looking forward to hearing the background behind it. Thanks to your explanation of the native motif, the logo makes so much more sense, and I actually like it more now knowing the background. Before this, I was thinking it was just another silly animal logo.

    The only thing I would change about this logo is the breaking-ice. I’m fine with all the other elements, including the nose. And I can’t believe you went the entire article without bringing up the 80’s-early 90’s logo. Do Cancuck fans have amnesia about that?? 🙂

    Thanks again, 21 down, 9 to go!

    • Admin says:

      You mean the plate of spaghetti logo they had? Yeah, I avoided that altogether. But, retro logos might be something I look into in future posts, so it might make an appearance.

  7. j21 says:

    The lack of green in the logo is a major faux pas, though. The taunts of “corporate logo” that this one tends to receive are misplaced — Orca Bay never sold anything beyond the Canucks and Grizzlies, it’s not like they were a restaurant chain or retailer, so this logo is no more “corporate” than all the others in pro sports. But the fact that they put the logo in the wrong color for the uniforms (black, blue and grey?) is very weird.

    When you stick this logo on, say, a blue T-shirt (or many other examples of Canuck merchandise), you don’t even have the team colors present — it looks more like Toronto or Tampa merchandise, for lack of the Canucks’ very prominent secondary color (and the one that makes their color combination at all distinctive), being green. The last team to do this was the NJ Devils pre-1991/92, when their logo was red, black and white despite the uniform’s secondary color being green. There is a reason no one does this mismatch, because it’s aesthetically strange (the reborn Winnipeg Jets are now the other team that does it — their logo doesn’t have their lighter blue, but given that both are blue it’s a bit more forgivable).

    All it would take is a smidgen of green — somewhere, anywhere — to correct this.

    • Admin says:

      Fair enough, but I don’t think the green HAS to be in there. In the jerseys, the green is more of an accent anyway and cashing in on the vintage rage that teams are going on. I’d actually be interested in seeing the green replaced with the other tone of blue from the logo. Not sure how it would look, but it would be interesting.

      And, just to contradict you (but also further emphasize your point), the Devils did have green on their logo when it was also on their jerseys: http://content.sportslogos.net/logos/1/18/full/4739.gif

      • j21 says:

        I know they often presented it that way, but I thought on the jersey itself it ended up in black. At least it looked that way, but in hindsight, this could just be poor coloring in photographs, I guess.

        And if not, it just goes to show that the Canucks’ decision to complete excluding their secondary color is something that is simply not done! 🙂

        If the Canucks replaced their green with darker blue, they’d just be the reverse Winnipeg Jets. No thanks…

  8. mjk716 says:

    Ok, that was a generally sound defense of the logo. One thing i would strongly criticize about the logo is that the ‘c’ seems drawn in such a way that it’s tipping forward. The tip of the what mouth creeps juuust over the lower tip of the C. Not sure about other people, but I’ve always found it bothersome.

    Very much appreciate the cultural elements of the Canucks logo, and the current scheme is worlds better that what they had before. That said, formally, I still think is a bit too high in these rankings.

    Surprised there was no mention of the original “C” logo and the flying skate!

    • Admin says:

      Great catch! I noticed that too, but it makes a bit of sense conceptually (as it gives the whale a bit more movement and dynamism to it) and it looked awkward when reduced to match, so I decided not to touch on that.

      I’m one of those rare Canucks fans who *gasp* likes the current logo better than the old “stick-in-rink” logo. But that logo and the skate are so completely disconnected from the current one, it didn’t seem to make sense to include them.

  9. JS Topher says:

    Just wanted to point out that Canadiens are not the same thing as Canadians. Canadien (with an “E”) is the name that the French use to go by. It referred specifically to the French Canadians which, is obviously the link by which they got their nick name “Les Habitants” or “Habs”

    • j21 says:

      I had wanted to mention this too. The real name of the team from its club days was “Club canadien de hockey”, and that was no accident, referring specifically to the fact that it was the francophone club, unlike the cross-town, caviar-slurping, anglophone Montreal Maroons. Unlike the relationship of the British expats in Canada to the British, the “Canadiens” did not see themselves as an extension of France, hence they were the ones who claimed the “Canadien” identity (in English too, originally).

      All those Revolutionary War-era American documents referring to “Canada” and “the Canadians” are largely just referring to French Canadians. (The anglos were the Britons they were fighting against).

  10. Sara Schieve says:

    Honestly I always thought this was designed by the same people who did the original Coyotes logo especialy with the use of straight lines. Then again the simularites that caused me to believe that just might be the native elements in both logos. Regardless I’ve always thought it was done well.

