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Top 13 Concepts of 2013

After the Blog, the Concepts page has always been a favorite of Icethetics readers. It's updated daily with fresh concept art designed and sent in by fellow readers with a knack for the artistic. And at the end of the year I like to take a look back at the highest-rated designs.

13 ∙ Team Germany by Bastian Schmülling

If there was a list of the top rookie concept artists of the year, Bastian Schmülling would certainly be among the leaders.

His consistently solid work impressed many in 2013. But it was a design for his home country's national team, posted April 28, that earns him kudos on this list.

Now if only Germany had qualified for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Keep an eye out for more of Bastian's work later in this countdown to the top concept of the year. 

12 ∙ All-Stars in Anaheim by Matt McElroy

If you consider the IceHL Project to be Icethetics' premier concept design contest, then Matt McElroy was easily the breakout star. He was responsible for designing the winning visual identities for five teams over the summer.

But on July 23, we got a look at his take on what would be Anaheim's first shot at hosting the NHL All-Star Game. Of course, we now know Columbus will take on those duties in 2015.

Matt's excellent design is definitely in the same league with other NHL All-Star logos we've seen in recent years. And voters recognized his talent with their ratings.

11 ∙ Senator Stripes by Nevill Carney

In a season where the Ottawa Senators will participate in the NHL Heritage Classic, we got a look at a stripe-filled concept from Nevill Carney on Nov. 28.

In fact, Nevill originally submitted this design back in October 2011, so it took two years for him to get his proper due. (Sometimes my inbox gets backed up.)

He actually created these jerseys as companions to the black Heritage Jersey the Sens had just released at the time.

In the email, he wrote, "Hopefully, they can find a home on Icethetics at some point."

Sorry to him — and to you guys — for taking so long to get them posted.

10 ∙ Toronto Throwback by Victor You

Cracking the top 10 is Victor You with a well-received retro uniform set for the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 14.

Maybe it was the extra dark shade of blue. Maybe it was the updated to a classic crest. Whatever the reason, Icethetics readers loved this one!

Neonix called it a "wonderful piece of art." Etrusken Raider asked, "when will this be on the ice?" And Simon wrote, "my god, this is perfect."

High praise well-earned on this one.

9 ∙ Winnipeg Throwback by Bastian Schmülling

Back-to-back throwbacks mark this point of the countdown thanks to the efforts of the talented Bastian Schmülling.

On Aug. 22, he helped us imagine a great third jersey for the Winnipeg Jets. He matched the striping and number style of the existing uniforms, but wowed us with a classic crest and colors.

"Absolutely perfect," said DanC. "This one gets 6 stars out of 5," added Kevin Y.

By the way, I can't imagine it'll be too much longer before the Jets introduce us to a real third jersey.

8 ∙ Ohio Pride by Avi Stein

Avi Stein felt like the Columbus Blue Jackets should do more to promote themselves as "Ohio's team" so he came up with this simple alternate jersey idea.

He called it Ohio Pride and it went over huge with readers!

"Why isn't this already their regular white jersey?" asked jonathanc. "These are amazing," added d'sA. "The new best I've seen on this site."

Some readers were also keen to point out out the Ohio-shaped captain's patch — a great callback to the Cleveland Barons.

7 ∙ Heritage in Vancouver by Ryan Haslett

The highly-anticipated 2014 NHL Heritage Classic — being hosted in Vancouver's B.C. Place — was the subject of one of the best concepts of the year.

Coming in seventh in 2013 was Ryan Haslett's take on Canada's only outdoor NHL game of the season.

It was the middle of summer (Aug. 17) so it was pretty hard to think about outdoor ice hockey, but we found a way.

Ryan reimagined the opposing teams in more modern colors — the Canucks in blue and the Senators in a cleaner white. Though he did manage to keep the overall feel of the game we'll be seeing this March.

6 ∙ Fixing the Flames by Laurent Elbaz

Not long after the Calgary Flames debuted their new third jersey, we were reminded by Laurent Elbaz of what they were leaving behind.

His retro-inspired Calgary sweaters were among reader favorites in 2013. He also included a third jersey design that was strikingly similar to the Flames' new look — a design he came up with long before the leak revealed the design.

Of course, the black-free set is what got voters excited on Oct. 22. Shawn V said, "Love this. It's a perfect renewal of old style, making it worthy of a new team. Ken King needs to see this, in all seriousness. Well done!"

5 ∙ Retro Blues by Tristan Mani

In 2010, Icethetics readers voted the St. Louis Blues' logo the best in the NHL. So it's not surprising to see a classic jersey design featuring the Blue Note rounding out our top 5 concepts of the year.

Tristan Mani's simple yet stunning design garnered major acclaim from his fellow readers on Nov. 6.

Ryan M may have summed it up perfectly with the first comment on the post. "Where can I buy one!!!!!"

The design even broke down barriers. Joe wrote, "Love it! Not a Blues fan at all... but this sweater is great!"

Not to spoil anything, but don't bet on this being the last time we see Tristan in this countdown!

