Over the next few days, or maybe week or two, we here at The Lab will be suggesting things that we think could help the league. These won’t be pie-in-the-sky, go-four-on-four-all-the-time type bullshit, though we may suggest blowing up St. Louis just on general principle. We spend a lot of time around here tearing down. It’s time we tried to suggest how to build back up. Not that anyone ever listens to us. So let’s kick this pig…
As is always the case it seems, the NHL has been beaten to the punch by the NBA. As you might have seen, the NBA this year will have no “home” or “road” jerseys this season. Every team will have four to choose from, one of which will be white, and the home team will pick what they will wear first and the road team will have to then wear something that doesn’t clash. I’ve only been screaming for the NHL to do this for years, pretty much ever since the Leafs-Wings Winter Classic. And long before that.
But that doesn’t mean it’s too late for the NHL.
Cast your mind back to when the NHL decided to flip the darks to home jerseys instead of road. There were a couple reasons given for this, and no one’s quite sure on what the actual reason was. One was that white jerseys were outselling the dark ones because when people came to see games that’s what the the team they were supporting were wearing. So flipping them would cause the opposite to happen. Or it might have been the opposite and fans wanted to see their teams live in the jerseys they already had bought. Another reason was that with every team having a third jersey all of the sudden, and almost all of them being dark, and with those teams’ desires to wear them at home to promote them being bought, that road teams had to bring both sets of gear on the road with them and it was a giant pain in the ass. Double the number of jerseys, socks, and helmets, and whatever else flips between home and road.
While I don’t want to dismiss the concerns of equipment managers who spend every day of their lives in the stink of hockey and sleep maybe six hours over a whole season, I’m sure we can find a way to make this easier on them to the point where it’s doable.
Because even though the NBA is first through the door on this, it doesn’t mean hockey couldn’t do it better. Quite simply, hockey is the more visually stunning sport, especially since the advent of HD TV. Because it has the bright canvas of an ice sheet, where basketball still has the duller background of the hardwood (heh, hardwood).
If we go back to one of the main reasons the shootout was adopted, it was the NHL’s wish to give Sportscenter and the like a ready-made highlight. Something that should the casual viewer/flipper come across would at least make them pause. Something that would attract eyes from the bar to the TV above.
Well, let’s just imagine the Hawks and Stars playing. Red and green, against the backdrop of the ice, as the camera sweeps from one end to the others. The colors pop, they contrast each other and make each other stand out. Whose eyes wouldn’t be drawn to that?
While it’s been some time since I’ve bought the EA game, I would get a huge kick before every game out of picking which uni I would throw out there. Home whites? Throwbacks? Thirds? I know I’m not the only one. Fans of all sports love variety. Hell, I got a perverse kick when the Bears would break out the orange, and those were hideous. Or when they would wear white at home for the home opener (back when I actually cared about the Bears). Just because it was different.
Because like football used to be, all games at the United Center are just red vs. white. While this has the benefit of the snow and size of the stadium, look at how much cooler this looks:
Now imagine how much better Flyers-Rangers, which you’re going to see 85 times on NBCSN this year, looks with orange vs. blue? Avalanche-Predators could be wonderful, or awful, but it would look like nothing else. How much better would Flames-Oilers have been if they both wore their dark throwbacks instead of the woeful orange the Oilers are adopting and whatever it is the Flames do these days? Islanders-Devils?
Have the Hawks have their red, their white, and for the love of God bring back the fucking barber poles!
This is a simple change, and one that I think could make a bigger difference than it first appears.