  11. Matt says:

    I’m not a fan of the C/whale logo, but I don’t have anything against whales. I like the hockey stick logo (though I think you could replace the stick with a stylized whale and have the best whalers logo ever. I’m sure I didn’t come up with this but google image search isn’t showing me it existed yet), that’d probably be top 5 for me (my team has yet to show up).

  12. Dave says:

    Wow. You almost have me on board. This is indeed a great defense of the logo. What I have never liked about the logo is the whale itself — particularly, the teeth. It always reminded me of one of those WWI-era planes with the nose painted to look like a flying shark. That you point out this is an homage to native art in Vancouver is enlightening and makes me like it a little bit more than I did; but ultimately, to people in the other 29 NHL cities w/o this knowledge, it just looks like a crappy, angry whale. So, it still doesn’t pass the “eye test” for me.

    The rest of the logo doesn’t really bother me at all. I like it’s form as a big, bold “C.” I like the color scheme (and don’t think it needs green). I like the grey outline you think it could go without. And even the “ice breaking” doesn’t bother me — I don’t find it as “extreme” as you do. BTW, I always thought the whale was diving out of a cresting wave; not breaking through ice.

    In any event, a nice defense (but the Oilers logo is still better). Great post, as always.

  13. Matt says:

    It’s still ugly. It looks like its tipping over, and the C looks lopsided. I knew about the native design (from where I got that knowledge, no idea), and I respect the logo, but man its just weird looking. Still, though, its INFINITELY better than that stupid hockey stick logo that looks like a 4 year old designed it. And someone told me that the stick was supposed to make the rink look like a C. what? Sorry man, but Vancouver just can’t quite get it right. And IMO their hockey teams are dirty and classless

  14. Vinnie says:

    I still like the original stick in rink logo. It is simple and I just like things better from when I was a kid. Do you remember when the Canucks had their farm team in Rochester in the late 60’s and early 70’s? The Canucks changed the Amerks logo for one forgetable season. The American shield was replaced with a circle with two hockey sticks forming a large “A”. It wasn’t a bad logo, but fans in Rochester associate the logo with the losing Vancouver days. In 1972 Don Cherry came to the rescue as coach and GM in Rochester and returned our old logo and pride back to Amerks hockey.

    • Admin says:

      Didn’t know that! Just looked it up and it’s not a bad logo, but the text is really too small to read and not super functional. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Jason (AKA DetroitRiver) says:

    I can’t believe th Coyotes and Penguine’s logos have survived this long. Seriously? One’s a dog that looks like it’s getting ready to do something lewd and the other is a badly rendered cartoon of Chilly Willy.

    The Jets, Wild, and Rangers ALL have better logos, IMHO.

  16. […] the Canucks in the last post, this logo also features an animal prominently, and again, it’s executed extremely well. The […]

  17. […] hippie, but I’ve never been a fan of using Native images and/or names for a sports team. The Canucks and Coyotes use Native design aesthetics, but they never represent an actual Native person. To be […]

  18. Steve says:

    I’m from Vancouver too but how you can put this above the Flames logo is ridiculous.

    There’s value in consistency, Canucks lose all of those with 3 radical logo changes. They even lose on this particular iteration because it’s original colours were hideous, not many teams get a chance to modernize their logo, they have to try and stay timeless.

    Then you’ve got the fact that the Orca themeatically has no part in Canuck history until their purchase by Orca Bay Sporting Group. That always ticked me off as the inclusion of the whale wasn’t a simple homage to the beautiful surroundings but also a sell-out to the parent group. As it stands right now the Orca overpowers the ‘C’ visually so the Canucks theme is lost and to an outsider they’re the Vancouver Whales.

    Design wise a lot of things are indicative of the era it was designed in. The shards where the whale ‘breaks through’ are like the Sharks and the bold crack down the rest of the C is a modern touch that I doubt will age well.

    The C is much too derivative of the most iconic logo in the sport, the Canadiens (heck the team name is derivative too). So originality points go out the window.

    The hockey rink with the stick I like, #10 overall? Maybe. The whale logo? Not even top #20.

    I hate the Oilers but they entered the league with that stupid logo and had it worn by the greatest player to ever play on the greatest team to ever play. It deserves to be here.

