HbD News: New Canada Olympic Jerseys Announced
We’ve all seen the leaked versions of the jerseys (featuring Sad Toews), and now that they’ve become official, I’m going to wade in on their designs and explain to you exactly why you don’t (or shouldn’t) like them.
I waited this long because it’s Canada we’re talking about. With respect to the emergence of several countries like Russia, America, Sweden, Finland, etc – all of which have formidable and equally-strong hockey squads heading to Sochi in February – hockey is part of the national identity of Canada. The leaks that came out showed only pieces of the jersey with either sad-Toews wearing them or overlapping other jerseys. The importance of hockey to Canada made me want to wait until the jerseys were officially unveiled and fully shown before discussing them.
Or maybe I was just too distracted by Miley Cyrus making out with a sledgehammer. You’ll never know.
But, the design of the Canadian jerseys are essentially just as they were leaked. It’s got those awful fake laces on them, which appear to be Nike’s direct influence on all the 2014 Olympic jerseys and which I discussed in further detail on the review of the American/Russian jerseys that emerged in the summer. It always follows the same very minimalist aesthetic that the American jerseys use. Regular readers of the blog will know that I’m a big fan of minimalist aesthetics, but there’s a huge danger when employing it. The line between minimalist and nondescript (or even cliché) can be viciously thin.
These jerseys have fallen so far off to the nondescript side that they look plain, cliché and something I could buy for $2 at the Dollar Store the day after Canada Day. Here’s why.
We all know that any Canadian jersey was going to feature the maple leaf on it somewhere. Every Canadian Olympic jersey to date has had it on there, and that will be the case for the foreseeable future. It’s an easy and iconic starting point for any Canadian-based jersey. But again, because it’s so used, there’s a balance between creating something that adds to the iconic nature of the maple leaf, or making it look clichéd. In 2010, the subtle and incredibly non-minimalist detailing within the maple leaf crest on the jerseys created something new and exciting that hadn’t been done before. Other Canadian jerseys have paid homage to the history of Canadian jerseys. The 1972 Summit Series jerseys simplified the jersey and the maple leaf in a unique and unexpected way. But this jersey, slapping the maple leaf over a thick bar is something we’ve all seen numerous times. Like, the flag maybe? Petro-Canada? The Great Canadian Dollar Store?
The whole design just looks completely uninspired and that the designers just mailed it in. It’s incredibly disappointing. From Ken Black, senior creative director of Nike: “When designing the new uniforms, we were very purposeful in our approach of blending Canada’s rich hockey history and tradition with the performance needs of today’s athletes.” Please Ken, show me how this jersey uses Canada’s rich hockey history and tradition? Because it has a maple leaf on it? That’s the only connection I can make.
Then you get the asymmetrical aspect of the arm bands, with only the left arm of each jersey having a white/red band going around it. Logistically, there’s no reason that I can think of to do this, and aesthetically, it’s throwing a basic hockey jersey design element out the window. I don’t know what to say about it because I have no idea what the designers were thinking or why they decided to come to this choice. It’s just strange and seemingly without purpose.
The thin gold outline around the maple leaf is fine. I’m not a huge fan of it, but if you’re going to make it that thin that it’s pretty much unnoticable, does it really need to be there?
And they couldn’t resist adding some glossy maple leafs emerging from the neckline of both sides of the jersey. I’m not totally against this idea of having design elements up there, but again, I’m confused as to why they chose to have the maple leaf emerge from the neck as it is. It seems every decision about this jersey was made ad-hoc. And I haven’t seen anything posted about the specific design process of the jersey, so we’re all left guessing.
The Olympic Canada website does have the following quote about Canadian jerseys from Theoren Fleury:
“It could be a bed sheet sewn together, it doesn’t matter. There’s so much more to it than what the jersey looks like. I think at the end as long as gold matches with your jersey it doesn’t really matter.” —Theoren Fleury, Olympic Champion 2002
It sounds like the Nike designers really took his inspirational words to heart.
Also, the word “Canada” uses a font called Copperplate Gothic, the same font that Christian Bale slobbers over on in the business card scene in American Psycho. Homicidal lunatics love Copperplate Gothic. They should be the only ones because, in this current renaissance age of font-snobbery, Copperplate Gothic just doesn’t hold up as an impressive font at all. It’s a default font. You probably have it on your computer right now. And because of all this, it further cheapens the jerseys.
Then you get the black third jerseys. Regular readers on the blog know of my dislike of black jerseys in general, because the more colour you can introduce to a blank canvas of white ice, the better the game looks. Strike one.
With the asymmetrical arm bands, there’s a red band on the left arm only, conjuring up images of another uniform that had red arm bands on black tops. Personally, I don’t think there’s a huge visual connection between these jerseys and the Nazis, because the red band continues onto the chest so, visually, it’s not entirely an identical relationship. But, it’s certainly problematic. Strike two.
“Hey guys, how can we make the third jersey more boring and eliminate the crest altogether, ignoring the main traditional hockey aesthetic of having a crest on the chest? Let’s slap the word Canada across the chest and leave it at that, similar to what teams like Dallas and the NY Islanders have done so and have been openly reviled for! Sounds like a plan! But maybe that’s too plain. Let’s stop doing any sort of creative processing altogether and just put it on a red band of colour. Throw some gold on there too! Excellent!” Strike three.
It looks like the 12 golden leaves that were seen on some of the leaked images of the jerseys have been moved to the inside collar of the jersey. It was the one element that I didn’t mind because at least it looked somewhat interesting and spoke to a sense of Canadian hockey history. So, of course, they got rid of it.
Look, I know what Nike is trying to do. They’re trying to be much more experimental with the traditional aesthetics of a hockey jersey/uniform and push the boundaries to move the aesthetics forward. I can appreciate that, and in some cases, they have succeeded in creating something more interesting and even successfully make the jerseys more minimalist. The Russian jerseys are a good example, or even the white American jerseys.
But these Canadian ones are a complete miss. They look cheap. They look cliché. They look like there was incredibly little thought put into them. For a country that prides itself on having hockey as part of its national fabric, it’s pretty sad.