BTLNHL #5: Montreal Canadiens

By JVDW
In BTLNHL Countdown
Apr 3rd, 2012
35 Comments

If there is one thing I’d like to do is find a DeLorean hidden behind a large billboard for a future subdivision just outside of town, go back to, say, the second decade of the 20th-century and talk to whoever was behind this logo, which was created for the Canadian Athletic Club in 1913. And since then, the logo and jersey have obviously changed, but the original concept hasn’t changed since 1917.

Whoever created that initial logo and jersey in 1913 started what became the most iconic logo and jersey in all of sports. Only the Yankee’s pinstripes even comes close. The jersey was made into a children’s book story, which was made into an animated short film, and an excerpt of the book was put on a special edition of the Canadian five dollar bill. This thing is holy.

But this post is not about the jersey, it’s about the logo. And the basic concept of the logo that was created in 1913 has gone through surprisingly many revisions. There was the most major one in 1917 when the ‘A’ was switched with an ‘H’ in the middle of the logo because of the team being incorporated as ‘Le club de Hockey Canadien’. Yes, the ‘H’ stands for hockey, not Habitants, or Habs, which became the team’s nickname. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Since 1917, the logo’s gone through six revisions and refinements, but each time the same elements remained, an ‘H’ within an elongated ‘C’ with the colours of blue, red and white. There’s also been the growth at the top-right corner of the ‘C’ which was briefly removed from 1919-1921, but returned in 1922. But by 1925, when the logo was revised again, it really has been relatively untouched, just refined. This kind of longevity for a logo is the stuff that makes designers like me salivate. It’s iconic. It’s timeless. It will absolutely never change, unless the guy behind this Twitter account wants to become a little more active on it.

And nor should it ever change. In fact, with any of the remaining five logos, I wouldn’t necessarily change in any major way, and barely even in any minor way. They’re excellent logos, executed exquisitely. There’s as many ‘ex’-es in that sentence as there is in this new movie.

And this logo has raised the Stanley Cup 24 times, more than any other team in the league by a fair amount. To separate the logo from its historical prominence is difficult.

So, why do the Canadiens come in at 5th? The reason their logo is better than 25 other teams is because the logo incorporates the elements of hockey (strength, intensity and gracefulness) in an incredibly refined way. The strength comes from the thickness of the red C, and especially from the growth on the top-right corner of the C. If you remove the growth, suddenly the logo becomes flimsy and loses its strength. I’m not sure if this was the initial purpose of the growth, or if not, what its purpose actually is, but it works. Unlike Tobias’ hair plugs, this growth makes its host stronger.

The other thing the growth does is give it some character too. The logo is basically nothing more than just a C and an H, and while there’s other elements that also contribute to the logo’s character, that little growth is the biggest contributor.

The intensity of the logo comes from partly the red C as well, but here it’s the thickness of the white and blue outlines, and how they form the H. The use of the negative space (the white outline) to flow around the C and then form the H gives the logo a little bit of lightness, but it also increases the contrast overall, making it more aggressive and vibrant. If you remove the white outline (and rework the H to accommodate), the logo loses all its punch. And having the white and blue lines equal in width increases that intensity, but it also helps balance the logo and keep that lightness ingrained. If you make the blue outline thicker than the white outline, the whole logo becomes really bogged down.

The gracefulness of the logo comes from the shape of the C. The slow curve around the entire C gives the logo a sense of elegance. Think about the other Cs in sports logos: the Canucks, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs, the LA Clippers and the Chicago Bears, for example. Each different in their own way, and I don’t think any of them are as nicely formed as the Habs’ C. Part of that is because the simplicity and grace of the curve is complimented by the strength and intensity of the other elements. It creates a really great balance. Maybe even better balance than this guy.

And the colours are a great choice as it’s connected to Montreal and Quebec, being the same colours as on the French flag. The ‘blue, blanc et rouge’ is now ingrained in the cultural vernacular of Quebec, as the Canadiens were originally the team of the Montreal francophones, while the Montreal Maroons were the team of the Montreal anglophones.

