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Icethetics' Top 14 Concepts of 2014


Icethetics' Top 14 Concepts of 2014

Jerseys unveilings and blogger vacations conspired at the outset of 2015 to delay our annual countdown of the highest rated concept art of the year. So without further adieu, let's get this show on the road. Keep scrolling to learn Icethetics' Top 14 Concepts of 2014!

#14 · Nick Burton
/ Predicting the 2015 Winter Classic

Our countdown begins with the most prolific concept artist on Icethetics today. On Oct. 11, Nick Burton took a stab at predicting the 2015 Winter Classic.

By that point, we'd already seen what the Capitals had in store, but the Blackhawks' look was still a mystery.

Nick may have missed the mark as far as predictions go, but many readers would likely argue he ended up with the better design — giving his concept a better overall rating than either of the actual jerseys.

#13 · Ross Taylor
/ Quad City Trio

Ross Taylor has been somewhat absent from the Concepts page recently, but his work still garners major respect when he has the time to share it with us.

On Dec. 2, Ross was featured along with two other designers who submitted work to a jersey design contest put on by the Quad City Mallards of the ECHL.

Not only was it voted the best of the group, its inclusion on this list proves it was one of the best overall designs of the year!

By the way, Icethetics trivia buffs may recall the Mallards' logos were originally designed in 2010 by our original powerhouse concept contributor Matt Kauzlarich (aka GhettoFarmBoy) — a shining example of a real talent finding professional work after being featured regularly during the site's early days in 2007 and 2008.

#12 · Nick Burton
/ What's in Store in St. Louis

For the second time early in the countdown, we feature the talented Nick Burton.

On July 9, two days after Icethetics revealed an exclusive first look at the St. Louis Blues' new home jersey, Nick was among three artists who attempted a road version.

Not only was it the most accurate, it was by far your favorite — and a preview of the many accolades to come for the Blues' new and improved primary uniforms.

#11 · John Elbertson
/ A Minnesota Winter

Falling just shy of our top 10, John Elbertson made waves creating a Winter Classic match-up featuring a team that would later be named host of a 2016 Stadium Series game!

Does he have a crystal ball or what?

On Oct. 4, John created unique throwback jerseys for the Colorado Avalanche (as the Quebec Nordiques) and the Dallas Stars (as the Minnesota North Stars).

Your votes leave no doubt this would be one popular outdoor meeting. Unfortunately, the odds of it ever happening are not great.

#10 · Asle Tømmerstrand
/ Norway By a Norwegian

As the world eagerly awaited the first puck drop of the Sochi Olympics, a Norwegian jersey designer named Asle Tømmerstrand was preparing to wow us with a gorgeous concept for his home country.

Norway had arguably one of the more boring uniform sets at the 2014 Olympics, but on Jan. 26, we got a glimpse of how great it could have been.

Asle's design was brilliant and we can only hope to see something as good on the international stage in the future.

#9 · Al McCready
/ 8-Bit Sochi

Here, concept art isn't always about creating a new jersey. Sometimes it's about finding a creative way to present an existing one.

Back in 2012, Al McCready's 8-bit style NHL sweaters rocked our world as it ended up as the highest rated concept of the year.

On April 6, Al went back to the well, giving the 2014 Olympic sweaters his trademark 8-bit treatment.

Once again, the designs went over extremely well with Icethetics readers, earning it a place among the best concepts of the year.

#8 · Bastian Schmülling
/ Year-End Wish

Sometimes the best concepts are the ones that don't try to reinvent the wheel.

In the last concept of the year, posted Dec. 31, the prolific and talented Bastian Schmülling showed us just how easy it would be for the Buffalo Sabres to once again take its seat among the best-dressed teams in the NHL.

His redesign of the Sabres' uniforms didn't alter the jersey's template, but rather its color palette. He traded navy for the classic royal blue and eliminated that unnecessary silver trim — reverting to the look we all love.

If only our year-end wish could come true.

#7 · Matt McElroy
/ Merry Christmas From McElroy

An Icethetics Christmas tradition continues its tradition of turning up among the best concepts of the year.