  19. jen says:

    I’m weighing in again… I can’t stand the Canucks logo, to be honest. I personally think the old “C” logo was much more visually appealing- clean, simple, and many clever ways to read it. To me I see the “C”, I see a hockey stick, and I also sometimes think of that hockey stick as a killer whale surfacing on the water, in reference to Vancouver’s coastal culture. I actually had no idea the C was supposed to be a skating rink, which adds another layer. All around it’s clean, classic and cool, and still looks hip and modern today even though it was originally designed in the 70s. All the things you want in good graphic design.

    My issue with the current logo: it’s too busy. Plus it raises the important and touchy issue of “cultural appropriation” with the native motif used for the killer whale. A pretty touch-n-go issue, and one that probably deserves more attention. It is not ok for fine artists to appropriate art and images from traditional cultures, so I would guess that the same rules would apply to graphic design if one were to explore this topic…

    • Admin says:

      That’s totally a valid argument. For the Canucks, and the Coyotes, I feel okay with it because they used the design elements from native motifs, and made it their own. Plus, both for Phoenix and Vancouver, those motifs are part of the cultural fabric of the place. To me, I don’t have a problem with it.

      However, teams like Chicago Blackhawks, or, outside of hockey, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, I don’t like at all, as a whole ethnicity becomes a caricature of themselves for the sake of sports. Not a fan at all.

      By the way, I’m not as big on the old stick-in-the-rink logo. To me, it feels clunky and has no movement to it at all, which is important since hockey is such a fast sport.

  20. Moondog says:

    If they could drop the whole ‘C’ shape concept, I’m hoping for a redesign of the killer whale that actually shows its tail and less teeth. The tail is often the most identifying feature of a whale, as it represents freedom, power and identity, not to mention being a beautiful shape in itself. Native art of the Vancouver region reflects this well as the tail portion is represented beautifully and in many different ways. To lock the tail under ice, as is on the current logo, speaks to me of a team being immobilized and the polar opposite of free-wheeling and dynamic. A logo with tail just might have slapped some Bruins against the boards better during last year’s finals and presented us with the Cup. Meanwhile, the teeth, as done in the logo, is representative of angst and lack of poise–again, of being immobilized under ice. We need a more confident killer whale.

  21. […] that sleepy red colour and deepening the lighter blue colour (You can read my critique of the logo here on my blog). The whole jersey also still balances the blue and the green […]

  22. Chris says:

    Gotta say I’m surprised you didn’t start a big killer whale/orca debate here! Especially with Vancouverites… It’s an interesting one, as even marine biologists and taxonomists can’t agree. Did you know that orcas are in fact dolphins? And then it depends which taxonomists you want to believe whether or not to include dolphins as being whales… Both are definitely cetaceans, of that there is no disagreement, and interestingly enough even those taxonomists and biologists who say dolphins aren’t whales, will include orcas in the “toothed whale” category!! Anyway, killer whale sounds cool, and if we’re going to go changing long-used common names in the pacific northwest, it may as well be to a traditional native name, not a Latin one.

  23. gundog says:

    The only great Canucks jerseys were the ones they wore in the 60’s – especially the 1961-62 season. Too bad those jerseys have rarely been seen and are basically unknown by the public. Ditto for the actual WHL Johnny Canuck logos that the team marketed.

    It’s interesting to think about what could have been if the Canucks ownership situation was more stable during the early years too. A little known fact is that the original NHL owner was all set to use the WHL style uniforms.

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  30. […] on a bland, cheap-looking and uninspiring logo. There were accusations of homerism for where the Canucks were ranked in the BTLNHL Countdown, but there can’t be any of those accusations this […]

  31. […] that sleepy red colour and deepening the lighter blue colour (You can read my critique of the logo here on my blog). The whole jersey also still balances the blue and the green […]

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  33. LightningStrike says:

    You have me here. This defense (and the one for the Penguins logo, although I still hate the Pens as a Detroit fan) totally got me, hook, line and sinker. I do like it when sports logos connect to the city, such as the Toledo Walleye logo (the real fish alternate is classy) or Detroit’s logo. I also like the style the whale is rendered in from a artist’s point of view. ALSO, the Canucks are my western team when Bryan Lerg is down in the AHL (When he’s up here, I like the Sharks)so I’m sorta biased toward the logo. (Learning about the team right now, I love a lot of the old players from when they made it to the finals.)I love the green on their jerseys and am happy it isn’t on the whale, how many green whales have you seen recently?

  34. Cory says:

    This logo was 100X better when it had red and different blues. You ranked it so well because you’re a Canucks fan. What a shame. Dull, boring, huge downgrade since 2007.

  35. That’s 2 clever by half and 2×2 clever 4 me. Thanks!

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