4 ∙ Minnesota's Winter Classic by Matt Madore

You may know Matt Madore as the designer of the IceHL's Milwaukee Lagers jersey — the only IceHL jersey that actually exists in the real world!

In fact, Matt also joins our 2013 concept countdown at number four with his idea for an NHL Winter Classic matchup hosted in Minnesota in 2016.

He not only designed jerseys for the Wild and their proposed opponent — the Blues — but also included a unique logo for the game. Click on the graphic to the left to see the full post.

The Dec. 7 concept also marks the debut of Matt McElroy's IceBorn jersey template in our countdown. Mr. Madore put it to great use here. And readers agreed.

"Both of those are absolutely fantastic," Tyler wrote. "Especially the Blues."

"That Blues jersey is absolutely perfect," said Kris K, "and I wouldn't mind it if they wore this full time!"

Take note of how the Blues seem to be taking over as we inch toward the top.

3 ∙ The Red Blue Jackets by Matt Madore

Look who's got back-to-back entries in the countdown! Matt Madore takes the third spot and it all started with an outside-the-box proposal for the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 26.

As the title suggests, this concept post started with an unusual red jersey for a team with "blue" in its name. And while that design was well-received on its own, the numbers soared when Matt brought the blue with a revised design later in the day.

Icethetics readers loved this one!

"Matt Madore, bravo!" cheered Henry Stebbins. "This is a wonderful set. I hope this finds its way on to someone's desk in Columbus."

2 ∙ Christmas Sweater Redux by Matt McElroy

Readers felt a bit of deja vu this past Christmas Eve as the Concepts page played host to another holiday sweater by Matt McElroy.

And you might be feeling it again as it enters our countdown as the second most popular concept design of the year. (Matt's 2012 holiday sweater was seventh in last year's countdown.)

Apparently you guys really love a good holiday sweater. Who knew? But after two years in a row, will Matt do another for 2014? And will he be able to top himself?

He's got 354 days to figure it out.

As for now, it's time to reveal the top concept design of the entire year...

1 ∙ Retro Blues (revised) by Tristan Mani

The last stop in our countdown brings us to a familiar place. Remember Tristan Mani's retro St. Louis Blues concept back at number five? Apparently, you loved his encore even more!

The highest-rated concept of 2013 was the white version of Tristan's Blues jersey from Nov. 6. As a matter of fact, it's the only design on the entire site that still averages a full five stars after almost 700 votes! That's unheard of!

Big Jim Sports wrote, "I don't know about anyone else, but I tweeted the Blues directly about this concept. You deserve to have them see this. THIS is what the blues should be wearing. These are gorgeous. Amazing work!"

The praise was well-deserved. Congratulations Tristan on having some of the best concepts of 2013!

Who will be on this list at the end of 2014? Stay tuned to the Concepts page all year long.

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20 Years After the Redesigned Penguin

Design firm reveals work that led up to new logo in 1992

It was the summer of 1992. The Pittsburgh Penguins had just completed two consecutive Stanley Cup victories. Enter a controversial new owner and a controversial new logo. Now, the company that Howard Baldwin hired to design that new mark is taking a look back at how it all came together.

First of all, believe it or not, it wasn't Baldwin's idea to rebrand the Penguins in the first place. He was just following through on a plan that had already been set in motion prior to his arrival. Vance Wright Adams was the Pittsburgh firm he called upon to come up with the team's modern new look.

And no matter what you think of that look, it's always refreshing to see the design process and some of the options that were rejected on the way to the final look. Vance Wright Adams is now sharing a few of them with all of us two decades later.

A nickname jersey proposed before it was "cool"

These are some of the hand-drawn options that were considered during the design process. Note that Vance Wright Adams came up with a "PENS" jersey long before those "BOLTS" and "SENS" jerseys ever became a reality. And what do you think of the more realistic looking penguin trapped inside the gold triangle?

Vance Wright Adams proposed the Penguins use 4 jerseys

According to a video produced by the Penguins to introduce their new look, VWA actually proposed four jerseys that season — two homes and two roads. The NHL wasn't too keen on that, of course. But those four sweaters might've looked a little something like what you see above. Really like the black one on the right!

Vegas gold was a possibility long before it was a reality

And here's proof that Vegas gold was in the running long before the third jersey it was introduced with in 2000. That third jersey, by the way, resurrected the classic skating penguin eight seasons after it was retired. Only two years after that, the new streamlined penguin was relegated to the shoulder patch by owner Mario Lemieux. And when Reebok came along in 2007, it disappeared from the uniforms for good, ending a 15-year run.

See more concepts and sketches from Vance Wright Adams

You can find more high-resolution uniform concepts and sketches from Vance Wright Adams by visiting their website. I highly recommend it. I also have to send up a huge thanks to those guys for posting their old work. It's not often we get to see this stuff but always a treat when we do.

Vance Wright Adams is also responsible for creating the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins logo as well as logos for a number of other teams.

Now I'll leave you with the video the "Back-Checking the Penguins" video produced by the team to launch their new look back in 1992.

