BTLNHL #8: Toronto Maple Leafs

By Admin
In BTLNHL Countdown
Feb 29th, 2012

Toronto. Winner of 13 Stanley Cups. One of the two most-storied franchises in the NHL. One of the Original Six teams. The ‘Centre of the Hockey Universe’. The most valuable franchise in the league. Arguably hockey’s most rabid fan base with the most scrutinizing media.

I mentioned during the Rangers’ post that separating history and legacy from a logo design is pretty impossible, and this is one of the greatest teams in the NHL. So, I focused on them not getting even in the vicinity of the Stanley Cup since 1967, starting seeing a little clearer, and ranked them here at #8.

And….I think I just lost all of my Toronto readers. Sorry Leafs fans, I’ll shut up and stick to design now.

As history goes, the Leafs (shouldn’t it technically be ‘Leaves‘) have had almost every sort of stylized maple leaf that you can: a very goofy non-realistic leaf in the ’20s and ’30s (seriously, have you ever seen a maple leaf shaped like that?); a more symmetrical and more realistic looking leaf, but with painfully off-centred text, from the ’30s to the ’60s (with two outlines added for good measure in the ’60s); a more simplified and iconic leaf in the late-’60s that look extremely similar to the leaf on the Canadian flag; and a more stylized-version of the iconic leaf, and the straightening of the “Toronto” text, which is the logo used today. Each step of the way, it got simpler and more refined. And thankfully, the text is as centred as a chakra.

So, in terms of the leaf, there’s not much to complain about. It’s stylized and iconic. It’s got strength and character to it. It’s simple, but the angles give it just a bit of movement and dynamism. It’s the Hugh Jackman of NHL logos. Too charming not to like. I mean, the guy even makes a point of hanging out with ex-cons!

This is the last logo in the countdown to use fonts as a major design feature (the Bruins’ B and the Canadiens C and H are less a font than an actual design element). The font being used is called ITC Kabel Ultra. Again, a nice font. Simple, but stylized, with dynamism and movement. Strength and character. Distinct but not flashy. It’s the Sandra Bullock of NHL typefaces. Too charming not to like. I mean, she doesn’t just take care of shady characters, she marries them!

As the type goes, there’s nothing to complain about. Every letter is spaced-out nicely. Unlike Rasputin, it’s well-executed.

The blue colour is, at first, an odd choice considering maple leafs are generally green, red, or some shade of orange. However, the Toronto professional hockey team, before being the Maple Leafs, were known (creatively) as the Torontos, or (somewhat slightly more creatively) the Blue Shirts. They then became the Arenas in 1917, when the NHL was formed, then the St Pats in 1919, and then finally the Maple Leafs in 1927. In their first year, they did actually use a green maple leaf as their logo, but in 1928 switched back to blue. According to sources (read: Wikipedia), the switch to the blue was to follow the tradition of blue being Toronto’s principle sports colour, with the Argonauts and Varsity Blues already playing in their respective sports. MLB’s Blue Jays later followed suit.

Then the blue has historical and local significance. Although a blue maple leaf doesn’t necessarily makes sense, these are good reasons to throw logic to the wind.

So, here’s the rub. And again, we’re heading very much into intangibles here since we’re talking about the best logos in the league. And I also feel very strange saying this considering the team that we’re talking about.

Is it really a “hockey” logo?


Well, of course it’s a hockey logo. They’re the second oldest team in the league and about to celebrate their 100th anniversary in a few years. The Maple Leafs are to hockey what the Yankees and Red Sox are to baseball. The Globetrotters to basketball. Murray Hewitt to New Zealand. You see the logo and you think hockey.

But looking at the rest of the logos remaining in the countdown, why are all these ones ahead of the Leafs? They all have something more. This logo doesn’t have the same movement, the same intensity and the same aggressiveness that some of the other ones do, and these are all descriptions of the sport of hockey itself.

Don’t get me wrong, the Leafs logo is a great logo and definitely in the league’s elite, but on this list, it comes in at #8.


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



25 Responses to “BTLNHL #8: Toronto Maple Leafs”

  1. fog says:

    I gotta admit, I’m surprised the Leafs logo fell to #8, but looking through your argument, I don’t see one thing I don’t agree with. I’m a huge Leaf fan, and am partial to the logo, though, I kinda like the logo a little more. I’m not quite sure why, maybe because it reminds me of a time when the Leafs used to compete for the cup.

    In saying that, looking at the list of teams left, there are probably 3 logos that I would personally rank below the Leafs (and no, neither of which are the habs or bruins, they’re nice logos). But, I guess at this point in the countdown, its only very slight issues that sets them all apart.

  2. Sara Schieve says:

    When you see this logo you do think hockey but technicaly they took their name from the International League baseball team that was playing in Toronto at the time.