Matt McElroy's annual "Ugly Christmas Sweater" concept, posted on Dec. 25, comes in at No. 7 this year — the same place it finished in 2012. (His 2013 design was No. 2!)

Matt's creativity never ceases to amaze and what made this concept particularly special is that he created it well before the unveiling of the similar and uniquely half-and-half Stadium Series jersey designs the Sharks and Kings will wear outdoors later this season.

Impressive stuff!

#6 · David Kerr
/ The Future in the Past

On Sept. 17 — two days before the Penguins revealed their new throwback third jersey — David Kerr shared a premonition.

Looking beyond this season, he imagined the Pittsburgh team returning to its Pittsburgh gold roots on a permanent basis.

On his first attempt, he didn't feel a white jersey was necessary, but after requests from readers, he added one — which ended up with an even higher rating than his original black and gold concepts!

Now that's how you impress a crowd!

#5 · Christian Legault
/ Classic or Modern?

Christian Legault was a newcomer to the Icethetics Concepts page in 2014, but he absolutely left his mark.

Following rumors the NHL would introduce neon green to its All-Star uniforms, Christian posed the question, "Which is better? Classic or modern?"

On Aug. 7, he placed two extremely different concepts side by side — traditional versus futuristic. Unsurprisingly, the classic design was by far the more popular one.

In fact, the red and blue jerseys earned a place on in the top five concepts of 2014. Looks like Christian's off to a strong start in his career as a concept artist.

#4 · Thierry Dick
/ Fixing the Sens Seems So Easy

In a year marked by some staggeringly amazing Ottawa Senators concepts, Thierry Dick stood out from the pack with a simple yet superb redesign posted Sept. 1.

It made us wonder why the Sens still have yet to fix those dull, cookie-cutter jerseys of theirs — especially when so many artists have made it look so easy.

Based on the incredible rating, I think it's safe to say we're all hoping for the day when these turn up on store shelves.

#3 · Nick Burton
/ WHA Revival, Part 1

Nick Burton completes the unprecedented trifecta in the top concepts of the year with this third design on this list!

His modern update for the Quebec Nordiques came at the beginning of a 4-part series in which he attempted to create revitalized looks for a handful of expired WHA teams.

The high admiration for this concept proves there are a lot of hockey fans both in and out of Quebec that would love to see the Nordiques back on the ice.

#2 · Bastian Schmülling
/ Whale Reborn

Bastian Schmülling impressively makes his second appearance in the top 10 concepts of 2014 with a gorgeous rethink of the old Hartford Whalers.

The classic design earned him many accolades ranging from "WOW!!!!" (Alexandr Petruk comment) to "Holy WOW!!!!!! 5/5!" (Keven Vaytch comment).

I think we all echo those sentiments and wish more than ever that the Whalers could once again take the ice — if only to wear the most beautiful hockey sweaters on the planet.

That leaves us with the most highly-rated concept of the entire year...

#1 · Matt McElroy
/ NHL Soccer Crossover

In a stunning twist, the greatest, most popular concept featured on Icethetics in all of 2014 was NOT even a hockey uniform!

Featured on Sept. 28, it was a set of 30 soccer kits by Matt McElroy!

The McElroy part should surprise no one, but his jaw-dropping creation of beautifully-crafted soccer uniforms for every NHL team should be viewed as an exercise in sports design mastery.

There's no question Matt has earned his place among the greatest concept contributors in the history of Icethetics. And it's clear from the votes that most of the community shares my undying admiration.

A job well done, Matt!

That is an impressive list of concepts. Did your favorite make the countdown? Were there any designs from 2014 you think should've made it? Comment away!

By the way, this the third year we've counted down the best concepts of the year. If you'd like to take a look back at previous years, here are the links you'll need:


NHL announces plans for three outdoor games in 2016


NHL announces plans for three outdoor games in 2016

Image from NHL Network

Image from NHL Network

The 2016 NHL Winter Classic and two 2016 NHL Stadium Series games were announced by commissioner Gary Bettman from Columbus this afternoon.

