Designing the ’90s NHL, Part 2: Expansion & Relocation

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you should start there.

When we left off with NHL logo designer Ken Loh, it was the mid-1990s. His famed "Burger King" crest — a design he thought was dead — found its way onto a new Los Angeles third jersey. And a bold proposal for the Philadelphia Flyers fell flat.


Then in 1997, the Hartford Whalers relocated. The loss of one of the greatest sports logos of all time put the pressure on The Mednick Group, as the NHL hired the agency to create a logo for the new Carolina Hurricanes — or was it "Hurricane"?

Obviously, these designs never made it to the NHL and the team ultimately went with the plural form of its name. But there's always a great story behind work like this. Ken writes: 

I wanted to make a historical nod to the Hartford Whalers since that’s where the team came from. I like teams to have history. The fans who grow up in cities around the world should have a long-standing connection to a franchise and its history.
The logo was intended to be the primary mark for the team, since it was a new franchise. At first glance, you’ll probably see “C” and “H” for Carolina Hurricane. But if you look more closely, you’ll notice that the overall “H” form has a “W” intertwined, being formed by the vertical anchor rod in the middle.
I actually wanted it to read more like “HW” than “CH.” Deep down, I was hoping the team wouldn’t move or change its name, but could adopt a variant of the HW emblem.

It's comforting to know that when it became necessary to replace the iconic Whalers logo, some of the people involved were desperately trying to find a way to let it live on.

In the end, it wasn't even a designer that created the logo the team ultimately selected. It was a copy writer at the firm named Peter Thornburgh.

"Ironic that a writer's design beat out a bunch of professional designers," Ken said, "but he had been honing his craft designing logos for his own fantasy football teams for years. Many of us are still in the same [league] together [25 years later]!"

When Peter created the Hurricanes logos, he already had the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves under his belt. And to think his original plan was a medical degree.

Makes you wonder where some of the talented designers behind The IceHL are headed.


By this point, you may feel Ken's contributions to the NHL have been minimal. After all, his work on the Flyers fizzled. He lost out to a writer on the Hurricanes job. And his vision for the Kings all but vanished in a jersey that saw action in no more than a half-dozen games.

Kicked. Beaten. Down. But not out.

Ken's final project for the NHL would prove to be his most successful when, on Nov. 11, 1997, the owners of a new expansion franchise stood before reporters to announce its official name and logos. Meet the Columbus Blue Jackets by Ken Loh.

"I'd love to credit another designer, Van Duong, who worked with me on the Blue Jackets logo," Ken said. "He is one on the best designers I've ever worked with. He really helped put some of the finishing touches on Stinger and was also the main designer on the CB mark."

Ken said Van was also involved in developing designs for an NHL All-Star Game in the mid-90s.

While it's true "Stinger" and the Blue Jackets moniker didn't immediately win over many Columbus fans, Ken's work satisfied his client and will live on in the hockey history books. For seven seasons, the Jackets wore his blue, red and electric green marks before the bold fashion statements of the '90s were slowly purged from the NHL.

"I am a traditionalist when it comes to sports and logo design," Ken said. "I was being pushed to develop marks that had more appeal for kids, while I attempted to maintain a stronger sense of tradition and professionalism.

"I felt some of the direction the designers were being given at the time was more appropriate for school or camp teams, and didn’t have the lasting appeal that pro franchises — or even collegiate ones — should maintain.

"I am happy to see that Flying Elvis has stood the test of time though. Twenty years later, it doesn’t feel old yet."


Ken Loh doesn't make sports logos anymore, but his design sensibilities have been employed by great companies. After spending time at Yahoo! and Oakley, he is now a driving force behind Apple's online shopping experience. Find him on Twitter at @kloh.

Scott Mednick, founder of The Mednick Group, moved on to the Hollywood film industry. His credits include Where The Wild Things Are, 300 and the upcoming reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Find him on Twitter at @ScottMednick.

Finally, I know I promised never-before-seen logos Ken designed for another NHL expansion team. However, I now realize they're better suited to the third and final chapter of this story. You won't want to miss that. Stay tuned!

