Friday, 28 June 2013

Logos Gone Loco: Part II of My NHL Entry Draft Analysis

Yesterday's post criticized the logo being used for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. While I generally think that the NHL's selection fails to represent New Jersey's people and culture adequately, it is nevertheless superior to many logos that the league has used in the past.

Here's a list of the worst draft logos in NHL history (complete with some notes on the history of the draft itself!).

NOTE: These logos have not been altered; they are real designs used (or intended to be used) in real drafts.

The Flawed Designs

The NHL has become a major entertainment enterprise, but it wasn't always so successful. Taking a look at logos from past drafts helps us to appreciate the humble roots of this sports empire.

Take, for example, the hastily composed logo for the 1989 draft in Minnesota.

Maybe design was a lot less ambitious back then, but it would take a person less than two minutes to create this promotional material using MS Paint today. The placement of the NHL's and Minnesota North Stars' logos are, at best, minimalist and, at worst, indifferent to putting any effort into making the draft look cool.

Also, what's going on with the text and format of this poster? Shouldn't it be "1989 Annual Congress AND Entry Draft?" Why is the location formatted as "Minnesota, Minneapolis" instead of "Minneapolis, Minnesota" under the title? Why is the NHL's logo a registered trademark but not Minnesota's?

I should note that this underachieving logo was the first (at least the earliest that I could find) used to promote the draft to a wide audience. I guess the league's marketing department felt that it was best to set the bar low, but draft logos didn't improve quickly after that.

This logo appears to be the most egalitarian in the history of the draft because it uses the symbol of the NHL as well as the logo of each team. The only problem with that utopian reading of this design is that the symbol of the New York Rangers is placed above all the other teams and is noticeably larger than the others. 

Why did the NHL decide to proclaim that the Rangers were above all the other teams? They couldn't have been giving a special shout-out to the host city as this draft was held in Montreal. They weren't acknowledging the Rangers as the team with the top pick in the draft: that honour belonged to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. So why elevate the Rangers over everyone else?

What's even stranger is that the NHL didn't have to put the Rangers at the apex of this arc. While most of the teams are in alphabetical order, the LA Kings are placed right after the Edmonton Oilers and before the Hartford Whalers. If the league didn't object to screwing up the order slightly, why not put the host city at the top instead of the New York Rangers? 

Feel free to share any explanations for this oddity; I may use them to develop another episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

The League Leaks Its Megalomaniacal Scheme

The 1992 draft began a trend of incorporating the globe into promotional materials. Here are a few examples:

This design, used from 1993-1998, omitted team logos. Instead of acknowledging the host team, the ads simply announced the host city. The "world as puck bursting through the text" visual became an unfortunate design choice in one instance (pictured below).

Based on this regrettable use of colour, the 1998 event should have been called the "NHL Exit Wound Draft."

If studying propaganda has taught me anything, it's that depictions of the world in state-sponsored or commercial art always has some ideological import. In the famous "Armada Portrait" of Elizabeth I, the queen's hand is placed over North America on a globe as the Spanish Armada is destroyed in the background. Critics have long interpreted this to be a sign of England's attempt to exert more influence in the New World after defeating the Spanish.

So what does the NHL's use of the globe mean? There's no telling exactly what magalomaniacal plans of Bond-villain proportions the league was machinating in the 90s. Perhaps they planned to brainwash prospects in order to create a regiment of super-soldiers that would colonize areas depicted in the logos in the name of the NHL. Or perhaps the NHL was merely leaking the areas that it planed to target when next relocating old and/or creating new franchises.

Whatever may have been their intent, the league quickly dropped this practice and instead used logos that showed a blank globe.
Did the blank globe mean that the NHL was wiping megalomaniacal plans off its agenda? Or was the league merely hiding its plans in plain sight by lulling the world into believing that it didn't harbour such autocratic aspirations?

Star-Spangled Logos

The logo used for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft continues a longstanding tradition of incorporating stars into designs for the draft (regardless of whether or not stars have anything to do with the host team). 

If I owned the Dallas Stars, I'd consider suing the host teams for appropriating my team's iconography. It wouldn't be okay for teams to include ducks, jets, or lumberjacks in other draft logos, so why is it okay to use stars as though Dallas had no exclusive claim to its own symbols?

Here are a couple other examples of teams that have shamelessly ripped off Dallas' namesake.

Not only does this logo appear nearly fall-down drunk, but it's also propelling the puck with an elongated part of its body that appears to protrude from where we'd imagine the leaf's groin would be if it were a person. I assume that we are supposed to assume that this leaf is humanoid since leaves and other flora are incapable of playing hockey. 

So, if you owned the Dallas Stars, would you be cool with your team's symbol being tattooed to this lewd leaf? 

While Toronto's logo denigrates Dallas' namesake, at least it's more upfront than Florida's similar misappropriation of the Stars' nickname.
Nice try, Florida, but you're not slipping this one by us. We all know that Earth's sun is actually a star. Florida's self-consciously cute attempt to get away with copyright infringement makes this logo an even worse slap in the face for Dallas!

Of course, other patterns that the NHL tried to use to promote the draft were problematic. Here's one of the earliest logos used.

Maybe it's just me, but inverted monochromatic triangles always make me think of symbols used to designate internees at Nazi concentration camps. 