The eighth Winter Classic will return to Boston. The third one took place in 2010 at Fenway Park. This one will happen Jan. 1, 2016 at Gillette Stadium — home of the NFL's New England Patriots, who will play the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Boston Bruins will host the Montreal Canadiens in the epic outdoor battle Icethetics concept artists have been hoping for. In fact, just two weeks ago I posted a great concept from Jamie Robertson featuring the two storied franchises. 

The NHL also announced two Stadium Series games to take place out west.

On Feb. 21, 2016, the Minnesota Wild will host their first ever outdoor game as the Chicago Blackhawks come to town. The game will be played at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus — Golden Gophers territory.

I'm a bit irked by this draw as it'll be the Hawks' third outdoor appearance in three seasons — Stadium Series in Pittsburgh (2014), Winter Classic in Washington (2015) and now the Stadium Series in Minnesota (2016) — and fourth overall since they hosted the second Winter Classic in 2009 against Detroit. Spread the love a little.

I understand TV ratings (particularly since I work in TV marketing) and what drives audiences. So I get the decision. But it would've been nice to see a team like the Blues get a shot at wearing a throwback jersey in the snow.

Six days later, on Feb. 27, 2016, the Colorado Avalanche will play in their first outdoor game as they host the Detroit Red Wings for a match at Coors Field — fitting since Coors Light remains the major sponsor of the NHL Stadium Series.

I almost want to watch the alumni game more than the main event here. Think about all the guys from that epic '90s rivalry who will take the ice again. Sure, it won't be as intense as it was back then, but it'll be fun to watch nonetheless.

All in all, six teams will play outside in 2016, but only two will be doing it for the first time — Minnesota and Colorado. Don't forget Montreal played in the original Heritage Classic in Edmonton back in 2003 and again in Calgary in 2011.

Speaking of the Heritage Classic, Bettman said at the press conference that there were plans to hold a Heritage Classic in Winnipeg in 2016. But a deal couldn't be worked out in time to nail down the stadium, so it was postponed.

It's likely the league will keep working and secure a date for the 2016-17 season. But who the Jets will play is still unknown for now. Maybe the Oilers could get back in on the action? The Maple Leafs are marking their 100th anniversary that season so they'll probably stick closer to home for any big events. Could Quebec have a new team by then? Who would you pick?

Obviously no logos have been released yet for the Winter Classic or Stadium Series games. They're probably still in the design process at this point in the calendar. I'd expect to see something in the summer.

As for jerseys, what are you expecting and/or hoping for? Send along your concepts and I'll post some in the coming weeks and months.


No shortage of branding for NHL All-Star Weekend


No shortage of branding for NHL All-Star Weekend

The 2015 NHL All-Star Game takes place on Sunday. But it's more than just a game. It's an entire weekend of festivities put on by the league and the host city which, this year, is Columbus.

The whole thing, it turns out, is a dream for lovers of logos too. More than a dozen unique designs represent and promote the many events surrounding the All-Stars. The primary logo you see above is merely the tip of the iceberg. Keep scrolling for the rest of the iceberg.

This year's game is being sponsored by Honda, so in recent weeks a version of the mark turned up containing the automaker's logo.

Then for the NHL's French-speaking fans, there's another one.

All-Star logos are used in many different ways, so you've got to have options. Say you just need a simple, horizontal wordmark. They've got you covered.

And let's not forget the francophones.

Maybe including the host city is still too much detail for you. Can we go simpler? You bet.

There's a French version of that too, but you get the picture by now.

And we're still just talking about the game with all these logos. Don't forget that there's an entire weekend the league is promoting. So there's a logo for that.

Check that. Two logos.

Since the debut of the new All-Star format in 2011, NHL All-Star Weekend kicks off Friday night with the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft in which the players are split into two teams.

Interestingly, very little about the Fantasy Draft logo has changed since its inception in 2011. Colors have been adjusted, the star in the center stylized, and the sponsor has varied, but the overall design — typeface included — has remained. 

