Thursday, December 12, 2013

Use'm or Lose'm?

Love them or hate them, the alternate jersey introduced by the Edmonton Oil Kings this year is here to stay. The look has produced both positive and negative response from the fanbase with most opinions coming in at either end of the approval spectrum. 

What will be interesting over the next few years is to see how those fans react should the traditional uniform slowly fade away into history. 

More on that after the jump.

All Photos by Andy Devlin
I first heard about it this past summer that the Oil Kings were going to unveil new third jerseys for 2013-14 and that the look would be a big departure from the current uniforms. At one point I saw a grainy photograph of an unspecified player wearing the green and black, that turned out to be former Oil King Travis Ewanyk posing for future visuals. 

The WHL club began a marketing campaign during training camp that professed "a new face was coming" with all to be revealed on opening night. 

The first game of the year came against the Calgary Hitmen on September 20th. The 2012-13 Eastern Conference Championship banner was brought out during the opening ceremonies (and then folded up and put away instead of being raised to the rafters - don't get me started). 

Leading scorer Curtis Lazar
Credit the Oil Kings with having a pretty entertaining kick off to the big reveal as the festivities included flash mob dancing, a massive replica jersey at center ice, an arena full of lightsaber-esque glow sticks and plenty of smoke. (See opening night photos here).   

I've been trying to gauge reaction to the green and black uniforms since then having given people enough time to get used to them a bit. Basically, the first reaction has been a bit like biting into a lime wedge - shocking initially, perhaps negative but then not so bad after a while. 

When I've received negative feedback, it's been almost entirely because of the colour scheme. 

Oil Kings Sweaters from 2010 and 1970
Green and black are not Oil Kings colours so no matter what the style the rest of the uniform might take and instantly traditionalists were put off. And I understand that perspective completely. You can take an Oil Kings sweater from 1970 and put it next to one from 2010 and they are easily recognizable as being the same team. That's not the case with these ones.

As for "why the green?". I'm told that during one of the trips to Seattle taken by Daryl Katz and Edmonton Oilers executives, the Seattle Seahawks colour scheme struck a chord with the owner who declared one of his teams would adopt a similar look. I don't know if that is 100% accurate but that's the version of the story that I have been told by more than one source.  

The second major complaint I get has to do with the chest logo. Many people have told me that it looks like a rip off from the New England Patriots. In fact, Ive heard more than a few remarks calling this look belonging to the "Prince Albert Patriots", because of the logo and the use of green and black. Seeing them side-by-side, aside from the fact it's a face in profile, they aren't actually that similar in my opinion. 

As for the logo, something that I didn't even pick up on at first look was the way an oil drop is integrated into it. I found it much easier to see if I looked at it on its side like this (see right). I actually think that subtle, almost subconscious, detail is pretty clever and helps tie the logo into the team's name more than just using a monarch would. And knowing it's an oil drop is better than thinking it was some sort of weird grey side burn on that king.

The ticket and merchandise buying public have definitely made their feelings clear; they approve

I don't know if I see more green/black than I do red/white/blue at the rink but it's getting to be pretty close. I knew the colours would be a hit with the kids but I wasn't as sure that adults would accept them. But I was wrong; The T-shirts are huge with the kids but the grown ups have taken to the replica jerseys. 

Aaron Irving, Mads Eller and Brandon Baddock
As for the players, I've spoken with many of them, hoping to try and get an honest reaction. I don't know if it's just lip service, I don't believe that it is, but the team seems to really enjoy wearing them. One told me he thought they looked intimidating, which might be overdoing it a bit, while most have used words like "sharp" and "cool". 

I believe that the team has worn the green and black sweaters 7 times so far this year, 6 games at home and once on the road in Red Deer against the Rebels. The team has a record of 6-1 while wearing the alternates. 

Tristan Jarry stops Mitch Holmberg on a breakaway
Netminder Tristan Jarry struggled with his first few appearances this year and, as goalies often will, he tried to get on track using superstition to trick the hockey Gods. In a game against Prince Albert, Jarry wore his matching green/black pads, glove and blocker even though he and the team were dressed in their traditional red jerseys. The Raiders ending up winning 3-2 in a shootout but Jarry was impressive on the night.

A while back I polled my followers on Twitter and listeners to The Pipeline Show. I simply asked what they would think if the Oil Kings decided to adopt the new look as their primary jerseys and retired the classic uniforms. Although the reception to this year's jerseys has been quite positive, very few people I heard from were in favor of the green/blacks becoming more than just the alternate look.

One notable responder said this:

Obviously Lowe might be a bit biased but it was a feeling shared by the majority of people who shared their thoughts with me.  

So are the Oil Kings considering ditching their historical uniforms in favor of the modern look? I have been told that next season (2014-15) a white version of the alternate will be introduced and that the year after that, (2015-16) it is possible that they, and the green/blacks, will become the main jerseys. If that was to happen, the current red/white/blue sets would become the 'retro' or alternate uniforms.

Defenceman Cody Corbett is a UFA
Now, that is not official but simply what I have cobbled together from several sources both in and outside of the organization. Perhaps its just an idea being bounced around, perhaps it's a plan already etched in stone. I don't know for certain. 

The club is scheduled to wear the alternates 7 more times at home during the regular season. This Sunday against the Saskatoon Blades will be the next time fans see the green and black jerseys in action at Rexall Place.        
This has been a lengthy piece on what is essentially a side story, after all, uniforms don't make the team. But fans do have an affinity for a team's look and one that has been around as long as the Edmonton Oil Kings' has a lot of history attached to it.

Power forward Mitch Moroz is having a career year
But jerseys come and go. The London Knights of the OHL seem to change their logo and uniform design every three years or so. The Lethbridge Hurricanes, Brandon Wheat Kings, Prince Albert Raiders and Prince George Cougars have all revamped their look over the last few years - sometimes more than once of twice. 

But you tell me. Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below or tweet them at me (@TPS_Guy):
  1. Do you like or dislike the green and black uniforms introduced by the Oil Kings this year? Why?     
  2. Would you like to see them become Edmonton's main uniform or should it stay only as their alternates?
I look forward to reading your opinions and discussing them on the air during The Pipeline Show.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Knights don't change their sweaters every three years or so. They made the one big change in 2002. And then made another in 2009. Which was stupid since it was/is the best logo in hockey. And since people liked the 2002 version so they just messed around with the colour schemes but it's still the same.

The alternate has just become more permanent given the popularity of the 2002 logo.