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Top 10 Icethetics Concepts of 2012

One of the most popular sections of Icethetics is the Concepts page. This site has always been a haven for creative hockey fans who have new and unique ideas for hockey uniform designs. But these fan creations weren't always posted on a regular basis.

That changed in 2012 with the re-launch of the page. New hockey concepts, submitted to Icethetics via email, are now posted every day — like clockwork. Readers are asked to rate each design and based on those ratings, I have assembled the Top 10 Icethetics Concepts of 2012.

We're starting at No. 10 and working our way up to the highest rated concept of the year!

10 ∙ Two Kinds of Jets — Ross Taylor

Our countdown begins with a frequent contributor to the Icethetics Concepts page. Last spring, Ross Taylor began submitting a series of concepts that merged multiple team identities into a single cohesive look. On May 18, in Two Kinds of Jets, Ross melded the old Winnipg Jets of 1990 with the new team of the same name that arrived from Atlanta in 2011.

Ross earned a lot of high praise for this entry. "This is absolutely fantastic," wrote a reader named Tom. "He should mail it in to them. Would be one of the best jerseys in the NHL right now. Would love to see a home jersey that was red!"

Ross never made a red one, but that didn't stop requests for more versions. Rob S. commented: "Bee-YOOUUUUUU-tiful! We need to see the blue jersey now!"

Perhaps the best compliment came by way of tp71, who wrote: "That may be one of the best concepts I've seen on here in a long long time. This is fantastic. ... Usually concepts are a different take and may not be an actual improvement on what is currently used, but this to me, and I love the Jets current jerseys, is a massive improvement.

"If I could, I would give you a standing ovation for this. Well done."

9 ∙ Blue Eagles & Golden Sharks — Ross Taylor

Sure looks like Ross Taylor could very well dominate our Top 10 Concepts of 2012. (Not to worry, plenty of other artists are represented.) Coming in at No. 9 is another entry in Ross's brand-blending series, which found a home on our Freak Out Friday.

In Blue Eagles & Golden Sharks, posted on April 27, Ross mixed old with new in former NHL cities that got a second chance with new teams. St. Louis, Mo. went about 30 years between the Eagles and the Blues. The San Francisco area, on the other hand, endured 15 years between the Golden Seals and the Sharks.

"These. Are. Awesome!" wrote etown in the comments.

For both cities, Ross fused the logos of the original teams with the newer ones creating Icethetics fan favorites in the process. Ross followed up a week later with reader-requested jerseys for these two hybrid teams.

8 ∙ Spread Your Wings — Brian Brideau

At No. 8 we find another regular contributor in Brian Brideau. He tackled an old standard on Nov. 22 in Spread Your Wings, and did it better than anyone else ever has.

The "old standard" to which I'm referring, is the oft-tried Washington Capitals third jersey concept featuring the secondary logo — affectionately called the Weagle — front and center. Many designers have attempted this but no has done it better than Brian — at least according to the ratings.

"I don't give out five stars normally," commented Phil, "but this thing is gorgeous." The sentiments were shared by many readers included fellow contributor Justin Nahhas.

I have always been the minority that has not wanted to see the Weagle as a main crest, nor a blue jersey in the Capitals arsenal. But this concept changes my mind. I would love to see a home and away set based off of this (without the Weagle of course). Five stars, though — props on this one.

Finally, it seems Andrew O. posed the best question: "Why hasn't this happened yet?"

7 ∙ A Visit From You-Know-Who — Matt McElroy

Lucky No. 7 showed up on Icethetics just over a week ago, on Christmas Eve. Matt McElroy's self-titled "Ugly Christmas Sweater" was featured in A Visit From You-Know-Who on Dec. 24.

Matt told me he planned to pitch the design to a minor or junior league team as a possible theme night sweater. I'm not sure whether he had any success, but he should have. I know I'd buy one of these in a hurry.

Matt has an interesting Icethetics story. His work was first featured on Jan. 8, 2010. It was a Kings jersey with a bizarre color combination that yielded rather harsh comments from me and more than a few commenters. It lit a fire in him.

Earlier this year, on May 7, Matt submitted a new Kings concept that blew me and others away. Matt explained how the reaction to his first submission fueled him to improve his skills. Two years on, he's responsible for some of the best and most memorable concepts ever to grace these pages.

It's so much fun to watch stories like this unfold over the five years Icethetics has existed.

6 ∙ Revisiting the Winter Classic — Justin Cox

It seems Justin Cox has a knack for creating crowd-pleasing concepts. His talents were clearly on display July 29 in Revisiting the Winter Classic.

Long before any talk of a lockout, much less the cancellation of the 2013 NHL Winter Classic, Justin was working up ideas for uniforms the Maple Leafs and Red Wings could sport. Unfortunately, we won't know for at least another year if his concept was even in the neighborhood.

However, we do know it went over huge with Icethetics readers! One commenter, Brad, wrote: "So it's decided then. Those are going to be the Winter Classic unis. No excuses."