In short, this is an awesome logo. So why are there 4 ahead of it? There’s one more instrumental element of hockey that I’ve constantly talked about that the Habs’ logo doesn’t exhibit: speed, or more specifically, movement. This logo is more on the stoic side and doesn’t have any elements that imply any sort of movement. It’s solid, strong, intense and graceful, but doesn’t have that sense of dynamism, which is something the remaining 4 logos have in spades. Hockey is one of the fastest team sports in the world that’s powered by the human body (which excludes anything involving a car) and the most successful logos are those that incorporate this.

This is not taking away from the Habs’ logo, because it’s great. In fact, its placement makes it the best Canadian-based logo, which for a country where hockey is religion, is no small feat.

 

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

 

35 Responses to “BTLNHL #5: Montreal Canadiens”

  1. Don says:

    Wow, having read that, I can’t wait to hear how you’re going to defend the Bruins’ logo as being better. You might want to proof-read your second last paragraph and fix an “it’s” earlier on.

    • Admin says:

      Wow, I thought I had. Apparently I hadn’t. It has been corrected!

    • Chris says:

      Agree with you re: dynamism, but I think the B in spokes will get points for Boston and for being a faceoff circle. This has me assuming that Bruins will come #4 though.

      We shall see!

  2. Matthew Duke says:

    “There’s one more instrumental element of hockey that I’ve constantly talked about that the Habs’ logo doesn’t exhibit: speed, or more specifically, movement.”

    Guess we can expect the Bruins next!

  3. IAmJoe says:

    I’m guessing DET and the Winged Wheel (movement squared!) comes in #1 then. I’m surprised that STL and PHI are going to be this high though.

    I always assumed this was the case, but just realized that it isn’t – on your BTLNHL Countdown on the side of the page (which is pretty cool, btw), it’d probably be handy to have each logo link to its review. That way, as the blog continues to grow, it’s nice and easy for any newcomer to see their favorite team, see their rank, and be able to see why you ranked them where they did. IDK how difficult that is to do, but yeah, I just noticed that wasn’t actually how it worked, and thought I’d let you know.

    Hmmm… I just noticed in the “recent articles” section, an interview with Daniel Price, that I somehow missed. Wonder how I missed that in my RSS feed. Guess I’ll go read that now.

    • Admin says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’ve been meaning to do that for a while, so I appreciate the reminder. The BTLNHL Countdown image now links to all their respective posts.

  4. duff says:

    After such a horrible season, what a great delight to be reminded of why I lush over the habs and thier logo.

    hard to top this write up – fantastic
    thank you

  5. T says:

    Hmmm. I think you are overstating the dynamism aspect as a requirement to make a great hockey logo. While I think the three winged (and still remaining) NHL logos are excellent, I don’t think the Canadiens logo should get docked for not attempting to imply movement. The Montreal C doesn’t need to imply movement because it implies what you already stated: strength of an incredibly well balanced design and a deeper tradition and recognition than any other brand on the ice. Mess with that by attempting to imply movement/dynamism and it could easily be screwed up and lose its powerful identity.

    This should have been no lower than #2, if not top of the list.

    • Admin says:

      I’m not saying that they should change this logo to include movement. They should never change it because it’s iconic and gorgeous. I just think the other ones remaining are (very very slightly) stronger because they have that movement incorporated in them, as well as the other attributes.

  6. FYSD says:

    The Note in the top 4 baby! Let’s Go Blues!!!

  7. Ridley says:

    I think dynamism is overrated. The best sports logos are easily recognizable. Ask yourself, “Would this look good as a tattoo done by a mediocre tattoo artist?” If the answer is yes, you’ve got a good sports logo.

    Simple, clean, iconic logos unite a fan base. In addition to getting them tattooed on themselves, they’re easy to draw on grade schoolers’ notebooks, fun to play with on unlicensed gear and instantly recognizeable on a car’s bumper, even when they’re all faded out from the sun.

    So that’s why, despite being a Bruins fan who detests the Habs, that this logo would be #1 on my list. Being French-Canadian in MA, this is actually the first hockey logo I ever recognized. My uncle was a big fan, and he had the logo on some of his stuff. Until I was old enough to watch Bruins games, this logo was hockey for me. When your logo is clear enough for a little kid to identify it with a sport, despite said logo not being the home team’s, you’re doing something very right.

