2014 Olympic Jerseys: The Little Guys
For countries like Canada, the US, Sweden, where medal hopes are as high as Seahawks fans after last Sunday’s game, the Olympic hockey jersey announcements were given premium coverage: pre-announcement leaks, national television coverage, writhing of hands and gnashing of teeth. But for countries who have little or no hope of medaling – countries like Latvia, Switzerland and Austria – the jerseys received such little coverage, you’d think they were playing the Broncos’ defence.
Okay Denver, I’ll stop now, I promise.
But these countries still have to play games in the tournament and they (presumably) have to wear jerseys doing it, so it’s time to give them some credit because (presumably) their jerseys received as much time and effort from designers as the major countries. And to be honest, some of them are better. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
The Austrian team will boast NHL names like Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner from the Islanders, and Michael Raffl from the Flyers, but their chances are bringing down one of the big teams and even get through the round robin phase of the tournament is doubtful at best. They may lose most of their games, but at least they’ll look good doing it.
Similar to the Czech and Finnish teams, they’ll essentially be wearing their flag, or at least their variant flag, used as a war and naval ensign, with the Austrian black eagle crest over a red and white stripes. But at least the Austrian flag is a little less obvious when used this way, compared to the Czechs and Finns.
The main odd thing about the Austrian jersey, compared to the rest of the jerseys we’ve seen so far, is how far down the sleeves the shoulder yokes go. It comes down far enough that the white stripes just above the elbow becomes the same width as the red stripe going across the entire jersey. My guess: to mimic the equal-widthed stripes on the Austrian flag even further. Thanks Nike, we get it, it’s the flag. But the elongated shoulder yoke looks better and gives more flow and movement to the jerseys than just the visual thud of shoulder colour most of the other teams have.
Speaking of the red bar stretching across the entire jersey, it works here because the rest of the jersey is pretty minimal and, like the shoulder yoke, it helps give the jersey a little more flow and movement.
The off-white “Austria” below the crest is a strange addition, and it might be in the same glossy-type material as the fake laces at the collar. It’s a subtle addition to the jersey, and an unnecessary one. Unless it’s for all the Austrian’s teams opponents, who will be forgetting which team they’re beating up on.
The only released image of the red jerseys that I could find seem to simply swap the red and white around, but also remove the stripe across the chest, under the main crest. That’s unfortunate as it minimizes the jersey a bit too much and it will eliminate any chance of the jersey more closely resembling the Austrian flag. Nike, choosing not to make things look more like a flag? Are you drunk Nike? Or maybe just sobering up?
Otherwise, it looks like (from released images) the bottom of the jerseys have no striping, so there’s not too much else here, which is a good thing. The jersey is nationalistic enough to be recognizable as Austrian (to those who live in or near Austria anyway) and is actually a little more distinctive than some of the other jerseys in the tournament. Minimal enough to not be too cluttered, but with enough good additions to compliment the minimalism well. Oh, and the black eagle crest is pretty bad-ass.
Update: Wrong about the shoulder yokes being longer on the sleeves on these jersey. It was just the photo that led to that conclusion. Also, forgot to mention that, like other countries like Japan and Slovenia, they’re using an English word for their country for a tournament in Russia.
The Latvian Olympic roster boasts one current NHLer (Zemgus Girgensons of the Sabres), one former NHLer (Sandis Ozolinsh, of Avalanche fame), but probably the best known person on the Latvian bench will actually be behind it, with Buffalo coach Ted Nolan also being the Latvian coach. But while Latvia will be hard-pressed to win a game in the tournament, their jerseys at least won’t make them an eyesore on the ice. Their play is no guarantee to provide the same.
In some ways, the Latvian jerseys are similar to the Austrian jerseys, and because Nike is having a strange fetish with country’s flags for this tournament, maybe that’s not too surprising the Latvian and Austrian flags are similar as well. Except for the stripe widths, you just need to replace the Austria’s red with some burgundy, and boom, you’ve got Latvia.
