BTLNHL Vintage: California Golden Seals

In BTLNHL Vintage
Nov 5th, 2012

The inaugural edition of the BTLNHL Vintage series looks at a team that most fans over a certain age didn’t know even existed. They have absolutely no legacy to speak of, no history of winning, no success with building a solid fan base, and seemingly no contribution to the NHL despite existing for 9 years, from 1967-1976…except for having some of the worst logos and uniforms to have ever been worn by a hockey player. This post takes a look at the logo they had for their final two seasons, from 1974 to 1976.

I chose this one to start with to help bring awareness to the existence of this team, and after concluding BTLNHL in the spring with some of the best logos to ever grace the game, I felt it might be fun to rip one to shreds. Plus, I like typography, so I picked a typographic logo.

That being said, I have no clue what specific font the Seals used. It’s some weird ’70s-era type (drawing from Bauhaus-era design, which I’ll get to later) that looks like it belongs on a Dirk Diggler movie, and from what I can research, isn’t even an actual font but was specifically created for this logo. If so, the designer who created it was either the nephew of a friend of the cousin of the boyfriend of the aunt of the owner’s daughter who just got out of design school (and would have been extremely cheap), or had no clue what they were doing. Or both.

When creating a type face, one of the first things to keep in mind is that no one letter should stick out dramatically from the rest of the letters. All the letters should be in unison and harmonious, unlike this particular cheerleader. If one letter sticks out more than the rest in any way, your font needs some work.

And this logo has all sorts of continuity problems happening with it. First of all, it’s usual that upper- and lower-case letters look at least kind of like each other, or have similar styles, especially when the lower-case is the exact same shape as the upper-case. But the ‘S’ and ‘s’ in this logo couldn’t look more different. It’s more plausible that Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger are from the same family than these two letters.

The capital S is in a style called Bauhaus, which is a German style of design that was taught in the ’20s and ’30s. It preached modernism, functionality and simplicity, and it influenced everything from architecture, to furniture design and, of course, to graphic design and fonts.

While the capital ‘S’ is much more a dramatic example of Bauhaus typography, the argument could be made that the lower-case ‘s’ has Bauhaus roots as well. Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean the two letter belong in together in the same font. They use totally different shapes and given that a lower-case ‘s’ is, 99% of the time with sans serif fonts, a smaller version of the capital ‘S’, it makes no sense to use them together in this way.

*NOTE: If you look at the image at the top of this page, you can see that the small ‘s’ actually does mimic the capital ‘S’ on their jerseys. Either the logo on the jersey and their “official” logo were different (which I doubt), or I’ve found a small dint in Chris Creamer’s formidable sports logo armor (more likely). Sorry for not noticing it earlier! But, I can tell just from the image that the small ‘s’ still isn’t kerned properly (more on kerning below).*

The rest of the letters fit the same style of the capital ‘S’ well, using the typical Bauhaus aesthetic, but the weights on the letters are all wrong. By weights, I mean the thickness of the letters. For example, if you look at just the ‘e’ and the ‘a’, it’s obvious that the ‘e’ is much thinner than the ‘a’. The black boxes in this image are exactly the same length, and it shows the discrepancy between the weights.

The ‘a’, ‘l’ and ‘s’ are much closer in weight-size, with some minor issues with the ‘s’. Again, the black boxes in this image are the same length, showing the ‘a’ and ‘l’ to be the same weight, with the ‘s’ changing slightly to being thinner in some parts, and thicker in others. But overall, they’re pretty similar.

The ‘S’ though, is in a weight class all its own. Capital letters stand out from the rest of a font only in their height and shape in some cases, not in their girth. It’s pretty terrible.

Also, there’s the issue of kerning, which is the space in-between two letters within a word. This is an example of bad kerning, turning the word ‘savings’ into two words, ‘sa’ and ‘vings’. Be especially careful of tight kerning with words like “flicks” or “final“. In this logo though, the word is getting split in two between the ‘e’ and the ‘a’, partly because of a horribly constructed ‘e’ that, like a lynx, seems to have half a tail. But, it’s also partly because of poor kerning on the letters.

But, when you try to fix the kerning on the letters, you run into another problem, which is the spiky serifs on the yellow outline. I’m assuming that was included to add a little touch of aggressive to the logo that generally wouldn’t exist with Bauhaus-inspired letters. But like the rest of the logo, they’re poorly constructed with some of them being much larger than others. Plus, the capital ‘S’ doesn’t have any spikes at all. I say, if you’re going to go Bauhaus, be true to the style and drop the serifs and kern everything properly. Better.

If you really want to rework the logo though, keeping within the same Bauhaus style and basic concept, how about the logo that shows a little bit of strength and aggressiveness through bolder letters and has a much better constructed font? How about this?

But the colours! Oh, the humanity! Teal and yellow may be okay for a destination wedding, but for a hockey team? Good god no. Again, it’s something straight out of a bad ’70s movie. Thankfully, the team died with the ’70s as well.

So, if this logo were still in use today, where would it fit in on the BTLNHL Countdown? That’s easy. #31. It would easily be the worst logo in the league.


