Commentary

DeCock: New Canes uniforms sever a link to Stanley Cup

ldecock@newsobserver.comJune 4, 2013 

— Eric Staal’s modeling career to this point consisted of an odd fashion spread in GQ, wearing a fedora and eating a birthday cake. Now he can add runway work to his resume, giving his teammates a sneak preview of the Carolina Hurricanes’ new uniforms late in the season.

Those jerseys were unveiled to the public on Tuesday, a cleaner look that discards and simplifies much of the striping, updates the lettering and moves the old warning-flag trim across the bottom to a hidden spot inside the collar. The logo and the colors are the same, the look considerably updated.

There’s no question the team’s old look was busy and dated. The new jerseys are clean and simple and modern. Mission accomplished there.

“I think they look sharp, a little bit sharper,” Staal said. “I’m ready to move on. Obviously, winning the Stanley Cup in the old jersey is something you’ll never forget and you’ll always remember, but it’s been a while since that point. I’m looking forward to being able to do it again, hopefully in this new jersey.”

If there’s an issue with the new look, it’s that it’s so simple it veers dangerously close to generic and anonymous. Tear off the (much smaller but otherwise unchanged) logo on the front, and there’s nothing to indicate it’s a Hurricanes jersey at all. You could just as easily slap on a maple leaf for Team Canada, or any other logo for that matter – especially the home reds with the lacing at the neck, a tradition for other teams but not one associated with the Hurricanes until Tuesday.

The old sweaters, love them or hate them, were unmistakably Hurricanes sweaters. That’s been lost, the price of progress on other fronts.

This is less about aesthetics, though, than philosophy.

Some organizations pick a look and stick with it until it becomes iconic. That includes the Detroit Red Wings, the franchise the Hurricanes are modeled upon more than any other. Others tinker with the trends, blowing this way or that in the wind.

The old look wasn’t cutting edge, but they won a Stanley Cup wearing it. That should mean something, especially to a team that likes to sell 15 years of history like it’s 15 decades of history. (“Our team, our tradition.”) Instead, they just made the greatest moment in franchise history retro.

The Hurricanes maintain merchandising profit wasn’t the motive behind the redesign, but at a time when the team’s performance on the ice isn’t much of a selling point, ticket prices and parking fees are skyrocketing. Even if it isn’t deliberate, putting a bunch of new jerseys on the shelves feels like another move to squeeze every possible penny out of the fan base.

(If the Hurricanes miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year, they’ll offer to hit fans over the head with a crowbar for $20. Discounts for season-ticket holders.)

The black alternate jerseys remain unchanged and the banners in the ceiling, honoring the retired jerseys of Ron Francis and Glen Wesley and Rod Brind’Amour, will be left untouched. They’ll still have the old letters and numbers and the warning-flag strip running across the bottom.

“They wore those jerseys,” Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said. “They should be retired like that.”

Still, unless the product on the ice improves, this is all superficial. The real issue facing the Hurricanes isn’t the jerseys they wear. It’s who wears them. When people clamored for a new look for the franchise, this isn’t what they meant.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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