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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:


Dallas Stars reveal road to rebrand with loads of concepts


Dallas Stars reveal road to rebrand with loads of concepts

About 18 months ago the Dallas Stars unleashed Victory Green upon the world. Now we're finally getting the whole story on how it came to be and what might have been.

The team released a video today that explained the process and included something to please every Icethetics reader — loads of concept logos and jersey prototypes. Check out some still frames from the video below.

It's fascinating to see how many options the Stars went through before ending up where they did. It sounds like many within the organization, lead by TV color analyst Daryl Reaugh, were eager to see the team go blue to match the other pro sports teams in Dallas — the Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers and even MLS's FC Dallas.

In the end, the Stars decided to pave their own path, not only sticking with green, but introducing their own custom shade of green — Victory Green. The video talks about the NHL encouraging the Stars to stay green so they could own the color.

Perhaps the league forgot about the Minnesota Wild, who also wear a lot of green. And it's funny when you think about it because Minnesota itself is the only reason the Stars wear green today. The North Stars wore it and the franchise chose not to change the logo after relocating in 1993.

In fairness to the Stars, theirs is a much lighter green than the Wild's, of course. But that Minnesota connection cannot be denied. Here's the full video.

If you want more to read on the Stars' rebrand in 2013, I wrote a three-part review after being invited by the team to cover the unveiling event last year. I got the chance to speak with Stars broadcast/creative AVP Jason Walsh, who spearheaded the rebrand project.

So what do you think of the many concepts above? Any that stand out to you? Did they make the right call ending up where they did?


Capitals, Canucks past prototype jerseys surface on ebay


Capitals, Canucks past prototype jerseys surface on ebay

Tonight, we're taking a look at a couple of purported Reebok Edge prototype jerseys thanks to one ebay seller with a rare stockpile. And they are fascinating!

Photos by manonthemoon12345 via ebay

A current auction listing from manonthemoon12345 features what's described as a "rare authentic" Washington Capitals prototype jersey. The date on the tag appears to read Nov. 16, 2005 and notes it is a second version.

Most intriguing about this jersey is the crest which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Caps' Weagle logo — which currently graces the shoulders of their primary uniforms. In this version, the U.S. Capitol dome silhouette in the negative space is much more pronounced.

The design of the jersey itself, on the other hand, is much closer to the final product that was finally implemented during the 2007-08 season.

Photos by manonthemoon12345 via ebay

Back in July, another listing from the same seller offered an alleged "rare authentic" Vancouver Canucks sweater. The tag was dated September 2006, a full year before the blue and green jerseys were introduced.

This one is just painful. So many bullets dodged. First, remember that Reebok template I railed against earlier this week? The one Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Tampa Bay all used in 2007. Looks like Reebok was trying to push it on Vancouver as well.

Second, it looks like the Canucks considered sticking with the 1997 color scheme. I call it a dodged bullet, but in truth it was a unique look. No other team before or since has used it. But green and blue are definitely more fitting.

The best thing this prototype had going for it was the lack of the word "VANCOUVER" arched across the upper chest. Everything else about it... yikes.

What do you think of these jerseys? Have you seen any other interesting NHL prototypes?


The Washington Winter Classic logo that didn't make the cut


The Washington Winter Classic logo that didn't make the cut

Here's something cool. A couple of Icethetics readers pointed me to the Dribbble account of graphic designer Andrew Sterlachini.

It turns out Andrew not only created the crest on the Washington Capitals' 2015 NHL Winter Classic jersey, but he designed at least one other logo that didn't make the cut.

You can see above the W intertwined with a shape that looks like a D on one side and a C on the other. As clever logos go, this is by far one of my new favorites. It's just a shame the Caps didn't see fit to use it in some way. (At least not yet.)

If you're on Dribbble, give Andrew a follow.


How the timeless Hartford Whalers logo came to be


How the timeless Hartford Whalers logo came to be

A lot of you have been enjoying my series of NHL logo origin stories from the 1990s. Many of those designs were short-lived. Those that weren't are anything but uncontroversial today.

But roll back the clock and we find one of the most universally admired logos of all time.