A few months later, the NHL canceled the game and any hope of seeing sweaters even remotely like these. But this isn't all we'll see from Justin. I get the feeling he'll show up again on this list.

5 ∙ The Colorado Rockalanche — Ross Taylor

Surprise, surprise. Ross Taylor is back in the countdown! Two weeks into his concept series, Ross created the crown jewel and standard bearer for his brand blends.

He mixed the Colorado Rockies logo with that of the Colorado Avalanche and produced one of the highest rated concepts in Icethetics history. He called the team the Rockalanche. An instant classic.

To this day, it still gets referenced anytime I post a new Avalanche concept. But even on the day it was posted, it's greatness was recognized.

"One word," wrote Mayhem in the comments. "AWESOME!"

A couple months later, Ross revisited the Rockalanche with full light and dark uniforms. Then in July he had a bit of a rethink. He left the logo unchanged but redesigned the jerseys. That concept is part of the top 20 of 2012.

Ross went on to create many more concepts using this theme, but none has been as popular as the Rockalanche.

4 ∙ That's Wild! — Michael Baumann

You could call Michael Baumann a one-hit wonder, but that wouldn't do justice to the concept he created for the Minnesota Wild. His simple, elegant design was posted on July 18 in That's Wild! and became an instant favorite of Icethetics readers.

Michael actually created four jerseys in this set (only two are pictured here), including a home red, road wheat, a green alternate, and a gold Winter Classic jersey.

As for the reader feedback, it was all glowing. John was rather straightforward with his critique: "Dude you did an incredible job. That's better than their regular set."

"Exceptionally well done," said Blitz. "Awesome job," wrote SabresFan. And Ryan added, "great friggin work."

Perhaps the greatest praise came from the designer who came just ahead of Michael on this list — designing for the same team. Justin Cox wrote, "these are spectacular!"

3 ∙ Minnesota Green — Justin Cox

While Justin Cox was extremely complimentary of Michael Baumann's Wild concept, readers found Justin's own design to be beyond spectacular.

Making our countdown at No. 3 is this design posted on Nov. 28 in Minnesota Green. One thing I pointed out at the time was that, whie the Wild are often mocked for their "Christmas colors," this uniform did not have that feel at all — despite keeping the existing color palette.

"You hit the nail on the head for me there," said Nathan in one comment. "I really do not like the current Minnesota jerseys mainly because of the colour scheme. At least that is what I thought was the problem. However, these jerseys show that this colour scheme can really work. I love them."

Proof that it's not the colors but how you use them that can make or break a hockey sweater.

In the very next comment, Tyler wrote: "Yes. Yes. Oh my god yes. These are perfect. They cannot be improved upon. Why on earth are the Wild not wearing these now?"

I second that. We all second that.

2 ∙ The Sens' Perfect Collection — Justin Cox

So talented is Justin Cox, it seems, that he takes two of our top three positions in the highest rated concepts of 2012. Justin's most respected design is this one for the Ottawa Senators, posted Dec. 10 in The Sens' Perfect Collection.

At the time I posted this, I wrote that Justin had solved the Sens' uniforms for good. I wasn't sure how many readers would agree with me. But it turns out almost all of you did.

Justin created a phenomenal set of jerseys that borrow's on the history of Ottawa hockey without feeling dated or dull. Instead, he's designed sweaters that anyone would be thrilled to wear.

"Perfect. Absolutely perfect," wrote Jim.

Tony Dunsworth couldn't fit in enough exclamation points as he said: "As a Sens fan from the day the team was announced, I would love these jerseys and buy them in a heartbeat! Wow! Impressive!"

"Can I place an order on these beauties?!?" asked Vaytch. "I'd buy three of each just [in case] I spill something over them! #INSTABUY"

"In one word: PERFECTION," touted Stephen. "Need I say more?"

You need not, Stephen.

With that, we arrive at the highest rated concept to appear on Icethetics in all of 2012.

1 ∙ 8-Bit Hockey Sweaters — Al McCready

It can be lonely at the top. This one-of-a-kind concept by Al McCready definitely broke the mold in terms of what constitutes concept art. But it did so with gusto. Icethetics readers were in love.

Al adapted 12 NHL sweaters into 8-bit computer style artwork in 8-Bit Hockey Sweaters, posted on Sept. 4. And actually, the piece of art sat in my inbox for almost a month before I realized the world needed to see it.

As it turns out, it was the highest rated item to be posted on the Concepts page in all of 2012. The good news is that if you like this, there's more! Al posted all 30 teams (plus a few vintage extras) to his Tumblr page for all to enjoy.

In the post some commenters speculated whether the difference in physical features was an attempt at recreating specific players in the 8-bit world. Al chimed in to say that, in fact, the Flyers character was a self-portrait!

So what do you think of this Top 10? Generally speaking, you should love it as it was your collective vote that determined this ranking. I hope to do another one of these to start 2014. Until then, keep checking the Concepts page for new artwork every day!

