Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Penguins 2011 Winter Classic jersey

The "Frankenjersey" (as described by Empty Netters via Puck Daddy)
So here we are, at the original impetus of this blog -- this jersey.

Now, before I begin ripping this apart (and thus start welcoming the "jus jellus" remarks), I'd like to clarify that I have nothing against the Penguins as a team. Yes, I've said before that I'd like to set a good portion of their fans on fire and watch them run around while I'm eating popcorn and laughing hysterically at their pain -- but I do NOT feel this way about the actual team. Hell, I love Sidney Crosby. And Kris Letang. And Brooks Orpik, even though he never ever blinks. So this isn't about me hating the team.

It's about me hating this jersey. Which is what I'm about to explain right now.

So, even though this jersey has been referred to as a "Frankenjersey" -- "a kind of mish-mash of older Penguins' jerseys from the 1970s," according to Empty Netters -- I see one prevailing design from which this jersey was obviously based.

This is the original Pittsburgh Penguins jersey from the team's inaugural season (1967-68). Here's the jersey modeled by United Fund's Miss Torch, Karen Antkiewicz:

And you thought the objectification of women in hockey started with the Ice Girls.
(Picture from

As you can see, this original jersey was the template of the new Winter Classic jersey, right down to the font used for the numbers on the back.

To the front of this jersey, they've added the original "fat penguin" logo, which was only featured on pucks and letterheads during the inaugural season, according to

(Picture from

The colors might have been changed to reflect the team's colors during the 1970s, but the design of the logo remains essentially the same.

So that explains the history behind the design. As you can see, it's a bit more thought-out than one would have originally surmised. There is potential here for a slick, retro design.

Then why does the execution of the design seem so shoddy? Well, there are a few reasons.

Honestly, the way the colors are used on the new design just looks wrong. In the original version of the jersey, the baby blue is the prevalent color, while the darker blue was used as an accent. Now, I do understand why they didn't go for that color scheme...

(Picture taken from a Google Search. If it belongs to you, let me know.)

Why design something so similar to their 2008 Winter Classic jersey? I get it. At the end of the day, the Penguins want to sell jerseys, and how better to sell jerseys than creating an all-new jersey just in time for the holidays? (Go to and order yours today!)

However, reversing the color scheme and making the baby blue the accent color is akin to "wearing dark pantyhose with light-colored shoes." (TM my friend Lisa) It just makes everything look off to the casual viewer. The stripes now look like tourniquets. The drop shadows used for the font on the back now look lost against the white numbers.

And about those numbers. Now, I'm not much of a traditionalist when it comes to jerseys. I don't feel that all fonts should be squared-off and hard edged, and I also feel that there's room for softer, rounder fonts on sports jerseys. Honestly, it's not the actual font I have a problem with. It's that the size of the numbers is just too damn big. Go back and look at that 87 up there. The numbers are just about touching the stripes at the bottom, and that throws the design out of balance for me. I understand that, back in the day, the numbers could be that large -- why? No nameplates. Get rid of the "Crosby" on the back of that jersey, move the numbers up, and you've got a design that's almost salvageable.

But who wants a Crosby jersey without his name on the back? So on goes the nameplate. The size of the the numbers, then, should have been made smaller to accommodate the nameplate -- but it doesn't seem like the size was changed at all.

And speaking of the nameplate -- that's where the real "Frankenstein" part of the jersey comes in for me. Instead of creating a custom nameplate that complements the number font, they just slapped a standard nameplate on there. I understand that it was probably done to save money, but it's just another thing that weakens the design.

My final judgement? This had the kernel of a good idea that got muddled in production. Many cooks were part of the creation of this broth, and you can see how that ends up.

And, as was mentioned in the Puck Daddy article I linked above -- there was a lost opportunity for tying the marketing of the team and the game with Heinz Field and the Pittsburgh Steelers. A black and gold jersey would seem like a no-brainer, and yet the jersey above is what the Penguins will be wearing when stepping out onto the ice on January 1st.

Maybe they didn't want people to confuse them with the Boston Bruins?

EDIT: Empty Netters brings up probably the best point about why the jersey is ultimately not a good one -- it lacks imagination. In any case, look for the Florida Panthers to copy this new jersey shamelessly for their new third jerseys in 2011.


  1. The number is HUGE. So is the chest logo (and not just referring to the penguin's belly). It looks crowded and strange.

    Since they already had the retro-baby-blue jersey, I too was hoping to see some kind of blend of the Penguins and a nod to Heinz/Steelers. Not that I could give a hoot about football, but sometimes, there's just an excellent opportunity for the ultra-obvious tie-in.

    Which do you think is the lesser of two evils, the Pens one or the WC Caps retro one?

  2. Oh but all that being said - I *love* the patch for the Pens/Caps winter classic. Beautifully done and nicely ties in the Pittsburgh elements into a really attractive logo.

  3. Crowded and strange -- that's exactly what my gut reaction to the design was. It's like you can almost see the behind-the-scenes meddling at work. "Can you make the logo bigger?" "Can you work this nameplate in here?" "Can we change the color scheme?"

    If I were forced to choose between this jersey and the Capitals' jersey, I'd probably give the nod to the Caps. Just barely, mind you. I mean, the Caps' jerseys are ugly -- but that was the history of the franchise for about three decades. Just one horrible jersey design after another up until three years ago. So at least there's an honesty behind that design. A terrible, hideous, god-awful honesty.

    The Penguins WC jersey, on the other hand, had the potential to be good. There are some strong designs from the last 40 years that they could have pulled from. Hell, look at their 2008 WC jersey. Say what you want about the color scheme, but the design was fantastic.

    And then this happened. Damn you, Penguins. Damn you to hell.

    The Winter Classic logo, however, is beautiful. Say what you want about the NHL, but they consistently knock it out of the park with their Winter Classic logos.

  4. Yeah, <3 the WC logo. *Almost* makes me wish I liked a Pens or Caps player enough to get a jersey to put it on.

    Maybe I will just get one and put it on my bulletin board full of other patches I have nowhere else to put.