  3. Rob says:

    Another thing I was thinking about when looking at this logo. Doesn’t the design of the uniform the logo is displayed on have some effect on all of this? Of course we can seperate them from one another and for this purpose rank the logos themselves. But when a casual fan looks at a logo, most times it is on the uniform of that team. I have to think that the uniform design has some effect on how we rank these logos. For instance, I think of the remaining logos, the penguins would come in last as far as quality of their uniforms. Although some of the blues older uni’s have been god awful, i particularly like their current unis, and even their uni with their alternate logo

    • Admin says:

      I totally agree with you that the uniforms can affect how people see the logo, but for the purposes of this countdown and to keep things a bit simpler, I wanted to focus solely on the logos. If you bring in the uniforms, then you’re starting to look at branding instead.

  4. Chris says:

    Seems like a good analysis to me.

    I’m surprised the Penguins are still on the board, and thus very interested to read why.

    I’m also starting to get curious about what you’ll say about the Blackhawks logo. I think it’s great, but it is so busy, and all the other busy logos are off the board, so I am curious to see your thoughts on it.

    I imagine I will be an increasingly impatient reader as these final weeks pass!!!!!

  5. Lomar says:

    It seems this logo suffers from it’s lack of logoness. I would agree there’s not much going on as a logo but when it gets put on a jersey that simplicity of design and colour scheme easily puts this in the top 5. Less is more, sometimes a lot so.

  6. Nat says:

    I’m looking forward to the Penguins post. To me, that is one of the ugliest logos in the league. History be damned.

    The logo that I think in honesty is the best in the league: Boston Bruins. The black and yellow, the wheel, the simplicity and strength of the ‘B’. And I say this as a Canucks fan. Hate that team, but the logo is great.

  7. Ridley says:

    I don’t have much to add beyond my incredulity at the Penguins logo still standing. That is a goofy, goofy logo. Other than that, I’ve agreed almost entirely with everything you’ve said (though I think I’d have placed this one nearer to the Rangers.)

    My top pick would be a choice between Philadelphia, Montreal and Boston, I think, and I’m interested to see what reasoning you present for the top.

  8. Guy Incognitus says:

    No idea why the Penguins logo is still on the board. It’s cartoony, like all those minor league logos you’ve been bashing this whole time.

  9. Johnny_Spectacular says:

    My only issue with the ‘history’ argument for this particular logo is that while it speaks for a long period of Toronto’s history, it doesn’t speak for a terribly successful one. Their last Cup/Finals appearance was sporting this guy;

    Which they recently returned to with their thirds. If you ask me (cause sooo very many want the opinion of a mouthy Sens fan on an internet board…) they should, next year, try something; declare it a new day in Leafs history, scrap the modern version, go back to the ’67 version (or even the one directly preceding it, which I always like a lot more) and try and build on the history of their successful past, with a direct visual representation to remind fans and players that those years ‘wandering the desert’ as it were are over.

    Lord knows they’ve tried everything else…

  10. Alex says:

    Correction the Maple Leafs only have 13 not 17 cups. Technically.

    Overall a good article. Agree with your placing and logic. Personally like the logo when the Leafs last won in ’67. Seems to be less formal and has more character. Just like Murray Hewitt.

  11. Matt says:

    haha. Can’t wait to see the defense of the Pens logo. Personally I like it. It has a certain charm to it. Advice to the haters: wait til the defense comes out. If its anything like the Canucks post, you’ll all end up agreeing with him anyway

  12. JD P says:

    Love these articles. You almost lost me with the ’67 blather, but I balanced that out by sitting for a minute and thinking about all the Stanley Cups the Canucks’ve pulled in ;)

    Seriously though, great evaluation. I hope you concur, however, that the 1967 logo (their current 3rd) would get bumped up a few spots.

    • Admin says:

      Haha! Well played sir.

      Yeah, I’m a bigger fan of their ’67 logo. Just has that little added touch of character with the “Toronto” styling.

      • JD P says:

        This particular logo is Ballard’s monstrosity, and quite frankly considering the alternatives they have, I can’t figure out why it’s still the primary logo.

      • JD P says:

        Also, speaking of thirds, I hope you’re going to do an evaluation on Jerseys as a whole eventually? And then perhaps thirds? This logo design stuff is like crack to a sweater snob like me.

    • JD P says:

      Oh I should also mention (sorry if it already has been) but the Leafs are named after the Maple Leaf Regiment from the first world war. Plurality rules don’t apply to proper nouns.

  13. Eric Hansen says:

    I love this uniform and Logo second only to the Blackhawks. Ummm why is Pittsburgh still on the board? Did you forget to stick them at # 29 where they belong?

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