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Concepts Page: How It's Made

I'll get back to the jersey and logo news in short order, but here's a little something different today. The video above is a time lapse of my screen as I put together the display graphics for the Concepts page. This time lapse was taken on Sept. 18. It features concepts posted between Sept. 21 and today.

I usually try to work ahead about a week or more in order to make sure the posts keep flowing on a daily basis. Hope you guys enjoy it.

I'm also hoping this video inspires a few of our more prolific concept artists to record their screens when they sit down to design a logo or jersey. I think we'd all enjoy watching the making of an actual concept. Who's game?

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Buffaslug Designer Talks More About Process

The designer behind one of the most hated logos in NHL history is once again talking about the process of rebranding the Buffalo Sabres back in 2006 — a rebrand which has since been completely dispensed with.

Kristopher Bazen made news here last year after he asked Sabres creative services director Frank Cravotta to remove some old sketches of the "Buffaslug" from his online portfolio. Bazen said it might've been "misleading" since the design was a "collaborative effort." However, a year later, Bazen has posted more of that early conceptual work on his own website. Here's a look at those designs:

Buffalo Sabres conceptual work (2005) / Kristopher Bazen

There are a lot of neat ideas in there, but I'm not sure any of them would've been an improvement on the original 1970 logo — an updated version of which the Sabres use today.

On this subject, Bazen made the rounds yesterday on some popular hockey websites. He posted the above link on the SportsLogos.net message boards and spent a lot of time talking about the design process. If you have some time to kill, there's some stuff worth reading. Basically, for an artist, he's one thick-skinned human being and he's good at responding to questions. More on the SportsLogos.net blog.

Also yesterday, Puck Daddy had a long in-depth feature about Bazen and his work with the Sabres. I highly recommend taking the time to read this one. Greg Wyshynski leaves no stone unturned and if you like hockey logos, you'll find yourself fascinated by almost every word.

I think the reason Bazen keeps coming up is that despite the fact he is a fantasic logo designer, he's being haunted by what the higher-ups in the Sabres organization ultimately wanted. He doesn't need to defend himself as he's quite talented as you can see in his portfolio. But I like that he's giving us a little insight into how it all works.

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At Work on Columbus' NHL All-Star Logo

Since I'm in the process of reinvigorating the Concepts page here at Icethetics (with new concept posts daily!), it seems only fitting that this latest blog update features a number of professional concept logos that have been created for the NHL.

It all comes by way of a video posted on the Columbus Blue Jackets' website — the first in a series chronicling the development of the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend.

In the video, the guys who will be designing the All-Star logo talk about the process. It's all very fascinating to people like us.

Bill Frederick of the Frederick & Froberg Design Group and NHL Senior Design Director Paul Conway arrived in Columbus Tuesday to meet with Blue Jackets marketing and creative team members and begin planning the art for the 2013 All-Star celebration. Conway and Frederick have been a part of several NHL sanctioned event logo designs, most recently working on the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.

NHL All-Star 2012 logo developmentPerhaps the best part of the video is the B-roll in which we see the logo designers leafing through their incredible portfolio. Getting to see the logos that didn't make the final cut is very cool.

On the right are three screen grabs from the video that show the early development process of the 2012 NHL All-Star logo. Interestingly, it was the design labeled Concept A that appears closest to the final version.

Concept B is pretty nice, but it makes sense the overall shape of an All-Star logo is more of a — you know — star. And I guess the Peace Tower was kind of the obvious choice as far as a central design theme.

As the designers say in the video, the first thing they do is try to determine what makes the host city iconic — if anything. The goal isn't to rework the host team's primary logo with some stars in it — despite the fact that that's basically what happened with the 2011 game in Raleigh.

As Conway says:

“Some cities are more challenging than others, and Columbus certainly is one of those. There’s not that one key iconic aspect of the city that stands out, which makes this research phase and interview process even more critical.”

Columbus is a beautiful city, but I'm not sure the skyline is recognizable enough to cut it here. It'll be interesting to see what they go with since the Blue Jackets' primary mark is basically tailor-made for an All-Star logo — what with it being a giant star and all.

I hope the Blue Jackets continue to release videos throughout this process. It'll be fun to follow along with the development of an NHL logo. It's something we rarely get an inside look at — and something no Icethetics reader can get enough of.

Conway says the process can take about four to six weeks from start to finish. But that doesn't necessarily mean the official logo will be unveiled in April. It may not come until late summer. We'll obviously be keeping an eye on it.

One more thing. In the video we see someone thumbing through a Blue Jackets logo portfolio. It appears to share a glimpse of elements of an unused third jersey design.

I would guess the logo we see there was probably an intended shoulder patch. Beneath it we can see the numbers and letters that are actually used on the current third jersey — only in different colors. Bet it would've been a neat look. (UPDATE 2/26: After the initial post, Avi Stein put together a hi-res rendering of what we can see in that video frame.) And if you feel like putting together a uniform concept featuring this logo, maybe you can take some inspiration from some other Blue Jackets third jersey prototypes seen here last year.

For what it's worth, the NHL is currently promoting the 2013 All-Star Weekend with graphics like the one seen here. But it's merely the Blue Jackets' custom font. Nothing special — or permanent.

