On November 23, 2009, I'm sitting in section 301 in what was then known as the Sommet Center (later becoming Bridgestone Arena - the Sommet Group would be sued by the Predators for missed payments two days later, raided by the FBI, and their CEO imprisoned for 20 years). It's my first game. The lineup is announced, a collection of names I have only passing familiarity with, as my roommate has filled me in on the major names on the drive so I don't embarrass myself tonight if someone strikes up a conversation with me. Cheers accompany the names, louder for names like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne, and Jordin Tootoo. Scratches are read aloud, their names including a man named Wade Belak. I haven't heard this name, and I ask Bradley who he is. He labels him a "perma-scratch" explaining that he's there only if they need a fighter, which they won't tonight because the Red Wings don't carry a pure "enforcer."
It seemed strange to me at the time that a roster player would be carried along with the team only to fight. I did not grasp the perceived nuance of the purpose of fighting in the game, and still struggle with the notion. That night's game also included "tough guys" like Jordin Tootoo and Todd Bertuzzi. It was a clean night, though. Only four minor penalties were served; no fights. Tootoo even had an assist, his name announced as a secondary assist on the insurance goal to a chorus of train whistles.
The game was already changing before I watched my first game. Men like Belak were becoming more scarce, and scarcely used. Belak played only 39 games that year, averaging less than 5 minutes a game. The next year, he would play less than half that number of games, and average less than 4 minutes of ice time. 2011 was his last in the league. Belak was replaced by a younger Brian McGrattan. The move was greeted as a sign that Barry Trotz, the only the coach the team had ever had, was hopelessly out of touch with the evolved game. McGrattan played 32 total games in two years, and was gone.
Fast forward to the 2015-16 season. The Predators roster contains no true fighters. Belak, McGrattan, Tootoo, and Rich Clune are all gone. Do not think this team is on the cutting edge, though. They would have been better served never having had employed any of them. The changes this game has taken on were set in motion in the 1970s, when the Soviets showed the world the true potential and beauty the game could possess when played when it's speed could be controlled, harnessed, and put on full display. Until then, I see the game taking on the personality of an American musclecar; it has a huge amount of straight-line speed, horsepower, and brute force, but with little control. The Soviets of the 1970s came in like a Lamborghini Miura and showed what could happen when that speed could be controlled.
I believe that since that time, the game has been moving slowly towards the game the Soviets re-wrote, unburdened with past traditions, after the 2nd World War, and into the 1970s and 80s. The game I watch today looks even faster that it did in 2009. It is more controlled. Even the Predators, long-suffering stalwarts of the "dump-and-chase" have a embraced a Soviet-esque system of a fast transition game. The game is more exciting to watch. You can see and feel when a goal is about to scored. You can appreciate the detail of properly executed cycle in the offensive zone. Passing is better because it has to be. Dumping the puck in is easy, carrying the puck in is hard, but in the long-run we all benefit from it.
The game is changing quickly. Personally, I hope the trend of speed and finesse continues. The myth that fights put people in the seats should be laid to rest for good. Fighting may bring in a casual fan, but fighting keeps that fan casual as well.
These days, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne still draw cheers, but names like Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Roman Josi joined them. A dump-in is by Eric Nystrom is greeted with an audible groan. I haven't seen a hockey fight live in years.
John Scott is the dying breath of an archaic strategy. The goons are gone, and Scott's presence at the All-Star Game is a last salute to the crowd from a now bygone era. Hockey is no longer a war on ice. It's a beautiful new day for the game, and long may it stay that way.
How do you see the game changing and evolving over the coming years, and what players do you think will push the limits of the game further, finding new creative territory? I know you have opinions. Let's hear 'em in the comments section.
2016 All-Star Game concept - Mario A.
Positives: This template, although far from new by any means, is still attractive. The orange-and-black color scheme would likely be popular if returned.
Negatives: The logo and jersey set mesh like oil and water. Seemingly little consideration was given to the location of the game, or the year in which it is being played. I know these aren't exactly like the 1994-1997 jerseys, but they are very close. There are some loose pixels in different areas on the orange jersey. The stitching overlaps the striping, which would not occur in reality. Where would the team patches go? Would they be used?
Overall: Nashville is a unique city, and deserves it's own unique jerseys. Recycling a Stars uniform seems lazy. (6/10)
Boston Bruins Concept - Mario A.
Positives: I respect the choice of player for the black jersey. I have a mid-90s Ray Bourque black authentic Bruins jersey. It's one of my favorites in my collection. These trend towards more of a 1950s design era.
Negatives: One thing that I've always liked about Bruins jerseys is their simplicity. These aren't simple. Striping is taken to overkill levels. It needs to be simplified to be more effective. Mario, you've been doing this too long to not have sleeve numbers on your jerseys. That's a crucial mistake. The socks for the white jersey have to be predominantly white. The black on the logo and jerseys don't match. The trademarks have been left on the crests. Rookie mistake. If a concept is worth making, it's worth taking extra time to execute it properly.
Overall: An over-striped Bruins set with below-average execution. (5/10)
Boston Bruins Alternate jersey concept - Mario A.