    • Admin says:

      Ha! Like the tattoo comment! You’re probably right on that.

      I would argue that the remaining four are all as recognizable as the Habs, but they just haven’t been around as long, or have the legacy of excellence that the Habs do. They’re all simple and strong designs that, aside from the Red Wings maybe, any child could easily draw (which I think is also a great point, by the way).

      The whole time with this list, I tried my best to separate the history and legacy of a team from the design of their logo, strictly focusing only on the design. Maybe I over-compensated on this one, but I’m happy with where it’s placed.

  8. Guy Incognitus says:

    I agree with everyone else that the B would seem to be next, which is interesting because it means that the three logos in the NHL with wings are the top three. Clearly if you want to design a good logo, slap a wing on it.

  9. Nat says:

    Great post as always. I would have put Habs at #4, with Blues lower (probably lower than #5 though), but I agree with your feelings on this logo. And I’m a big colour person, so I really love this one. It has visual punch. That, more than a sense of motion, is important to me. Vivid, complementary colours…if you find a good colour, or colour combination, it can be iconic.

    • Chris says:

      Hm, I think I agree with this. Something about the Blue Note doesn’t have quite the same visual punch as the other three (or the Habs logo).

  10. Jason M (DC) says:

    Would the “growth” also be called a serif?

    • Admin says:

      Great point to bring up!

      It’s not a serif in the traditional sense, which is either a thick slab (like here: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6156/6185667988_c8429fa992_z.jpg) or more commonly, pointed (like here: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3603/3594954523_4304ebfe29.jpg). If anything, the ‘growth’ could be a slab serif.

      But generally, I think it would need to be the whole letter. Having a serif only in one spot of a letter while the rest of it is completely sans serif is a bit odd, and it’s shaped different than a usual slab serif would be shaped, which is why I veered away from calling it that.

      • Jason M (DC) says:

        Nice. Yeah, I wasn’t sure either way. You make good points for not calling it a serif. True. A serif font usually uses them on all parts of the letter and not just one corner. I’m no expert on typography (or whatever). Just thought I’d ask.

  11. Kevin says:

    As a lifelong Habs fan… I disagree. I have to, not only because of my (somewhat-irrational) love of the team, and the sorrow I feel every March or April since 1993, but also because as you’ve stated, the logo is instantly recognizable, stoic, classic, etc. Dynamism, to me, is the least necessary aspect of a logo in this case. If the Habs were a newer team, then perhaps such an element would be necessary. Note that other than Detroit, all of the other O-6 teams incorporate a stoic feel to their logos, and the rough design has not changed in any major way for decades.

    Hockey, at least traditionally, is the realm of stoic players who can take or give a check as well as skate fast, and even throw a few punches when called upon. I grant you that your top eight logos are definitely the best of the best (with Pittsburgh being my least favourite), but… I disagree with your emphasis on dynamism.

    • Admin says:

      You make a good point about the historical aspect (that it wasn’t as fast and furious as it is now), but I’ll stand by my assessment. To be honest, the top 5 are so close, you could make an argument for all of them being in first place, but well, I had to make a choice somewhere.

      • Kevin says:

        Speaking of which, I noticed that your Canucks assessment didn’t include their other logo (stick on rink, shaped like a C). I know you don’t do defunct logos, but they still actively wear it to some games. How would that place?

        • Admin says:

          I’m keeping unused and alternative/secondary logos out of it on purpose for now, but I want to definitely do some posts about those in the future.

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  22. French Canadians have no pride in the French flag colours: Red White and Blue. The Habs colours don’t come outta that… Please stop spreading that false rumour. When French first arrived in America, that flag didn’t exist, this was the French flag:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pavillon_royal_de_la_France.svg

    Our real symbol and emblem is the Fleur-De-Lys. We have no connection with the France flag, as it’s never been ours.
    The Habs colours have no meaning, they were just chosen to contrast the other teams in the NHA and nothing else. Teams back then only carried on set of sweaters no matter if they were home or away and the choices of colours were very conservative.

    Yes the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge is now a tradition in Montreal for other sports teams in the city, but it comes from the Habs and not from France…

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