My thanks to Mike R. for letting me know about the video.


While we're on the subject of logo development, Denver Post beat writer Adrian Dater posted a podcast he did with Dan Price, the creative director for the Colorado Avalanche in 1995 when the team moved from Quebec. He was responsible for the logo, but credits Michael Beindorff with actually designing it.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview to me was learning that the franchise was originally going to be named the Rocky Mountain Extreme. The name was actually leaked early by Dater in the Post but Denver hockey fans revolted and the marketing guys went back to the drawing board. Price points out that before the organization settled on Avalanche, they also considered naming the team Cougars and Black Bears. Glad they went with Avs.

Price is currently the head of a local marketing firm called Adrenalin. They are responsible for rebranding the Phoenix Coyotes in 2003 when Wayne Gretzky got involved with the team. Anyway, the podcast is a good listen if you've got a half hour to kill. But a necessity if you're an Avs fan.

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Winter Classic Foes All But Official

2012 Winter Classic temporary logo / NHL.comThe 2012 NHL Winter Classic will take place not on New Year's Day but the day after, when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.

The New York Times says this information has been confirmed by a league official not authorized to speak publicly on the decision.

Technically, it's still speculative at this point, but it will be official as soon as the NHL releases next season's schedule. And that's expected as early as tomorrow.

This graphic to the right here is the first temporary logo being used to promote the 5th annual outdoor game. The final version of the 2011 Winter Classic logo was unveiled on the same day as the schedule release, so perhaps we could see it Thursday as well.

The Flyers-Rangers game will take place on Jan. 2, 2012, due to the fact that Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday and the NFL season will still be underway. And the NHL doesn't need that kind of competition.

I know most of us, Flyers fans excluded, aren't thrilled with seeing a Pennsylvania team involved in this event for the fourth time in five years. This pattern seems to be repeating past WC opponents to allow them to host a game of their own. If it continues, we could see Detroit hosting in 2013. Who would you like to see them play? The Avalanche? Maybe the Blues or Stars? Think of the throwback jersey possibilities.

Since I can't leave this post without something interesting to look at, here's a concept designed by DC Visual Arts. How about these for Winter Classic uniforms? Even NESN was sort of fooled.

Winter Classic 2012 concept / DC Visual Arts

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A Look Back at the Infamous Slug

Taking a quick break from the somewhat fun but tedious work of creating new Jersey Galleries to keep the blog fresh. (By the way, Montreal is up next.)

Today marks the start of a new era for the Buffalo Sabres as a new owner takes the reigns. So you might wonder why I'm using the old logo in this post.

Charlie from Sabres Not Slugs directed me to a discussion last week on the SportsLogos.net forums regarding the genesis of the 2006 uniform and logo. The team's creative services director, Frank Cravotta, posted some early sketches to his online portfolio — which were later removed.

As luck would have it, that doesn't mean they're gone from the Internet at all.

Early sketches of 2006 Sabres logo / Frank CravottaVery cool to see the evolution of a mark that was so despised — and to see it from its earliest stages when it both looked like a bison and incorporated the swords for which the club is named. But the question remains, why were they removed at all? Usually that signals an artist claiming work not his own.

Well, that's not exactly the case here, as explained by Kristopher Bazen, a member of the team involved in the rebranding efforts. He wrote about the process and the harsh condemnations the logo received. 

I have several rounds of work where you can see how the "Buffaslug" took shape, so when I was given a heads up ... and saw the work online, I felt the need to speak up. I spoke to Mr. Cravotta and stated how the postings of some images could be misleading, due to the fact that the re-brand was a collaborative effort, and I thank him for removing those images in such a timely manner.

It's funny, I never really thought I'd be speaking on behalf of this project, especially since they've all but abandoned the mark, but since I'm on the subject, I guess I'll let it rip! The thing that frustrates me the most is a lot of people have no idea of the amount of work that goes into these projects, yet fire off at the mouth (or keyboard) like they are seasoned veterans at this stuff. ...

The truth of the matter is there was months of work that came from our team before this logo was decided upon. It's common for designers to work up a ton of sketches and options to please a client, but when the client has their own idea of how things should look.

Honestly, I'm thankful because I've grown thick skin by reading people's bashings and critiques. I don't believe I'm a bad designer, despite people calling for me (or should I say, "the designer") to be castrated, among other things. Does anyone remember www.fixthelogo.com, an online petition to have the Sabres logo scrapped immediately after the unveiling? I sure as hell do! That sucked because I was a young designer just trying to do my job and service a client, and happy for the opportunity to be able to accomplish a childhood dream.

In the end, I've learned to chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. I am happy to report that since that catastrophe, I've worked on other sports identities and luckily, response has been rather positive. I won't go into detail on that stuff, but I just figured I'd clear the air on that. ... It's all good!

Bazen has it right. As I've learned, you can never please everyone, so you just have to accept that people will shoot their mouths off even over things they know nothing about. But almost everyone is guilty of that at some point, myself included.