It actually causes this mark stand out in a bad way from the rest of this package. It doesn't help that the Draft Kings logo sticks out like a sore thumb with that color scheme. Ouch.

What else? Apparently there's something special about Saturday so it gets a custom logo.

Or two. (We should know that by now.)

Oh and it seems a version of those little sticks and stars can be their own thing too.

Exciting stuff. But no All-Star Saturday is complete without a good old Skills Competition.

And that little shooting puck at the bottom also does its own thing.

Yeah, we're not even close to being done. NHL All-Star Weekend usually involves a special fan experience called NHL Fan Fair — so that means another logo.

If that's not enough, there's an All-Star Winter Park open all weekend featuring a giant snow slide and an outdoor ice rink. Sounds cold. (The forecast low for Sunday is 18° so...)

That pretty much does it, but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out a few other minor icons and insignia used throughout the weekend for promotional items and merchandise.

Anyone else starting to feel like the NHL All-Star Game is a bit over-branded?

UPDATE · Jan 24 · 12:05 AM · Almost forgot one! New to the All-Star proceedings this season is the first ever NHL Mascot Showdown. Team mascots from around the league will split into two teams and actually play a short game before the Skills Competition.

And of course there's a logo.

It's very cartoony, but that's kind of the point.

Have you spotted any other logos I may have overlooked?

UPDATE · Jan 24 · 9:10 AM · Ha, yeah I thought we were done. Who was I kidding?

Earlier I said All-Star Weekend kicks off on Friday night with the Fantasy Draft. But in fact, it begins in the afternoon with NHL Media Day where journalists hobnob with the players.

The logo is plastered all over the wall behind the media tables.

Another All-Star-related event that took place this morning to open "All-Star Saturday" was the All-Star 5K Race. And naturally, that gets a special logo.


Through all the excitement of the weekend, I forgot about a logo that was used quite a lot during the lead-up to the big weekend. The all-important NHL All-Star Fan Vote!

And don't forget about the horizontal version.

There was even a subset of fan voting which including selecting a player for the Breakaway Challenge at the Skills Competition. So there's a Breakaway Challenge Fan Vote logo.

That's all I have to add at the moment, but I'm not ready to say that's everything. Let me know if you guys spot anymore All-Star logos not included here.


Gwinnett Gladiators celebrate Atlanta hockey with third jersey


Gwinnett Gladiators celebrate Atlanta hockey with third jersey

Life after hockey goes on in Atlanta. But the answer to how lies in a suburb.

We're four seasons into a post-Thrashers NHL. It was the second time the ATL lost a franchise to a Canadian town. But signs of the city's hockey history — though perhaps unsuccessful — are beginning to re-emerge.

Back in the fall, the AHL welcomed a new franchise and a familiar logo. The fiery A that once represented Atlanta took on a new meaning in Adirondack with the arrival of the Calgary Flames' minor league affiliate.

Now in the Atlanta suburb of Duluth — in Gwinnett County — an ECHL club has unveiled its own homage. The Gwinnett Gladiators will take the ice on Friday night wearing Atlanta Flames colors for the first time. Behold their new third jersey!

Photos by Dale Zanine

"The new jersey will be worn at all home games for the remainder of the 2014-15 season," according to the Gladiators' press release, "except for Sundays, when the team’s traditional black uniforms will be worn."

When the sweater will makes its debut — a night dubbed "Flashback Friday" — a few former Atlanta Flames — Tim Ecclestone, Eric Vail, and Willi Plett — will be honored with a ceremonial puck drop and more.

The Gladiators made their debut in 2003 and was affiliated with the Thrashers from their inception until the NHL club relocated to Winnipeg in 2011. They are now the only pro hockey team representing the Atlanta area.

But the seeds for this new sweater were planted well before that happened.

Christi Johnson is the director of media, game operations and merchandising for the Gladiators and is credited with designing this new third jersey. She told me the Atlanta Flames throwback has been in the works for a while.

