Collector's Corner: Lest We Forget
This edition of the Collector's Corner was written by Dave McCormick.
With Remembrance Day in Canada and Veteran’s Day in the United States being observed within our two great allied nations on November 11th it’s important for us to take a moment to appreciate everything our Veterans and current Servicemen and women sacrificed in order for us to enjoy our freedoms and our relatively unimportant, but enjoyable, hobby of jersey collecting. Most NHL clubs regularly recognize our Armed Forces members during each game. Moreover, the playing of our National Anthems before each game is a wartime era tradition.
So, while we honour and remember this Monday and see most NHL teams roll out their own Military Appreciation Nights and jerseys again this season, like this one I bought at last season’s Canucks’ recognition game let’s recognize a few connections between the NHL and military.
There are currently four NHL teams with direct branding connections to the military. The first is the Winnipeg Jets. The primary logo distinctly takes its design cues from the Royal Canadian Air Force; both in terms of the background and the outline of a CF-18 air force fighter jet. The City of Winnipeg has a long, proud history in aviation manufacturing and, of course, as being the location of 17 Wing Canadian Forces Base.
The story of the Vegas Golden Knights is familiar to many engaged hockey fans and was the most anticipated NHL branding effort since, well, probably the previous expansion teams; perhaps even more so since it was “Vegas, baby!” and we expected a lot. Through the expansion process, we got to learn about the franchise owner, Bill Foley. Mr. Foley graduated from the United States Military Academy, known as, West Point. So, it is understandable that his NHL franchise’s business operations would fall under the parent company of Black Knights Sports and Entertainment LLC. Due to a variety of legal licencing and trademark issues the team could not be named the Black Knights. Instead, we were gifted with the Vegas Golden Knights, whose uniform does take certain cues from the Army Black Knights.
The use of black and gold colours is obvious (and I’m sure I’m not the only one who hopes that hints of VGK third jersey be a dazzle gold base!). The shield on which the knight’s helmet rests is also quite similar. It’s always a very fine line to walk for team names, logos, and colours when borrowing certain design cues while not infringing on copyrights; especially when the inspiration was so obvious and well-known as it is for the Golden Knights.
The third military-themed NHL team is the Columbus Blue Jackets, which is named after the color of the uniform worn by the Union side of the US Civil War. This year-2000 NHL expansion team name, logos, and uniforms were inspired by the fact that the city of Columbus, Ohio manufactured the Union Army’s blue coat uniforms and that the state provided the most soldiers of any state for the Union side of the war. The team’s current alternate jersey features a Civil War-era cannon in its logo.
Upon being purchased by Conn Smythe in 1927, the Toronto St. Pats, were promptly renamed the Toronto Maple Leafs to honour Canada’s Great War soldiers. Although Canada’s internationally revered flag that features a bright red maple leaf did not exist until 1965 Canadian soldiers had long-worn a symbolic maple leaf on their uniforms and was also etched into headstones of fallen soldiers going back to the 1850s. This, of course, is years before the Confederation of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867 (the date recognized as the “birth” of the country).
In addition to current teams’ connections to military there are numerous NHL players over history who also served their countries in active duty. I believe I share the thoughts of most Canadians when I say that we are most proud of our openness, diversity, and inclusivity; the freedoms fought for and protected by our current and former servicemen and women; and the great game of hockey that we happily share with the world.
So, if you are thinking about adding a jersey to your collection you may want to honour one of those distinguished players who served their country and their team. And, remember that every time you go home or to the rink, crack a beverage and enjoy watching a hockey game, it is because of the sacrifices of these great men and women of the past and today. Whenever you get a chance, thank a veteran for their service. Lest we forget.
For more information, the connections and history between hockey and the Canadian military, visit: https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/hockey-canadian-military
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