So with all the bad-mouthing this logo received during its short tenure, especially on websites like Icethetics, I felt it only fair to present the other side of the story. Consider it presented.

We seem to be a little concept-heavy these days, but I think most of us enjoy seeing the "what-might-have-beens." So continuing on that note, Cravotta had also posted a few of the early designs of the new third jersey the Sabres launched this year. It was also removed.

Early sketches of the 2010 Sabres third jersey / Frank Cravotta

Again, it's fun to see the options that were considered. Personally, I think my favorite of the four is the "Force Uniform" as it incorporates more gold. But they're all very cool. And I like that Cravotta included a picture of the number stitching that was the inspiration for the final design.

Lastly, since this seems to be a tale of two artists, I'll finish with the other one. Bazen's portfolio features a lot of sports branding and identity work, including other NHL teams. Here's a little preview.

NHL identity concepts / Kristopher Bazen

If you want to see more, check out his website.

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If the Wild Weren't the Wild...

If there's one thing apart from new uniforms and logos that gets Icethetics readers excited, it's what was left on the table. We love concept art, especially when it's in the form of professional designs once considered by NHL teams. We've actually had a chance to see a lot of that recently with the Lightning, Kings, Blue Jackets, DucksPanthers, and even the Coyotes way back in 2008.

Now the team we know today as the Minnesota Wild has revealed what might've been in a new image gallery posted on their website.

Did you know that among the names considered early on were the Blue Ox, Freeze, Northern Lights, White Bears and Voyageurs? You may have. Those names have been floating around for a while, so now as they celebrate their 10th anniversary season, the Wild have hooked up with Minneapolis creative firm called The Shinebox to give us a visual representation of how the club might have otherwise looked.

Note: The following artwork doesn't truly fit in with the other teams discussed at the beginning of this post. Those were actual concepts the team considered once they had their name selected. In this case, the Wild turned to SME Branding to create their bear head logo only after a name was settled on.

Minnesota Blue Ox / The Shinebox

Minnesota Northern Lights / The Shinebox

Minnesota Voyageurs / The Shinebox

Minnesota Freeze / The Shinebox

Minnesota White Bears / The Shinebox

All rather interesting concepts, but none beats the Wild. And just like the logo, even the name Minnesota Wild is one of the best in the NHL. (Second only to, say... the Tampa Bay Lightning?) It's kind of interesting to see some personality added to the names that were considered for the team.

The Wild name was revealed to the public on Jan. 22, 1998 and the logo still in use today was unveiled Nov. 18, 1999. I highly recommend reading the article on the Wild's website as it talks a bit about the process of choosing the name and the trepidation the higher-ups felt upon its unveiling.

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Inside the Lightning's New Identity

Just when you thought there was nothing more we could say about the recent rebrand of the Tampa Bay Lightning, we get an embarrassment of riches from the New York Times.

Times writer Jeff Z. Klein got the inside scoop on the Bolts' new look straight from the source, Ed O'Hara, the chief creative officer of SME Branding. SME is the creative force behind the branding of many NHL teams. And while reading this article, I was surprised to discover that, for as much work as they do, they only employ 15 people.

The article delves into details, including why an oval was used instead of a circle and how TV tests factor into the decision-making process. Even if you don't care for the Lightning's new identity, it's still worth a read just for the insight into how it all works.

Along with the article, the Times produced a video littered with some of SME Branding's conceptual work that ultimately led to the final design. I recommend watching the video, but here's some of what's in it.

Conceptual work for Lightning identity by SME Branding / New York Times

The whole process took six months and yielded a lot of interesting work. So what do you guys think? Are any of the early designs better than the final product?

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Professional Concepts Revealed

It's a rare but always welcome treat when we get a peek at the hidden process of branding NHL teams. For whatever reason, we all have a unique interest in this aspect of marketing, and naturally, we usually only see what they want us to. Every once in a while, though, we do get a look behind the curtain.

Kings logo evolution / The Royal HalfThis morning, Los Angeles Kings fan blog The Royal Half posted some required reading for any Icethetics regular.

Chris Kontos interviewed Dan Simon, the creative director behind one of the most memorable third jerseys in NHL history. He had a lot of fascinating revelations about the process, including why he wanted to distance himself from the project.

Other cool tidbits: Why the beard was never meant to be purple. Why the sweater featured horrible gradients. Plus, see some video from the alternate jersey's debut, 15 years ago today — against the even more memorable Mighty Ducks third.

Anyway, it's a very fun read and I highly recommend it. It also provides the perfect opportunity to post some items I've been hanging on to for a little while.

Original Blue Jackets logo / Ken LohThe designer of the above Kings logo, Ken Loh, was also the mind behind the Columbus Blue Jackets original insect logo.

Mercifully, this logo was replaced by Loh's secondary mark in time for the uniforms to be designed. The little bug head, however, still took a place on the shoulders.

And for what it's worth, I always liked the electric green because it made the team stand out. Guess it was just too revolutionary to survive. But if you think you've seen it all, prepare yourself for this.