In 1979, the WHA folded and the New England Whalers were one of only four teams absorbed into the NHL. The franchise was renamed and in need of a new logo. Peter Good was the designer hired to create a new identity for the Hartford Whalers.

On June 29, WFSB-TV in Hartford, Conn. aired an interview between Face the State host Dennis House and Good — from the Connecticut design firm Cummings & Good. During the 9-minute conversation, the two talked about the genesis of the logo and all things Whalers.

If you can't watch the video above, I've transcribed the good stuff below.

Things kicked off with an image of the old New England Whalers logo.

Peter Good: This was given to me as the starting point really. They wanted a new, fresh identity. They just moved to Hartford. There was a lot of excitement in the community. 
Like any project, I meet with them. In this case Howard Baldwin, Bill Barnes and I think Jack Kelly was the manager at that time.
Dennis House: And so you started sketching?
Still frame from WFSB-TV

Still frame from WFSB-TV

PG: This is where all design projects start. Those are the original designs that I presented not as a design solution but as a way of thinking about the identity.
Curiously, when I did these, Howard Baldwin actually said, "I like the lower right one." Shown here. With the trident. The trident was a reference to the harpoons.
I said, "Why do you like that one?" He said, "The 'H' is there." So I said, "Wait a minute, that was a not a requirement. It was just an idea that I had. But now that I know that it limits the field. So let me have another three or four days to play with it, to go back and rethink this given the idea it should have the 'H' integrated.
DH: And you came up with this?
Still frame from WFSB-TV

Still frame from WFSB-TV

PG: This is how it started. I was bothered by the idea of harpoons anyway because their mascot is a whale. So why would you have a symbol that suggests killing your mascot? That seems contradictory.
So I said, what do we have to work with? I have the letterforms 'W' and 'H' and I have a whale. And whales are kind of amorphous creatures. They're not like a tiger where you could characterize it very simply. But the whale's tail is very, very formally interesting. It's symmetrical. So you have three symmetrical elements to play with. This was a gift.
PG: I call it a marriage of convenience between a whale's tail, a letterform 'W' and the offspring is essentially the negative 'H'.
DH: What was the public's reaction when it was first unveiled and first showed up on uniforms?
PG: They liked it. My wife Jan and I designed the first uniforms. There was overwhelming support. I think a lot of it had to do with the idea of Hartford having a professional team. 

From there, the two discussed the process of designing a logo in today's climate. The video on WFSB's website becomes choppy at this point, cutting out parts of the conversation. It's impossible to know what they were saying but it seemed insightful. There's mention of focus groups and other things that tend to water down great designs.

Peter Good, Cummings & Good // Still frame from WFSB-TV

Peter Good, Cummings & Good // Still frame from WFSB-TV

Then came the question a lot of fans are curious about.

DH: Who owns the rights to the logo?
PG: Aha, well. This has been controversial since a long time ago. The NHL is licensing it and it's really been a cash cow for them. They are making a profit. We have started doing some things of our own in that we never did sign the rights over. We were asked but we never signed the document. It was never work-for-hire. I still have the check for a dollar that I never cashed to make it legal.
DH: So where do we go from here? Can you sell items?
PG: We're doing some shirts. The products that we're doing are quite different from what I've seen in the marketplace. When we first started this, Jan and I designed a lot of items. It was called the Designer Series and we sold them through the Whalers shop and it was umbrellas and tote bags and shirts and aprons. But they were very sophisticated. Beautiful embroidery. Very subtle. And to tell you the truth, it wasn't successful because sports fans like it big and brassy.

In wrapping up the conversation, House and Good mused on the possibility of the NHL returning to Hartford and whether the name and logo could be resurrected.

DH: How would you feel if the team came back and they hired someone else to change the logo completely?
PG: Believe me, that's happened before. Logos are things that every designer likes to think are timeless and enduring but some that I thought would last for many, many years tend to change.
There's so many factors. The team starts losing games, everything's on the table. Change the uniforms, change the logo and so forth.

Good may be referencing the fact that for their final five years in Hartford, the Whalers used an altered version of his logo with grey added to the color scheme. That came about in 1992.


Seriously, what is it about the '90s?

FURTHER READING: A Tail of a Whale · Aug 21, 2010