Positives: This striping pattern is much better than the above concept, even if it is a bit "Rangers." I really like this crest on a throwback jersey.
Negatives: Brown can work for the Bruins. Black can work for the Bruins. Brown and black doesn't work for anyone. The colors simply don't look aesthetically pleasing when used together. Again, no sleeve numbers are used. That's a huge negative. There are lots of loose pixels around the crest. Your concepts will not have the same gravity as other artists until these execution issues are fixed.
Overall: Striping fixed, execution problems persist. (5.5/10)
San Jose Sharks concept - Glen W.
Positives: The striping isn't bad. The whole thing could be salvaged by changing the color of the jersey to the same teal as the upper arms, the name to white, the numbers to white with black trim, the collar/cuffs to teal, and removing the yoke/yoke stripe.
Negatives: You lost me with the orange. Some shades of orange can work, the shade the Sharks use is really only suitable as a trim color. The yoke doesn't make sense, and causes the teal upper arms to stick out in an odd way. The crest is very pixelated. Because you picked Joe Pavelski, you would need to include the captain patch, as he was named team captain this season. I would also move the crest closer to the collar.
Overall: Too garish for the NHL. It just needs some restraint, and better color balance. (5.5/10)
Fort Wayne Komets rebrand concept - Brooks F.
Positives: Fort Wayne could have a really solid aesthetic going if they made full use of their logos. Maybe I'm not up to date on what Fort Wayne is up to, but their astronaut logo is underutilized. I really respect that Brooks took the initiative to create new logos as well as a new jerseys. I think the logo and jerseys are very complementary. I'm not usually in support of side-panel striping, but it works well here. The numbers the old Predators' font, but they make sense here. Execution is solid
Negatives: I could do without the contrasting nameplate on the orange jersey. The primary logo used on the orange jersey is my preference. I think that the same logo could still work on the white jersey without having any color changes. The old Predators font fits here, but it's always going to look dated to me.
Positives: A very solid, contemporary set for Fort Wayne. I like these. (8.5/10)
(Just out of curiosity - what's with the curling shield at the top right? Am I missing something?)
Winnipeg vs. Edmonton Heritage Classic concept - Lucas D.
Positives: I think it's only a matter of time before we see a white version of Edmonton's current third jersey. Those things have sold very well, if stadium shots are any indication. Conservatism is the norm with Heritage Classic games, and these are appropriately conservative. Execution is good.
Negatives: Not really understanding the double blue, unless it's an unnecessary nod to the Atlanta Thrashers. When I think of older Winnipeg Jets jerseys, I think of one of these three designs. That Winnipeg jersey really just needs some red instead of that lighter shade of blue. I think the color is tipped too much in favor of orange with the Edmonton Oilers jersey. The blue/orange could be reversed, and I believe that would work better.
Overall: This could be a great Heritage Classic, but for the Winnipeg jersey. The execution is very solid, though. (8/10)
Washington Capitals concept - Alan S.
Positives: Using the "Weagle" is a wise choice. It's been said many times, but it is an underutilized logo. The striping across the chest and upper arms is creative. I like the number font used here as well. The subtle shadow behind the jerseys help them pop off the screen.
Negatives: The number on back is too large. Sometimes I would have trouble scaling a number, and to help myself I would duplicate it and see how it would look if (in this instance) it was "55" instead of "5," therefore helping myself get a better reference to scale. I feel like the lower arms need something, even if it's just one star at the end of the arms. The logo was placed on the concept after the shadow was done, and the centered "Weagle" logo has overlapped the shading.
Overall: There's some interesting ideas here. I appreciate the creativity in Alan's designs. This one could use some minor tweaks. Presentation is improving, but needs a little more work. (8/10)
2016 All-Star Game concept - Matt M.
Positives: This was one of my favorite ASG designs I've seen in the past few weeks. Having a different jersey for each conference would be my preference with the 3-on-3 tournament format we are seeing this year. Color is balance impeccably well for each conference. Nashville's colors and personality are reflected well, as is the All-Star Game itself. The starred hems are a nice touch. Helmet numbers are a great detail. Execution here is flawless. Newer artists need to study concepts like this to see just what makes a great artist great. Presentation is very professional.
Negatives: I would like to see a different number font that what Nashville currently uses. That's a bit too much of the Predators' aesthetic. I'm also interested to know if the striping continues along the back. The back of the jersey is important to me, but it's especially important to see that detail when there is chest striping involved.
Overall: Matt is one of the best out there. I would purchase any of the four designs shown here. Would like to see the back and a different number font, though. (9/10) COTW nomination from me!
Don't forget to vote! Here are this week's voting reminders:
2015 Concept of the Year vote (ends Friday @ 11:59pm Eastern)
COTW Jan 23-30 vote (ends Friday @ 11:59pm Eastern)
Also, I trust most of us watched the ASG Skills Competition? I must admit that the jerseys are growing on me a little. They are ultra-bland without name and numbers, but the gold really pops against the black and gray. I think I may have to get one of those jerseys with Josi or Jagr on the back.
That's all for this week's post. I promise a lighter post with less grandstanding and sermonizing next week. Just had to get out of my system.