As I see the slow progression of teams like Vancouver, Nashville, and Washington creep out with their new designs for their emblems and styles, I take a step back and begin to think really hard. I begin to wonder what these new looks would, well, look like with the basic jersey of the yester-years. The loose design with the nice "flutter in the wind" character of the traditional sweater, it's kind of a piece of history that defines the image of players coasting down the ice. It gives a visual appeal of a player moving faster than they really were. The spectacular speed of a Maxim Afinogenov or Pavel Bure (yeah, I'm a fan of Russian hockey players), the pace at which they looked unstoppable was always traced with the jersey flapping away as they zigged and zagged their way to the goal. Where is that visual now? It is now in the vault with many other things that the NHL is collectively placing on the shelf in the books of hockey's past. From the company who brought you football, basketball, and soccer jerseys, Reebok now brings to you...a jersey that appears like spandex on the bulky equipment.
To rehash where I was going with the Preds, Canucks, and Caps images, I just wanted to point out that I seriously love the fact that Vancouver is going back to the catchy green with the blue and meshing it with a more modern style. I like the Capitals rocking out the classic look in a modern light. The Predators image is sharp and fierce. But to throw it onto this form fitting jersey? It is a turn off to me. I've spoke with many people on this subject, and majority of those whom I spoke with agree. They agreed only on the count of one resounding opinion that didn't just single out the jersey issue. They touched on the idea that the game of hockey is shifting into something different every year. New rules and new regulations. New salaries and new networks. New marketing strategies and new attitudes.
The evidence is in the Balsillie saga. He's trying to pull the sport from one town to another, and undoubtedly people are going to be upset that they're losing a team in the deal. The Predators market is a shaky one, and the fans do need to step up the support like they have recently to keep the team (and CONTINUE TO DO SO). The Penguins are not too different, but they were not thoroughly supported through the rough patch they hit when finishing at the bottom the season prior to this. Balsillie thought that this club could flourish in Ontario as well. The message here is clear. It has become too much of a business instead of a sport for enjoyment. Honestly, with all the young talent that keeps flooding the market, Balsillie should be entitled a fresh expansion franchise to place in Hamilton, ON. Take back your game Canada. I'm all for the idea of placing a team back in Quebec City or Winnepeg. But from all that I can see happening in the NHL that seems to also run in theme with this problem is something that aggravates me very much. And that is to see players sign for gross amounts of money and quickly pack up to accept the bigger buck after playing dedicated hockey in a market for some time. It's not the fact that a team has lost a big star player. It's the fact that small market teams are pushed back further. If a small market club picks up a strong player from the draft, then a couple years down the road, the player is offered a bogus amount of money to jump ship from the team that blossomed him into the spotlight (Penner, Vanek). How does Mr. Bettman expect teams to blossom if the big ownership of major markets splurge on the biggest named talents in the marketplace? This just isn't an issue of image with flashy, technologically advanced unis, or new rules to increase scoring to draw in more fans across the continent (and possibly the world), or promoting an outdoor game to draw in attention (especially on a day when the most important college football games are taking place and fill the spotlight). This is about the direction that Gary Bettman has dished out into what I call "Gary's NHL". We've seemed to overlook the fact that he is pushing for more changes every year. The movement of the goal-judges to other places in the arena aside from behind the goal to open up some prime seating? I'm not thrilled about this because the goal judge is a classic part of the atmosphere of the arena. When that person sitting in the black suit behind the goal hits the button and the red light comes on...they are what makes the crowd erupt. It's their presence that makes you know that we are serious about the sport. Remove them, and that void will resemble the emptiness of the word tradition that will become the now so-called "NHL".
Bettman and Board of Governors, stop changing the game. It was never broke. So stop breaking the traditions.