NHL Requires More Helmet Digits

Helmet numbers add to front / Tony Da CostaThis is one of those things that's going to annoy the crap out of everyone until we all eventually get used to it.

Yes, you're looking at the front of those Dany Heatley helmets. And yes, they have new number decals on them. Oh boy.

For most of the 1950s, the only way to identify an NHL player — apart from looking at his, you know, face — was the giant number sewn to the back of his sweater. It was during that decade that teams also started adding what we now know as TV numbers to their sleeves. I'm not sure when exactly it became a league mandate.

Over the years since then, surnames were added to the back above the number, and as helmets became a requirement, numbers were added there too. More recently, some teams have even started adding them to the front of their jerseys, some subtly (like San Jose) and others not-so-subtly (like Dallas).

Tony Da Costa, Wild equipment managerThrough a series of tweets on Wednesday, we learned from the Minnesota Wild's head equipment manager Tony Da Costa that number decals are being added to the front of every NHL skater's helmet. And because of how the helmets are designed, they're really going on the top.

The reason we haven't seen these new head digits yet during the preseason is that the league isn't requiring the change until the start of the regular season. But obviously Da Costa and other equipment managers around the league are already preparing gear for opening night — which is now just a week away.

By the way, if you're a Wild fan, an Icethetics reader and on Twitter, you really should be following Da Costa (@Styleswild) just for his behind-the-scenes photos alone.

The NHL's senior manager of communications, Schuyler Baehman, went into a little more detail Wednesday with some tweets of his own. First, he confirmed that player numbers will be added to players' foreheads. Great. Then Baehman explained that they won't be required for goalie masks. Good because I'm pretty sure those are the most recognizable guys on the ice at any given time.

Next, the real nerdy stuff. He told us the numbers must measure between 1.25 and 2 inches in height. And finally, he answered the big question: Why? For that, I'll toss to a blockquote.

The new number placement is designed to aid on-ice officials, broadcasters, et al. by providing an additional point of player identification.

A few Twitter-enabled radio and TV play-by-play guys chimed in with their support for this change. Not sure how they're seeing those numbers that far away. But without my glasses I can't see what's right in front of me, so what do I know?

Right, so I understand the reason for adding the numbers. If it'll help with player IDs, then that's great. But I have to say, from a strictly aesthetic perspective, I'm concerned. Granted, I haven't seen how it will look on the ice, but I'm not sure how it can look good. Maybe I'll change my tune next week, but for now... yikes.

I think I already know the answer, but what do you guys think of this uniform change? Do the practical benefits outweigh the visual drawbacks? Or will it even look that bad at all?