"When Steve Chapman — Gladiators president and general manager — and I met early in the 2008-09 season to discuss ideas for our specialty jersey, we knew we wanted to pursue a Flames theme," Johnson said.

"We began the process of getting approval of the concept — which we did — but then decided instead to go with an Atlanta Knights-themed jersey."

The team wore those black Knights sweaters in Feb. 2010. (Find more photos on Facebook.)

As it happens, that was the same season the Calgary Flames introduced their throwback third jersey — which was identical to the old Atlanta uniform apart from the crest. Johnson didn't say whether that was a factor in their change of plans.

Anytime I get the chance to talk to a someone in charge of designing hockey sweaters, I always have to ask about the process. It's interesting to see what designers go through and how it varies from team to team.

Johnson explains:

The process is one that’s worked for Steve and I for many years — we meet, decide on a theme, and he gives me a rough idea of what, if anything, he has already visualized in his head.
Then I hole up in my office to draft a few different looks. As with anything creative, sometimes the ideas come quickly and sometimes I have to go in search of inspiration. Fortunately, with this design, I knew where we wanted to head and it was just a matter of actually creating the two logos.
We went through a few variations of the crest along the way, but all in all it was a painless process. It was definitely one of the quicker design timelines I’ve experienced. We had final artwork within a week, if I remember correctly. 

This isn't Johnson's first foray into jersey design. She's been creating specialty sweaters for the Gladiators since the 2006-07 season, including the Knights jersey mentioned above. 

I’m responsible for our Salute to Atlanta Traffic, Pink in the Rink, Relay for Life, Glads Margaritaville, 10th Anniversary, and last season’s Arctic Camo Jerseys. I also did our two other alternates — the gold fifth anniversary jerseys and our most recent maroon retro incantation.

It's not the last she'll put together either. I asked her what lies ahead.

I actually just wrapped up our specialty jersey for this season. It’s a Valentine’s Day theme but with a design I created — not a stock look. The key with anything pink related is to find that nice balance between achieving a Valentine’s (or breast cancer) look without making it something full on crazy pink.

That is definitely the trick. Some teams find it and some do not. I'm eager to see what Johnson has put together for next month.

For now, what do you think of the Atlanta Flames throwback?

(Major stick-tap to Gladiators broadcaster Nick Bove for his help with this story!)


Florida Panthers reveal logo for the 2015 NHL Draft


Florida Panthers reveal logo for the 2015 NHL Draft

The Florida Panthers will host the 2015 NHL Draft in about five months. For now we're getting a look at the logo that will represent the event.

It showed up recently on the Panthers' official website.

This logo continues a design standard for NHL Draft logos which launched in 2010. Logos typically feature four key elements — the draft wordmark with the host location and three bars capped with stars, a silver shield with a unique shape year to year, an accent color usually representing the host team, and an image at the bottom that represents the host city.

Flip through the mini gallery below to see the other draft logos from the series.

NHL Draft Logo Timeline

  • 2005—2009 · Draft logos vary in design from year to year.
  • 2010 · Los Angeles · New design standard implemented. Circle shield, blue accent, and palm trees. The Kings still used purple at this time, but the league chose a more neutral blue for the accent color.
  • 2011 · Minnesota · Medieval-shaped shield with green accent, featuring a lake surrounded by trees to represent the Minnesota wilderness.
  • 2012 · Pittsburgh · Shield capped with a bridge with gold accent, featuring the city skyline beneath.
  • 2013 · New Jersey · Shield in the shape of the state of New Jersey and accented in red. Because the shield shape does double duty in this case, there is no other city-specific iconography.
  • 2014 · Philadelphia · Shield shape evokes Liberty Bell, accented in orange, featuring Independence Hall silhouette.
  • 2015 · Florida · Wavy shield contains sunrise to represent city and tropical location alongside palm trees. For the first time in the series, this logo breaks away from the standard black design, instead capturing the Panthers' three-color palette — navy blue, gold and red.

The 2016 NHL Draft has been awarded to the Buffalo Sabres, so it's likely we'll see another navy and gold draft logo next year.