Hockey Canada unveiled their new hockey jerseys for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on Tuesday. The jerseys – which feature the classic red and white home and away colours as well as a new black third jersey – will be worn by Team Canada’s men’s, women’s and sledge hockey teams. The home jersey is primarily red with a white band across the chest and left sleeve, while the away jersey features the inverse colours. Both have a stem-less maple leaf with “Canada” written beneath it. The third jersey, black, red and gold, has the country’s name written across the chest. Canada will be the only team at Sochi with an alternate jersey.
The show Hockey Canada put on matched the excitement level all the alumni shared. Flashing lights, spotlights and music introduced a group of youth hockey players, who skated around the Maple Leaf Garden ice showing off the jerseys.
Nike creative designer Ken Black was eager to share all the innovation that went into the new jerseys. He explained that the jerseys are made with new Nike FLYWIRE technology, making them 15 percent lighter than any other jersey. Furthermore, the jerseys are partially made from recycled water bottles. The jerseys are modelled after team Canada’s 1920 and 1972 jerseys, which were much plainer than more recent jerseys. Black explained that previous jerseys were really busy, and that they “took away from the team and the country,” so they chose to design a more classic look. Each jersey has 12 gold stars inside it, symbolizing the 12 gold medals Canada has won in hockey.
“We designed the jerseys with an athlete-first mentality,” Black said of the design. Functionality and aesthetics played a major part in the design, meaning they want their athletes to have a complete range of motion while benefitting psychologically from “looking good – if you look good you feel good”.
Many Team Canada alumni were on hand to give their thoughts on the jerseys and playing for their country. Jean Labonte and Jennifer Botterill, decorated sledge hockey and women’s hockey players respectively – were MCs for the event. Marcel Aubut – the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee – spoke passionately about the effect hockey has on our nation.
“It’s not only a jersey but a symbol that unifies our great nation,” Aubut said of the new kits. “It symbolizes passion, excitement and the expectations that Sochi.”
Aubut – which in French means ‘to the net’ – also referenced Roch Carrier’s famous children’s book “The Hockey Sweater,” which is about a young boy who orders a Habs jersey but receives a Leafs jersey instead. Aubut did not talk about how this would put any good Habs fan into cardiac arrest, but the effect that jerseys and hockey in general have on Canadians. Aubut was proud to say that “In Canada, hockey and the concept of the jersey are an integral parts of our DNA. Once every four years, something special happens that unites all hockey fans from coast to coast.”
It isn’t often that an Oilers fan will be on the same side of the bar as a Flames fan, or a Senators fan high fives a Leafs fan after a goal. Hockey conjures some incredibly intense emotions, and in a country where hockey is everything, Team Canada’s success will take center stage during the Winter Olympics in Sochi. All the alumni in attendance stressed the honour it was to put on a Team Canada hockey jersey because of the incredible support this nation gives its hockey teams.
Guest alumni Joe Nieuwendyk, Paul Rosen and Cheryl Pounder, all of whom won gold medals for Team Canada at various levels, talked about how proud they were every time they put on the jersey. Nieuwendyk said there was “A special feeling knowing the entire country will be watching.” All three said they loved the jerseys, with Rosen calling them “Canadian; simply classic.”
The jerseys had recently taken heat for looking like the Petro-Canada logo and in some minds looking too plain. But these jerseys were never meant to be flashy; they were meant to be lightweight, throwback jerseys that remind Canadians of our proud hockey history. At the end of the day, these are only the jerseys, and if Team Canada comes out with a gold medal performance, nobody will look back and say, “But their jerseys were so ugly!”
As Aubut said, this is merely “…the start of a great adventure.” 47 players were invited to Canada’s orientation camp in August, and there are enough all-stars there to build two Stanley Cup calibre teams. With a healthy mix of veteran and young offensive talents, a solid core of defenseman and a competitive mix of goalies, expectations will be as high as ever for Canada to come home with gold. Especially after Sidney Crosby’s ‘golden goal’ sealed Canada’s gold medal in Vancouver in 2010. One thing is certain: as Jean Labonte said, “The jerseys look great, but they’ll look better with a gold medal.”
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