This comes up every preseason.
And while the 2014 preseason is now over, I'm writing this post for posterity — so I can use it as a quick link reference during preseasons to come.
Every September, Detroit Red Wings fans and non-fans freak out. They tweet and email me about the "fact" that the Wings have changed the nameplate on their uniforms.
There's a very simple explanation. During the regular season, the Red Wings equipment staff creates custom arched name bars for each player. When you create that custom arch, the first T in "TATAR" cannot be swapped with the second T because arch skews them differently.
In the preseason, 50 to 60 rookies and prospects suit up for one or two games before being cut. It's therefore a waste of time and effort to make those individual custom nameplates for guys who won't be around very long.
To simplify the process — during the preseason only — the equipment staff employs a generic serif block font for the name bars where the letters can be quickly stitched together.
When the regular season opens, everything will be back to normal.