The main crest of the jersey is a simplified version of the national crest, minimized to two colours: burgundy and grey. The red lion and silver griffon that are removed from the crest are just relocated as a subtle glossy element on the shoulders. When the jerseys are all one colour without shoulder yokes, as the Latvian burgundy ones are, the glossy shoulder designs actually work pretty well, adding some subtle interest to the jersey. And things like lions, griffons or viking ships are more interesting and less cheesy than slapping some stars there, or adding strange maple leaf patterns. Blech.
The white stripes on the sleeves mimic the flag again, and actually look more like a traditional hockey jersey aesthetic than some of the other Olympic jerseys. It’s a nice touch. For the white versions of the jerseys, although I’m not crazy about the shoulder yokes, the stripes work well for the same reasons.
But the “Latvija” addition near the bottom of the jersey is unnecessary and doesn’t add anything to the jersey. It’s there because of historical precedent, with many of Latvia’s international jerseys bearing the name somewhere on it, but there are some cases when it’s best to just let go of the past. So stop stalking your exes on Facebook for christ’s sake!
Aside from that, the Latvian jerseys are pretty solid: simple, strong, effective.
Just one NHLer will be on the team for Norway, the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello. And while they might have a chance against Austria, they’ll be hard pressed to make it out of a pool with Canada and Finland in it. So you’ll probably only get three games to enjoy these jerseys.
That being said, Norway has officially been very quiet on the jersey front, but the image above is from the official Nike site, so it’s most likely legit. The trim and lines on the jersey look the same as the other Olympic jerseys for this year, so it’s pretty promising that this is what the Norwegians will actually be wearing.
Similar to the Rangers’ jerseys (so Zuccarello should feel right at home in them), the most prominent feature on these jerseys is the diagonal “Norge” across the front, using a unique custom font that mimics traditional hockey numbers/letter with the chopped off corner angles, but with the letters being much wider and actually a little more contemporary looking. It’s simple and unique to the rest of the jerseys in the tournament, but not without historical precedent, so it works well. The amazing thing is that the letters are double- or triple-outlined, like most other teams (including the Rangers) do with designs like these. The minimalism of it works well with the overall aesthetic of the jersey.
The blue and red stripes on the sleeves and bottoms mimic the stripes on Norway’s flag but also lends itself nicely to traditional hockey jersey design. Basically, it looks historic and contemporary at the same time. And it’s worked in the past…
If this image is true to what Norway will be wearing, then this is the one jersey that Nike essentially didn’t change at all from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Sweden wouldn’t do let them do much with the Tre Kronor, but they did get the glossy viking ships on there. But even less changed for Norway, and in this case, that’s a great thing.
Norway’s red jerseys are going to keep the exact same design, but with the red and white colours switching places, which is the same as they had for the 2010 Olympic jerseys as well. And then that’s even better, as the red jerseys are even more striking than the white ones. The white ones could be considered almost too minimalist to a certain degree, but the red ones strike the right balance.
The only unfortunate thing is that the Norwegian hockey team won’t be wearing anything similar to what their curling team is wearing. What a shame.
For the first time since their independence, the Slovenians will participate in the men’s Olympic hockey tournament, and they’ll do so with only one NHLer on the roster: LA King’s Anze Kopitar. If you’ve only got one NHLer on your team though, that’s a pretty good one to have.
But Slovenia doesn’t seem to have released, even with a few days before the Olympics begin, what their jerseys will look like. They promised they would reveal them yesterday, but I haven’t seen any yet, and CBS just announced on their site that the image to the left represents what they’ll be wearing, but there’s been other designs that have made the rounds. Doesn’t sound like anything is official at this point.
If this is what they’ll be wearing, bleah. Nike used the triangular-wedged patch for sleeve numbers in the 2010 Olympics, but none of the jerseys this year has that design (which makes me wonder again how official this image is). I really like the idea of using the blue and lime green, as its unique, but it’s not incredibly patriotic compared to the other jerseys that Nike has been developing for this Olympics, which again discredits the legitimacy of these images. We’re not convinced yet. So, this post will be updated as things develop.