 It's probably best that the NHL ruffles Dallas' feathers by using stars in their logos than reviving geometric shapes used by the Nazis.  

Teams Using Logos to Lash Out Against the NHL

Some logos suggest that the draft is a celebration of the host's team rather than what it means for the league as a whole: an absurdly glamorized way for the NHL as a business to take inventory.

Problems with the team-first approach to draft logos may explain why this year's logo does not specifically refer to the New Jersey Devils. Here are some examples good logos gone bad.

A. Infighting Between the Ottawa Senators and NHL

This logo appeals well to Senators fans. If you support the Black, Red, and Yellow, you probably have some affinity for Ottawa itself. This logo celebrates that connection between the team and its host city by featuring the Peace Tower prominently. By incorporating Canada's parliament building, this logo also bolsters the notion that the Sens are Canada's team because they are located in the nation's capital and are closely associated with Canada's nationalistic architecture. 

Ottawa's franchise subtlly express dominance over the NHL as a whole in this logo by enveloping the league's symbol with the Senators' chevron pattern. I actually find this logo to be quite tasteful and effective if only because it improves upon the embarrassing logo that Ottawa was going to use for the 2005 draft.

Due to the 2004-05 lockout, the league had to scale back the draft. This downgrading of the event included cancelling plans to hold it at Ottawa's Corel Centre (later known as Scotiabank Place; now known as Canadian Tire Centre;* and possibly soon to be known as the Roll Up the Rim Arena).

To reflect that change, the league quickly developed this soulless, bland logo that epitomized the doom and gloom that plagued hockey fans after the canceled season.
If it were up to me, I would have added "rink wraiths" to this logo: ghastly depictions of Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Felix Potvin, and other players who were denied their final season before retirement would stare hauntingly at the viewer from this logo.

The Sens should consider the lockout that spoiled their draft party as a blessing because it gave them ample time to reconsider their logo. Here's what was going to be used to promote the festivities in 2005.

At first glance, this logo just looks like a slightly less refined version of the one used in 2008. There's no Peace Tower, which diminishes the logo's Ottawa-ness, but the bigger problem with this design involves the misshapen maple leaf at the top.

Did the designer intend for this logo to appear as though the NHL was engulfed in flames? If so, was that an eerie coincidence that just happened to foreshadow the disastrous NHL lockout? Alternatively, did the Senators propose this design to express their Guy Fawkesian desire to burn down the oppressive regime that would ruin an entire season for the sake of the salary cap? 

The only other canceled season in NHL history happened due to the "Spanish Flu" pandemic, so it's not surprising that a team might use a subversive logo to voice anger at the pecuniary plague that killed the 2004-05 season.

While this logo suggests some hostility toward the NHL, it also offers a rather humiliating representation of the Sens themselves. If you noticed the partial appearance of the Sens logo on the left side of the image, you're probably wondering where the rest of the Roman General's face is. Did he fail to keep his head up and subsequently collide face-first into the draft logo? 

Perhaps the NHL chose to deface the Sens' symbol as a response to the design's Guy Fawkes theme. Indeed, if you take another look at this logo, you'll see that it's designed as a struggle between the NHL and Senators to dominate the image. The colours in the rink portion of the picture are the NHL's grey and black rather than (as in the 2008 logo) the Sens' black and red. Furthermore, while the Sens' chevrons are besieging the NHL, their exemplar's attempt to take a run at the league has ended with a fatal concussion since his face appears to have been caved in.  

Perhaps the Sens and NHL put their differences aside after the lockout and symbolized their renewed cordiality by placing the Peace Tower at the top of this logo. This symbol is particularly significant as replaces the Sens' Fawkesian hostility with the Canadian equivalent of the object that Fawkes tried to destroy. 

So there you have it: these three logos offer the story of the conflict and eventual reconciliation between the NHL and the Sens.   

B. The Columbus Blue Jackets Host the 2007 Draft

The most recent defiance of the old saying that there is no "i" in "league" comes from the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose logo for the 2007 draft seems, at first, to be whisking the NHL logo away with it. The swooping motion implied by how the words are designed suggests that Columbus is swinging on a vine and, after saying "Me Tarzan, you Jane" to the NHL's symbol, taking the league on an adventure in the jungles of Ohio.

However, that romanticized (and somewhat chauvinistic) representation of the relationship between Columbus and the league as a whole is merely a facade. If you probe this logo's meaning further, you'll see that it is like a menacing revision of the "suicide king" found in decks of cards.

Take a look at Columbus' star: see how that one point seems to be driven through the NHL's logo? Did the designer intend to impale the league on the symbol of its newest franchise? That seems to be the case as the skewered symbol of the league seems to be pouring forth blood that turns into the banner announcing the draft.

So is this logo trying to suggest that the NHL made a fatal mistake by giving Columbus an expansion franchise, or did the Blue Jackets propose a design that subtly expressed its baseless hatred of the league as a whole?

If the Blue Jackets approved this hostile logo, it wouldn't surprise me to discover one day that the team had defected to the KHL. Here's what I imagine their new logo would look like: 

The Blue Jackets were named after soldiers who fought for the North during the American Civil War. To continue this tradition of naming themselves after the victors of brutally divisive conflicts, the relocated franchise will rename itself as the Columbus Soviets.


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