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Peter Ferrell The Hockey Writers

Published on Friday, October 6, 2017





Carolina Hurricanes Jersey History

For people that are supposed to be exceedingly competent businessmen, National Hockey League owners sure do make some fascinating choices. Look no further than Peter Karmanos Jr., majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes. Formerly chief executive officer at Compuware, Karmanos joined the NHL ownership ranks in 1994, as part of the group that purchased the rudderless Hartford Whalers.

Now, an NHL team is a risky investment for anyone (how many of them actually make money, do y’reckon?), but Karmanos had been involved in hockey his entire life. The Whalers were a disappointment on the ice, especially following the boneheaded trade of superstar centre Ron Francis, and struggling mightily off it, due to the small size of the Hartford market and the lack of an NHL-calibre arena. So why, then, would Karmanos buy in?

Ron Francis, one of the lone bright spots on the Whalers throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. (The Hockey Writers)

And especially why, three seasons later, would he choose to move the team to Raleigh, North Carolina (renaming them the Carolina Hurricanes), a city far from a slam-dunk for relocation success? More to the point, Raleigh’s brand-new arena was so new that it wouldn’t even be ready for another two years, forcing the team to play out of nearby Greensboro. And when I say “nearby,” I mean, an hour and a half away. Needless to say, the move didn’t exactly help the team’s attendance.

The Hurricanes have stumbled along ever since, making the playoffs only five times in 19 seasons post-relocation, including missing the dance eight straight times going into 2017-18. Yes, they did manage a Stanley Cup in the free-for-all that was 2005-06, but the ‘Canes have never really had any prolonged period of competitiveness, something even their bumbling predecessors managed.

Carolina Hurricanes Storm Warning

To be fair, the ‘Canes did have a tough act to follow in the uniform department. For all the Whalers’ faults, nearly everyone agrees the team had some truly sweet duds, centred by one of the most artistically brilliant logos to ever grace an NHL jersey.

Hartford Whalers Jersey

Wearing these steely, aggressive kits, and with a logo that made incredible use of negative space, the Hartford Whalers were a prime example of style over substance. (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database)

The Hurricanes, though sticking with the seafaring theme, completely redesigned the team’s look. Gone was the blue, green and silver colour scheme, replaced by red, black and silver. Gone, too was the Whalers crest, replaced instead by a swirling hurricane.

The Hurricanes take a lot of flak for their logo, but I think it looks good; nice and aggressive. The shape reminds me of Sonic the Hedgehog in full flight. Yes, it is a bit blunt, especially considering the complex brilliance of its predecessor. However, I think most of the hate comes not on account of its own design, but because it replaced a beloved icon of sports logodom.

Carolina Hurricanes Jersey

Traditional underpinnings and excellent use of hurricane imagery make the ‘Canes’ first kits really rather nice., flaws and all. (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database)

As for the rest of the uniforms, they were reasonably well thought-out, too. After choosing traditional striping patterns for the sleeves and socks, the ‘Canes broke with the blandness of hockey custom and went with a hurricane warning flag motif for a tail stripe. I think it works better on the red jerseys than the whites (it’s left to float about on the latter, while it is sandwiched and secured nicely on the former), but I love it, nonetheless. The italicised name and number font works well, too, congruent with the impression of movement the primary logo communicates.

Nevertheless, one thing I really take issue with is this kit’s lack of consistency. The tail striping utilises a five-stripe pattern, while the sleeves use three stripes, as do the socks (though in a different arrangement), with the collar getting two. The application of silver is similarly spotty, with the red jerseys getting more of it than the whites, and the socks receiving none at all. I would also have liked to see black pants used for the red kit, for purposes of better contrast.

Speaking of ruining a good idea with sloppy execution, take a look at that shoulder patch. The team’s secondary logo also utilises the hurricane warning flag, with a singular flag mounted on a hockey stick, the two straining together against the (hurricane-force, presumably) wind. Not bad, right?

Well, one, the singular flag, technically, represents “storm warning,” not “hurricane warning,” somewhat lessening its impact. And two, the whole thing is mounted on a black triangle, supposedly symbolising North Carolina’s Research Triangle. ‘Cause yeah, that’s what people want to be reminded of when they put on their hockey jersey.

Carolina Hurricanes Logo

That triangle looked a whole lot cooler before I found out what it’s supposed to represent. (Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net)

So, the Hurricanes had a few good design ideas they then ruined with overengineering. Or maybe they didn’t put enough effort in and underengineered them. Or maybe the engineers just weren’t competent in the first place. Whatever. The jersey engineering on the Hurricanes’ inaugural kit is intriguing but, ultimately, sub-par.

Carolina Hurricanes at the Reebok Edge of Reason

With the exception of a black outline added to the player names a couple seasons in, the ‘Canes’ kits remained exactly the same for a decade. However, the 2007-08 rollout of the Reebok Edge uniform system resulted in many a team making unneeded, often detrimental changes to their uniforms. The Hurricanes were no different, further muddling an already flawed design.

Carolina Hurricanes Jersey

I mean, why bother doing anything at all if you’re just going to make things worse? (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database)

As you can see, none of the flaws of either the home or away uniforms were addressed. Instead, you know that vertical piping everyone was adding to their jerseys at the time? Well, the ’Canes turned it into shoulder yokes. Or, rather, the outline of shoulder yokes. Actual shoulder yokes might have looked cool – especially on the white jerseys, but the Hurricanes felt an outline was sufficient.