Blue Jackets mascot / Ken LohAccording to Loh's portfolio, this was going to be the full-body version of the bug — not that we ever needed to see that. And let me be clear here. Ken Loh is obviously a talented artist. I just don't think an electric green insect necessarily has a place in the National Hockey League.

His online portfolio also contains colorful concept logos and uniforms for the Carolina Hurricanes (rust/purple/gray) and Philadelphia Flyers (orange/teal). You might be surprised by what you see there.

And while we're on the subject of the Blue Jackets, the team took it upon themselves to show off some of the concepts considered for the new third jersey, launched in November.

Alternate logo concepts / Blue JacketsThis video on the club's website explains what was involved in designing the new sweater. But most notably, it gives us a glimpse at some of the initial logo designs that were shown to focus groups.

We're now familiar with the cannon logo they ultimately chose, but it's interesting to see some of the other options they thought about, including the crossed cannon, the simple CBJ mark, and — taken right out of the Wild/Penguins playbook — the primary mark encircled by the club's name.

It seems they had their minds made up about a circular logo pretty early on in the process. And notice that in each of this displays, there's an option without red — bringing back the steel blue from that original 2000 insect logo.

And there last thing I wanted to leave with is what terrible manner of thing could've happened to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim back in the early '90s. I think this image was originally posted at Uni Watch but later showed up in my email.

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Friday Variety

I'm normally not one to complain, but if you guys knew the week I've had in terms of technology fails, you'd sit down on the floor and cry. I mean grown men. On the floor. Sobbing. It's been that bad.

Only now do I finally have my new wireless router cooperating with my new MacBook Pro — and I say that with fingers crossed. Without going into boring details, the bigger problem with all of this was that every time something stopped working, it meant spending what little free time I had fixing it.

But I'll be back this weekend making loads of updates across the site. A lot has been going ignored while I was troubleshooting — concept art, logo news, and yes, the IceHL.

Live Chat Returns This Weekend

The first thing I want to mention is that I'm bringing back the Live Chat! We haven't done one of those since last November. It's well overdue. I don't have an exact time, but I'll let you know when I do. It'll probably be Saturday afternoon. I'll post a reminder in the sidebar as well as make an announcement on Twitter.

We can talk about whatever you guys want. I'm also going to use it as a platform to unveil the IceHL's New York Guardians logo. It was a tight race. Drop by if you want to hang out and chat. I'll also answer any questions you may have.

Twitter Mailbag Moves

This week only I'm moving the Twitter Mailbag to Saturday. There were a lot of great questions and mentions this week that I want to talk about, but I want to get to some other stuff today. So if you'd like to tweet any questions, now is your chance. Be sure to include @icethetics.

Wolf Packs Wants Your Jersey Designs

In case you missed it, the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack are holding a fan jersey design contest.

After a very successful first year, the Wolf Pack Specialty Jersey Design Contest is back! We had hundreds of great entries last year and had a blast choosing the winner. Be creative and have fun because we loved all the different ideas that fans had. The winner of this year’s contest will receive a personalized jersey of their design along with tickets to see them worn by the team! During the TBA game, the jerseys will be auctioned right off the player’s backs! This year’s auction raised over $10,000, which benefited the March of Dimes organization.

On their web site, the Wolf Pack has a jersey template you can download and the email address you need to send your artwork to. Fans have until September 1 to get their entries in.And if you want instant gratification, send your design to Icethetics at the same time and it may just show up on the site.

Following Up on the Ice Flyers

The SPHL's newest member, the Pensacola Ice Flyers, unveiled their coma-inducing logo two weeks ago at a fan event in north Florida. I had some comments.

Now we have "official" word from the team on why they went with the logo with the fewest votes in an online poll — the worst one. Via Twitter, Icethetics reader Mike posed the following question to the minor league club.

mburmy @PcolaIceFlyers I know the poll was for 'entertainment only,' but WHY did you HAVE to use the LAST-place entry?"

To which the Ice Flyers' Twittermaster replied:

PcolaIceFlyers @mburmy Thanks for the comments... there were some copyright concerns and it was the best logo to modify and adapt for our use.

I buy the first part. Copyright issues are always a concern when you ask fans to design things. However, it was "the best logo to adapt for our use"? Seriously? I think I should just not talk about it anymore. At least now we have some closure on the subject.

Concept Art

My inbox tells me you guys have been longing for the return of concept art to the site. I had hoped the IceHL would fill that void. Yet all of that is artwork that's been floating around for months. So I am aiming to bring the occasional concept post back to the site via the Concepts section, accessible at the top of the page.

Until I can make time for that, I'll give you something here. When USA Hockey announced it would be unveiling new Olympic jerseys later this month, I asked you guys to send in your own concepts. Here is one by Mike Ivall.

I've also got a bunch more Ducks third jersey concepts. I'll either make a new post on the Concepts blog with all of them or I'll start posting them on Twitter — which is easier for me. Which do you guys prefer?

Anyway, I think I've taken up enough of your time with this post. Got any questions or comments? You know where they go.

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