The Canucks have declared the 2019-20 season as their 50th anniversary, even if the actual 50th anniversary of their first game won’t take place until the start of the 2020-21 season: October 9th, 2020.
That’s eminently forgivable; if not for the 2004-05 lockout, the 2019-20 season would be their 50th season. They’re allowed a little creative license in how they handle such a big moment.
On Thursday, the Canucks announced four new jerseys for the 50th anniversary season: new home and away jerseys, a new “vintage” third jersey, and a retro 90’s flying skate jersey. The latter jersey was fully expected: fans voted on which retro jersey they wanted to see way back in August, even if the vote itself seemed like a setup designed to land on the flying skate.
The Canucks made a series of oddball choices in introducing the new jerseys, choices that have made the announcement of the jerseys land with a thud in the Canucks fanbase.
First of all is the jerseys themselves.
The retro flying skate jersey is perfect. It’s clean, crisp, and looks basically unchanged from the jerseys worn during the 1994 playoff run. The sole difference is around the collar, which conforms to the new Adidas standards. It’s a jersey that will surely fly off the shelves and will hopefully be worn more than expected next season.
The new home and away jerseys are fine. They’ve removed the “Vancouver” wordmark, but kept the orca logo. It’s a clean look, but barely differentiated from their current jerseys. Those opposed to the orca won’t be happy, but die hard fans of the orca logo (assuming they exist) will be pleased to see it staying.
It’s a safe choice, rather than a bold new direction, but the removal of the wordmark is an overall improvement.
It’s the third “vintage” jersey that is causing the strongest reactions.
The logo on the third jersey is an updated version of the original stick-in-rink logo the team wore in their inaugural season. The new logo is a little less vintage but makes the “C” in the logo pop a little more, making it more easily recognizable as a letter. That’s accomplished by making the main colour of the logo white.
White is also the main colour of the collar and the numbers. That makes it particularly bizarre that there’s no white in the stripes on the sleeves or at the bottom of the jersey.
The lack of white in the stripes leaves the jersey feeling very unbalanced, with white on the top, but not the bottom of the jersey. It makes the jersey read more like an off-brand “jersey” you might buy at Walmart or Shopper’s Drug Mart, instead of an official Adidas jersey. It’s an incredibly confusing choice.
Some fans online have taken it upon themselves to add a little more white to the stripes and it makes the jersey far more cohesive.
I made a couple tweeks to the new heritage jersey. I feel they were soooooooooooo close to nailing this one.— BoestMode (@BoestMode) June 13, 2019
Also the fact that fans can make these jerseys better using apps on their phones is embarrassing. Do better, Canucks. #Canucks#Canucks50 pic.twitter.com/GDHQUWRZFd
Some have defended the green-on-blue stripes because it is a “heritage” jersey that is supposed to have a vintage feel. While this is a fair comment, it doesn’t hold much water when it comes to the Canucks: the 70’s jerseys always had a white stripe with the green stripes and included a funky white “V” design on the arms to boot.
Overall, the new jerseys — apart from the flying skate — aren’t particularly exciting. A more bold direction could have included a new main logo, such as something inspired by Johnny Canuck. Instead, Johnny Canuck is nowhere to be found, not even as a shoulder patch.
Alternatively, they could have tried green as a main colour instead of blue, similar to what the Utica Comets have done.
My horrifically bad photoshop work aside...I'd have preferred to see something along these lines instead of that new third jersey without the white stripes. pic.twitter.com/NZB3AdNk0o— Comets Cory (@CoryHergott) June 13, 2019
What has made it harder to embrace these new jerseys is the lackluster way they were announced, which featured more bizarre choices.
The 50th anniversary jersey announcement and website includes photos of a wide swathe of Canucks fans modeling the new look in and around Vancouver. It’s a fun idea, including the fans in the process, and the photos feature some familiar faces. But in an odd choice, the fans in every photo have a serious expression on their faces, veering into a frown.
As voted by the fans, the return of the Black Skate jersey reintroduces a jersey from one of our most storied eras for our celebratory season. pic.twitter.com/LtF9WHa9WB— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) June 13, 2019
Evidently the Canucks didn’t want any joy in the reveal photos. My guess is they’re going for “determined” or “intense” but instead it lands on “dour” and “our team has missed the playoffs in four-straight years.”
What’s particularly weird is that the behind-the-scenes video reveals plenty of smiles. Why wouldn’t there be? How exciting would it be as a Canucks fan to be a part of a secret reveal of brand new jerseys?
Being a fan is what we have in common – it’s our connection to a province that’s as vibrant and diverse as our jersey collection.— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) June 13, 2019
Thank you to everyone who helped us with this release! pic.twitter.com/Dwiblxysxe
To go with the odd choices, there are no shots of the jerseys on a player. Not a single photo of a player decked out in the new jerseys. Perhaps, when matched with the right pants and socks, the heritage jerseys will look better and more cohesive, with less concern about the lack of white in the stripes. Unfortunately, we don't get to see the complete look. Personally, I would like to see what these new jerseys look like over hockey pads to get an idea of how they’ll look in action on the ice.
Speaking of action, the jerseys were released without any videos apart from the brief behind-the-scenes photoshoot video. Where’s the hype? No video of one of the players reacting to seeing the jersey for the first time? No video of the history of the Canucks jersey from 1970 to today? It feels like something’s missing.
To top it off, the timing is weird. The Stanley Cup Final just finished on Wednesday and the draft is a week away: would revealing the jerseys at the draft itself have been more impactful? Could it have been part of the week leading up to the draft to build up excitement? Was there a better time to get these jerseys out in the public eye?
If all goes well, of course, none of this will matter. If the Canucks go on a magical run next season, making the playoffs and even winning a round or two, the jerseys will barely matter. Perhaps they’ll even grow on the fanbase as they become associated with a winning team.
For now, however, the announcement of the new jerseys feels like a missed opportunity.