Update: This is actually what they are wearing, and what they wore earlier today for the game against Russia. It’s identical to what they’ve worn in previous international tournaments, so Nike seems to have just regurgitated that design for these Olympics. It’s somewhat lazy, as they’re the only team that doesn’t draw at all from the colours of their flag, opting for the blue and lime green instead. The mountain pattern along the bottom of the jersey is fine, and draws from the Slovenian coat of arms, but the triangular elements on the sleeves are unnecessary. It doesn’t feel like a true Olympic jersey because the initial concept is so different from the rest of the jerseys in the Olympics.
Also, this is another team (like Austria (above) and Japan) that are using the English word for their country (Slovenian for Slovenia is Slovenija) for a tournament in Russia. It’s unpatriotic for a very patriotic tournament and doesn’t make much sense.
Of these five teams listed, Switzerland has, by far, the most NHLers on its roster. Eight Swiss NHLers will make the trip to Sochi, including Jonas Hiller (Ducks), Reto Berra (Flames), Roman Josi (Predators), Rafael Diaz and Yannick Weber (both Canucks), Mark Streit (Flyers), Damien Brunner (Devils) and Nino Niederreiter (Wild). Gone are the days when the Swiss are mere pushovers in the Olympic tournament, but with Sweden and the Czech Republic in their group, they’ll still be hard pressed to make it very far. That’s a shame though, because these are some damn fine jerseys. Perhaps they can be the 2014 version of 2002′s Belarus and take out a big name, just so we can watch these jerseys in action one more time.
What’s so great about them? When you’re dealing with something as simple and iconic as Switzerland’s flag (or even their coat of arms) and transform that into a hockey jersey, there’s a fine line between adding elements that destroy the simplicity that makes the Swiss flag work and being way too minimalist. The balance here is (almost) perfect, keeping the minimalist aesthetics that define Switzerland but bringing some traditional (and non-traditional) hockey aesthetics into the mix.
Both the white and red jersey have a red stripe across the chest of the jersey. On the white jersey it’s pretty obvious, but on the red jersey it’s much more subtle with numerous glossy Swiss crosses forming a pattern across the chest to form a band. The white jersey has that element too and it works on both jerseys quite well, but it’s pretty excellent on the reds, creating a very subtle band across the chest that creates an interesting and dynamic element to an otherwise completely red jersey.
Moving the Swiss cross to the right side of the jersey rather than keeping it dead centre as most hockey jerseys have the main crests is a great move. It keeps the main graphic element, which is extremely strong and aggressive, slightly subdued and makes it looks less like a First Aid person’s kit and more like a Swiss hockey jersey. It’s actually quite brilliant.
The band of crosses extends to the sleeves as well, which is again a great and subtle addition to the red jersey, but also works great on the white jersey. It also gives the jerseys a more traditional hockey jersey aesthetic as well, where there would otherwise not really be any traditional elements.
And then they put “Suisse” on the on the armbands, and they didn’t both to at least put it in Helvetica (if you didn’t know, the name “Helvetica” is actually the Latin word for Switzerland). It’s an unnecessary addition to an otherwise amazingly restrained and gorgeously designed jersey. Remove those, and you would almost have the perfect hockey jersey to represent Switzerland. Could it represent other countries, like Canada for example, who has the same colour scheme and general minimalism? Perhaps, but this is jersey is completely Swiss, both in design elements and all-around concept…minus the “Suisse” on the Swiss on the sleeves.
Overall, all of these jerseys are better than most of the ones being worn in the Olympics. Which goes to show that sometimes overthinking design can be the death of design. As much as the designers of these jerseys took time and care to develop them, they were never going to get the same amount of media time as the major countries in the tournament, so the process was probably more streamlined and simplified, leading to overall better designs.
Agree, disagree? Let us know in the comments below.