17 Responses to “BTLNHL Vintage: California Golden Seals”

  1. fogno says:

    I never get tired of reading these. I completely agree with everything you say, this is such a terrible terrible logo. Its hard to even blame the era cause there were other great logos in the era. Going as far back as their expansion year:

    You would never guess these were created in the same year…

    • Admin says:

      I know! They have a similar kind of aesthetic to them, but obviously the Flyers logo is so much more thought out than the other, which looks like a plate of geometric vomit.

  2. Adam Nowek says:

    Wow. I could not disagree more. This reads like hyper-esoteric literary studies by guys that spend five years of their lives trying to figure out why Joyce put the comma before a word and not after it. Can’t we just revel in the loud because it’s fun?

  3. Peter says:

    I think the capital S is supposed to look like a stylized (okay VERY stylized) version of a seal. That’s why it is so different from the lowercase s. Note: This does not make the logo any better. It still sucks.

  4. Don says:

    Bad teams, bad arena, bad uniforms and logos throughout their short history. The complete package.

  5. Sparky the Seal says:

    For us remaining Seals fans, we’re always glad the team is remembered. A few points to help you:

    The third and final set of Seals colors was known as Pacific Blue and California Gold. The shade somewhere between aqua and teal actually is a precursor of current teams like the NBA Nuggets and Hornets, NFL Titans and others going with a lighter base color. The Sharks wore the Seals shade in their early years (now darkened to Deep Pacific Teal) and they were raved. The football Dolphins of course are successfully synonymous with aqua.

    The Seals jersey font indeed appears to be specially created with the idiosyncrasies mentioned. Blame Charlie Finley who was totally cheap when he had the logotype created. The official wordmark was much more regular and “font-like” in some type of modified Bauhaus style, somewhat similar to the uniform font. It is not the style shown on Mr Creamer’s superb web site and copied on this page. That was never the Seals’ logo.

    These uniforms were allegedly the idea of post-Finley Seals president Munson Campbell, a former ad guy from New York City. Thus, the NY Ranger-like pants striping, and for some reason, UCLA football-style shoulder stripes. The NHL wanted to get rid of Finley vestiges after they bought the team back from him, dumping white skates and Kelly green, but they did keep his Seals jersey logotype.

    If the Seals had worn black pants (like the Sharks do) instead of the all-Pacific Blue road uniforms, chances are their uniforms would not be reviled as they are. But we loved our Seals no matter what they wore and wish they were still around.

    • Admin says:

      Wow, that’s great there’s still Seals fans out there. I had no idea!

      And thanks for all the info you shared. You should fill out the Seals’ Wikipedia page, because this is kind of interesting information that seems to get buried and lost as teams relocate, disintegrate or simply die. And it’s fascinating for me to hear about this kind of context and back story about the designs of the logos and jerseys.

      So again, thanks for sharing! I definitely appreciate it.

  6. Mark says:

    I grew up watching the Seals play and enjoyed many games throughout their 9 year history. Later, as a television news producer, I did a couple of history pieces about the team. (viewable on YouTube)

    One has to give Charles Finley credit for a few things: one of them being that he was the first to put the names of players on the back of their jerseys. It was a nice addition that was finally adopted by other teams.

    As for the white skates….ugh.

  7. Jet says:

    Another huge Seals fan here who followed them as best I could from 3,000 miles away in Long Island. It baffled me, even as a teen, that their print wordmark didn’t match their jersey wordmark. But it was all part of the package of being a Seals fan. Nothing much made sense! They shook off the vestiges of the Finley era by dumping the white skates and green/gold colors, yet continued to look silly with all-teal unis (completely agree that black pants would have looked great). Those football shoulder stripes were bizarre too. When I went to see them against the Islanders at the Coliseum, as they were coming out onto the ice, a security guard said, “here come the Miami Dolphins!”

    Anyway, I appreciate the micro-analysis of my team’s uni. This is a fantastic site, right up my alley!

    • Admin says:

      Thanks for the comments. Always good to hear there’s still some Golden Seal fans out there. But yeah, those white skates were just crazy.

  8. Aj says:

    This is going to be all over the place, but here is some history for you. In the mid 70’s Wayne King played for the Seals over a few seasons ending in 1976. After playing in the minors the following season, he joined the Barrie Flyers OHA-sr team for the 77-78 season. Meanwhile, the Flyers were very cash conscious at the time and in order to save money, they took on second hand jerseys and imposed their logo on them. Where Wayne comes into play is due to the Seals jerseys from the mid 70’s going missing (not stolen, just no one can confirm what happened to them, much like the 67 Penguins jersey’s which were believed to have been thrown out). It is believed that Wayne’s connections are the ultimate result of the missing jerseys as the Flyers used almost identical jerseys to the mid 70’s Seals and perhaps was heavily involved in securing the jerseys from the Seals. To my knowledge there is only one of these “Flyers” jerseys in existence today and owned by a gentleman in Barrie Ontario. While he has been contacted by the HHOF, he has kept the jersey for his personal collection.

  9. Czuck says:

    I’ve always loved the Seals’ gold and green unis, the letters across the front and even the white skates. Not a big fan of the later blue unis, but i like that stylized seal graphic (even if it looks more like a water flea than anything else). I’m glad there are/were some teams out there who embrace unconventional design when it comes to their unis. I mean, how many bulldogs biting a hockey stick in half do we need to see?

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