BTLNHL Vintage: Quebec Nordiques

In BTLNHL Vintage
Nov 29th, 2013

nordsRecently, I put out an open call for which logo should be next in the BTLNHL Vintage series. The response was overwhelmingly les Nordiques du Québec. People seem to love this logo and I can see why. Like Lil Bub, it’s extremely loveable. And with all the discussion on a possible relocation or expansion back to Quebec City in the coming years, it seems like a pertinent logo to discuss.

But first, a little bit of history gleaned from my own knowledge and the many gaps filled in by Wikipedia.

The Nordiques have been a pretty decent team from time to time, and their rivalries with the Montreal Canadiens is the stuff of legends. Their biggest issue has seemed to just been simply existing. The only reason they came into the WHA in 1972 was because the funding for a team for the San Francisco Sharks fell through at the last minute, and the organization was hastily given to Quebec City. San Francisco is – if you’re wondering – extremely close to San Jose, which might explain their current moniker. In 1979, the Nordiques joined the NHL as part of the WHA merger after the WHA insisted that all of the Canadian teams be included in the merge. Quebec City, by default, became the smallest market in the NHL and in 1995, because of financial issues, relocated to Denver to become the Avalanche…and then promptly win the Stanley Cup in their first season. Sucks to be Quebec City.

Of note, Quebec and hockey design in general is lucky that the Nordiques moved to Colorado when they did, because if they hadn’t moved, the plan was to eliminate the known logo and replace it with this 8-bit-esque monstrosity for the 1994-95 season. Looks like a great minor-league typical mid-’90s aesthetics logo. Instead, we’re gladly left with the legacy of the igloo-ed N.

This logo is much loved because it’s incredibly quirky. First of all, the Nordiques’ name – French for Northerner – doesn’t give much of a concrete starting point for a visual identity. Using something like an igloo as the base for the logo is actually quite creative and brilliant in a lot of ways. It, of course, represents an extreme northern climate (or extreme southern, I suppose, if anyone lived on Antarctica) but it’s also directly representative of Quebec City. Every year for the past 60+ years, in the first couple weeks of February, Quebec City hosts a Winter Carnival. Some of the centrepieces of the Carnival are ice sculptures and the Ice Palace, so while not an igloo directly, having some sort of sculpture made out of ice is definitely connected to the mystique of Quebec City.

And seriously, if you ever get a chance to visit Quebec City during the Carnival, go. It’s awesome. And say hi to Bonhomme.

The igloo element itself is extremely simplified to a dome shape with a domed entrance. Extrapolated to a full igloo, it would looks something like this. A simple red shape with a white and blue outline. Colours aside (I’ll get to that later), it’s a strong and bold representation of an igloo.

So, how do you take something static and solid like an igloo and give it more movement and dynamism, to the point where it can represent a professional hockey team? Well, you add an angled hockey stick. I’m not usually one for incorporating hockey elements into logos (see the Avalanche’s puck, or the Sharks’ hockey stick) as it’s way too obvious of a choice and, as such, usually signifies a lack of creativity and for a hockey-crazed area like Quebec City, it’s completely unnecessary. Unless that hockey stick serves a very specific and necessary purpose (see the Penguins’ hockey sticks/skates and the Islanders’ hockey stick).

With this logo, the purpose of the hockey stick is (like a three-paneled pamphlet) two-folded. First, it adds the movement and dynamism necessary to balance the strength and boldness of the igloo. Forcing the white space in the top-right area of the logo, and how the stick is angled, automatically gives it a forward movement. Second, it cleverly turns the igloo into an N, for the name of the team obviously.

The quirkiness of the logo comes partly from its use of a lower-case N, rather than using an upper-case letter, which is much more common in sports. Psychologically, it diminishes the boldness of the logo, giving it more the personality a lovable geek than a douchebaggy jock. Usually for a sports logo, that’s a detriment, but it’s an interesting contrast to the team that quickly and easily became their biggest rival: the powerful and dominant Montreal Canadiens. Quebec was the Average Joe’s to Montreal’s Purple Cobras. It set them up as a perpetual underdog that was hard not to cheer for (outside of Montreal). Visually, it’s an unusual stance for a sports team to take, but it works in this scenario.

Or maybe it’s just a lower-case N and I shouldn’t read too much into it. But still, imagine is the Bruins had used a lower-case B. Not the same impact.

Quirky in a bad way is the oddly proportioned stick and puck. If it was an accurate representation of the sizes of sticks and pucks, hockey would look very strange. The main problem, though, comes from the fact that it’s completely unnecessary to have the proportions as they are. Making it just a little bit more realistic – similar to, for example, the old Hockey Night in Canada logo – doesn’t affect the quality of the logo at all. Much better. Ironically, the crests that the Nordiques originally wore on their jerseys back in 1972 as part of the WHA were much better proportioned. At some point, for some reason, the decision was made to change that.

And finally, the colours. A piece of advice for you, if you ever find yourself within a red igloo, run. Either someone has just been brutally murdered and all the ice has been stained with blood, something bad happened during cooking pasta and there was a horrible spaghetti incident, or it’s on fire and an igloo isn’t going to last long anyway. Total realism is not totally necessary (I’ve personally never seen a blue maple leaf myself) but a red igloo seems like a strange choice. Red and blue are the most common colours used in sports, and a big part of that is because the suppliers of jerseys and uniforms used to have a very limited colour palette to work with, but there’s a chance to build a something a little more unique here and differentiate themselves from their provincial cousins in Montreal. Maybe two-tones of blue? Just a thought.

The complaints aside, this is a classic and iconic logo that, if included in the BTLNHL Countdown, I would have listed somewhere around 10th, ahead of the Canucks but behind the Coyotes.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.


5 Responses to “BTLNHL Vintage: Quebec Nordiques”

  1. Mat says:

    “(…) Red and blue are the most common colours used in sports, and a big part of that is because the suppliers of jerseys and uniforms used to have a very limited colour palette to work with, but there’s a chance to build a something a little more unique here and differentiate themselves from their provincial cousins in Montreal. Maybe two-tones of blue?”

    Do you know that the original logo, back in ’72, was originaly designed in two-tones of blue (but was never used)? It was thereafter decided to go with the red-bue-white scheme to match the Montreal Canadiens one.

  2. IRockTheRed says:

    I dunno, my first impression on seeing the Nordiques’ logo was, “where’s the dude’s head?” It didn’t say “igloo” to me (probably because it’s all red…) Funny what you learn, huh?

  3. […] (Editor’s note: We fully critiqued the old Nordiques logo in the BTLNHL Vintage series here.) […]

  4. Gllmour says:

    For me, It always looked like an elephant (:

  5. Alec says:

    This was my FIRST “official” hockey jersey I purchased when I was young, and decided to start collecting. Sundin on the back, who was in his 2nd season to give a time reference. Just loved the jersey, and Sundin. However, I do have to say, those away uniforms looked like a pajamas onesie to me. All blue with the jersey, socks, and pants. Was always expecting blue “feeties” at the bottom to go over their skates!

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