Out of all the issues currently plaguing the Vancouver Canucks on the ice, one remains largely oblivious to fans primarily focused on the team’s performance.
This isn’t about the unreliable defence, or J.T. Miller’s future with the team. The issue I’m talking about is the uniforms.
The Canucks’ current home and road uniforms are a Frankenstein creation of sorts, combining elements from different eras of the team’s history.
The blue and green base originated from the team’s uniforms in the 1970s, while the orca logo was first introduced in 1997. While combining these two looks doesn’t sound like a terrible idea, the Canucks have failed to look at how the logo and uniforms work to form a cohesive identity.
The navy, silver, and white orca logo sits on top of a blue and green backdrop. This look didn’t work well when it was first introduced in 2007, and 15 years later, it’s appalling that the Canucks still haven’t fixed such a basic disconnect in the team’s brand.
No other NHL team uses different colour palettes for their logos and uniforms. This doesn’t make sense for any reason, but it does highlight the Canucks’ historic identity crisis.
Watching a Canucks game live or on television, one thing stands out. Looking across the stands, you won’t see a unified colour or style of jerseys being worn by fans, like Calgary’s “C of red.” Instead, you see a discombobulated rainbow of jersey designs, spanning the team’s 52-year history.
Every era of Canucks hockey has had different uniforms. The team began play in 1970 with classic, simple blue and green uniforms with the stick-in-rink logo. Then came the infamous flying V, worn during the team’s improbable run to the 1982 Stanley Cup Final.
The flying skate, arguably the most popular jersey design in franchise history, was worn by players like Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure in the 1994 playoffs. The skate eventually gave way to the navy, silver, and maroon orca.
In 2007, the first edition of the look currently worn on the ice was introduced. On this version, the stick-in-rink shoulder patches were blue, and the front of the jersey was adorned by an atrocious “VANCOUVER” wordmark.
The 2007 redesign may have been the team’s worst, due to unnecessary elements and a failure to use one colour scheme for the design as a whole.
Yet, the most successful era of Canucks hockey was seen in these uniforms, capped off by back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies, and a trip to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Each decade of Canucks hockey has created and developed a new generation of fans. No other sports team boasts such an illustrious, visual history.
At the same time, constant identity changes are a sign of chronic trial-and-error in the team’s branding.
Adidas had a chance to fix this when they took over as manufacturer for the NHL’s uniforms in 2017. They squandered it. Some minor changes were made for the team’s 50th anniversary in 2019, which included dropping the wordmark and recolouring the shoulder patch. These were improvements, but they failed to address the visual eyesore: the logo.
The orca logo was introduced at the onset of arguably the darkest period in Canucks history. Mark Messier and Mike Keenan were brought in with the goal of leading the team back to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to have the Canucks become basement-dwellers for much of the late-1990s.
Eventually, the orca saw success. First with the West Coast Express line in the early-2000s, and later with the 2011 team.
But recently, the orca was the symbol of Jim Benning’s team, who made the playoffs twice in seven seasons.
With the Canucks turning things over to a new management regime in the middle of last season, a new era began in Vancouver. It begs the question: is it time for the Canucks to make another uniform change?
If you ask me, the Canucks should absolutely not attempt another full redesign. They’ve simply done too many in their history, and should work with what they have available. They have two options: recolour the orca to match the uniform colours, or bring back the flying skate as the primary logo.
Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has hinted at potentially modifying the orca logo. That’s an easy fix, but there is certainly a case to be made for promoting the skate uniforms.
Following a 7-1 win over the Calgary Flames this February, in which the team wore the black skate uniforms, Canucks players praised the uniforms. Some players even called for the team to bring them back permanently.
Then again, the newer generation of Canucks fans has grown up watching them play in blue and green, with the mismatched orca on the front. This is an appropriate colour combination for a west coast team, and the orca is a great symbol for the Vancouver area. But this look still isn’t perfect.
The orca needs to integrate blue and green as prominent colours. If the Canucks do this, and wear the skate more often during the season, their on-ice look will be upgraded.
With the NHL and Adidas parting ways following the 2023-24 season, one can wonder if the Canucks will take this as an opportunity to fix these longstanding issues in their identity.
No matter who takes over as manufacturers of the league’s uniforms, the Canucks need to change up their look. They definitely don’t need a whole rebrand, just some minor adjustments.
Although, in the odd chance that the Canucks do bring back the skate uniforms full-time, I’m sure not many people would complain.