CONTINUE READING: Part 3: Epilogue

The Blue Jackets jersey that never was

It's rare that fans get a look inside an NHL team's jersey design process. It's especially exciting to see prototype jerseys and imagine what might have been.

Today, John from the memorabilia-centric blog Blue Jackets Pucks and Stuff provided the world with a look at a concept from the earliest days of the Columbus Blue Jackets. It's the kind of thing Icethetics readers live for.

Reader Nathan submits our latest feature, and it's a doozy! It's a Pro Player jersey concept for the Columbus Blue Jackets from around 1998 or 1999. The final jersey design was announced on October 15, 1999 so I would say this predates that announcement by at least several months.  Prototype jerseys are exceedingly rare, and eagle eyed collectors are happy to obtain them when the opportunity arises.

John doesn't say where Nathan took these photos, but the jersey appears to be on display somewhere with other Blue Jackets gear around.

As far as the design, the Blue Jackets probably made the right call steering clear of the powder blue. However, they would've stood out in 2000.

Another way they would've stood out is the lace-up collar. At the time, only the Rangers and Maple Leafs had that feature. Today, of course, they're all over the place and less functional than ever.

But it was inevitable. The lace-up collar was eventually used on the team's first third jersey in 2003. It came back with the new third in 2010.

This is a nice bit of Columbus Blue Jackets history to be sure. I hope that someday fans and collectors can get a glimpse into other proposed designs from this era.


If you want to see more high-resolution photos I strongly encourage a trip to Blue Jackets Pucks and Stuff right now!

For more stories on unused NHL prototypes, check out these past blog posts:

These are the jerseys the Blue Jackets chose for their inaugural season in 2000-01. // Photos from Blue Jackets Pucks and Stuff

5 Noteworthy Items From the 2014 NHL Draft


If you remember five things from the 2014 NHL Draft, this is what they should be.

1. Ducks debuted new primary jerseys

Hours after revealing their new uniform designs on Twitter, the Anaheim Ducks made Nicholas Ritchie the first player to wear it. The poor kid couldn't look more deer-in-headlights in his draft portraits, but he was the only one to sport the white sweater this weekend. Later round picks on Saturday were given the new black jersey.

PHOTOS: Arizona Coyotes

PHOTOS: Arizona Coyotes

2. Coyotes changed name, shoulder patch

The Arizona Coyotes name was officially introduced at the draft, making Brendan Perlini the first member of the franchise in the post-Phoenix era. Note the new "AZ" shoulder patch on the jersey. The same logo is also featured on Perlini's hat.

PHOTOS: Columbus Blue Jackets

PHOTOS: Columbus Blue Jackets

3. Blue Jackets tried All-Star Game patch again

Under the theory, "if at first you don't succeed..." the Columbus Blue Jackets gave to their draftees jerseys emblazoned with the 2015 All-Star Game patch — just as they did in 2012, when they were scheduled to host in 2013. It should take this time, though.

PHOTOS: St. Louis Blues

PHOTOS: St. Louis Blues

4. Blues brought only their third jersey

Every year there are a handful of drafted players that simply cannot take a good photo. This year, Robert Fabbri was a standout in that area. All I wanted was to point out that the St. Louis Blues — who will be launching new primary jerseys this summer — used their alternate at the draft. But all you'll be able to look at are Fabbri's weird faces.

PHOTOS: Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche

PHOTOS: Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche

5. Only a few teams handed out white sweaters

It's common for teams to give out their colorful home jerseys at the draft — as evidenced by the fact that 27 of them did. But there are always some outliers, including four teams this year. The Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche were among them — as were the Minnesota Wild, who just introduced that white jersey late last summer. And of course the Ducks debuted their new road design as mentioned in No. 1 above. Full circle.

For now, I'll leave you with a look at all 31 jerseys from the 2014 NHL Draft.



By the way, the 2015 NHL Draft will be held in South Florida at the BB&T Center. We're still waiting on a logo, but as soon as I see one, look for it here.