It is not. It only serves to further complicate an already confused cacophony of confuddlement.

Carolina Hurricanes One Step Forward, Two Steps Black

In 2013, the Hurricanes debuted a black alternate kit, with the almost-hurricane flag crest front and centre, and the swirling hurricane relegated to shoulder duty. Interestingly, the ‘Canes chose to go with the wacky, wavy sock striping of Reebok Edge for their alternate uniform, after (wisely) ignoring it in their home and away ensembles. They even changed the amount and order of the sock stripes, though this alteration is at least in line with the changes to the sleeve and tail striping. The Hurricanes finally saw fit to make all their striping elements consistent, a decision from which this kit benefitted greatly.

Carolina Hurricanes Jersey

There’s a lot to like here, but just not enough going on. Worse, this fault is entirely self-inflicted. (Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net)

Unfortunately, Carolina proceeded to ruin this progress with yet another head-scratching decision: greying out the hurricane flag motif and shoulder logos. This tragic overestimation of “silver” (grey) deadens what could have been a staggeringly good black kit – few and far between in the NHL.

If the ‘Canes are going to bring this uniform back after the ADIZERO moratorium on third jerseys is lifted, I would recommend they use colourised secondary crests to make the shoulders pop, and swap the silver and red tail stripes to emphasise the hurricane flag design. The latter change would also bring the tail striping more completely in line with the sleeves, socks and collar, with red on top and silver underneath. Oh, and fix those socks, too.

Fortunately, the Hurricanes finally decided to switch to black helmets and black pants. Unfortunately, this decision applied to their black jerseys. To make their outfits even more punchy, they could use the team’s red helmets and pants with the black jerseys for some added contrast, likewise putting the black helmets and pants to use in the red kit.

Carolina Hurricanes Downgraded to Tropical Storm

What’s that saying, “Be careful what you wish for?” Hurricanes fans sure must have been thinking that when the team brought out their redesigned kits for the 2013-14 season. The black alternate remained in the rotation, unchanged, but the home reds and road whites were both given complete overhauls. And not for the better.

Carolina Hurricanes Jersey

Apologies if you fall asleep reading this. I promise it’s entirely the fault of these jerseys. (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database)

The home uniform is thoroughly boring, with two thin, white stripes adorning the tail, sleeves and socks. Consistent, yes, but utterly devoid of any thought, care or artistic merit whatsoever. The most interesting thing about it is the lace-up collar, which is black – the only instance of black colouration on the jersey, save for a thin font outline. While we’re on the topic of font, even that manages to be boring; tall, slender lettering that would be more at home on a road sign than an NHL jersey. There’s just nothing about this uniform that evokes any sort of emotion or communicates any sort of passion. No wonder nobody goes to ‘Canes games anymore.

It’s more of the same with the away kit. True, gapped, slim-thick-slim striping can be found on the tail, sleeves and socks, giving the uniform more complexity than its home equivalent. However, the squared-off shoulder yokes look cookie-cutter and robotic, and the V-neck collar looks downright amateurish. Different, yes. But still staggeringly uninteresting.

The old uniforms, though irritating in many ways, were undoubtedly interesting and had some excellent design features. Their replacements look as though they were designed by a computer algorithm – or maybe an alien given only the vaguest description of a hockey jersey, rather than by a human being with, you know, eyes. And a heart.

Carolina Hurricanes Gaining Strength

But never fear, for Adidas’ ADIZERO programme is upon us, and it has benefitted the Hurricanes’ uniform set greatly. Well, half of it, anyway. Actually, only a third. Whatever. Shut up.

Carolina Hurricanes Jersey

Now that’s more like it! Well, one of them, anyway. (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database)

Yes, the black alternates are no more. And yes, the road sweaters stay the exact same (what, did they run out of money? I mean, this is the Hurricanes we’re talking about…).

But that red home uniform… Boy, is that ever a sight for sore, uninspired eyes. The same basic two-stripe template has been retained but, this time, the thin white stripes are flanked by black. The top stripe is joined by a thin black band, while the lower stripe has a thick, chunky black stripe on its southern border. This addition of more black makes the black collar finally make sense. The hurricane warning pattern returns, too, although it is somewhat muted and restricted to the tail striping.

This jersey is not without warts. The thin black stripe is probably not needed. I’d like to see a full-impact hurricane flag design, rather than the washed-out colouration they’ve gone with. The hurricane patterning should also be extended to the sleeves and possibly even the socks. The helmets and pants would make the kit look much more striking if they were black. Oh, and the font still sucks.

But hey, much like the Hurricanes as a team, their uniforms are finally pointing in the right direction. If they can follow up their new home kit with an equivalent for the road, and maybe even bring out an improved edition of the black alternates, the ‘Canes might just have a best dressed-contending wardrobe to suit their soon-to-be Stanley Cup-contending team.

Carolina Hurricanes Climate Change?

It’s a real shame the Hurricanes haven’t had any sustained success, as they do draw fans – Caniacs, in fact – when they’re winning. Or, you know, at least not terrible. The team has just been so offensively (and goaltendingly) starved the past few seasons that they’ve become absolutely dreadful to watch. Can you blame people for not going?

But help is on the way, with a soon-to-be all-world defense corps and a bevy of promising young forwards. If netminding acquisition Scott Darling is ready for a starter’s role, look for the ‘Canes to make the playoffs this season. No doubt their fans will return, and they’ll be treated to a team that looks as good as it plays.

On home ice, at least.

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