Monday, September 20, 2010

A little perspective on the slug's life.

In a discussion on SabreSpace, I started thinking about the timing of the events in the slugs life. We all know that Reebok played a big role in the design of the slug as part of their vision (which has never been fully embraced by the NHL) for re-branding the league. How much, we'll never know and it's not really an excuse; the Sabres could have and should have said no. However, here, I'm concerned with what happened after. Here's my guess at what happened:

- The Sabres decided that with the new jersey system, they would switch back to the blue and gold for the 2006-07 season, which most fans would agree was a good thing. (Note: that decision likely had to be made long before the 2005-06 playoffs, so it probably wasn't done to cash in on the team's popularity.)

- With "help" from Reebok, they designed and released the slug jerseys, which were met with immediate criticism. Also released, though in "surprisingly" delayed and limited quantities, was a throwback third. That jersey was very popular.

- (Speculation) After seeing the response to the three jerseys (not to mention being under fire after July 1, 2007), they probably realized that they needed to make a change. The league has minimum times for changes, so there would have been some time before the switch no matter what. They also knew that they had a 40th coming up in three seasons.

- Sometime during the 2007-08 season, they decided to release a throwback third in 2008-09 and began working on the design. These things aren't immediate in decision or design, so when you think about when it came out and how long the process takes, this decision was made shortly (one season) after the slug's release. This jersey would be worn for nearly half of the home games for the next two seasons.

- Two years later, the switch is completed with the release of the corresponding whites (and a non-slug third) as part of the 40th season celebration.

So, it seems reasonable that they realized their mistake very early on. They made the decision to start the process as early as the league allowed, but chose to delay completing the process a season (maybe two, depending on how quickly the league would have allowed for switching the second jersey) to correspond with an upcoming important and appropriate (since they are a return to the original logo) franchise event. If that really is the case, then despite the pain of watching the slug for a couple of seasons (nothing excuses its release in the first place), it's hard to criticize them for the time it took to switch.

1 comment:

dave in Rocha said...

I agree wholeheartedly, for the most part. You can tell that they had an "oh shit, they don't like it" revelation from the moment they said they would be wearing the old royal blues as 3rds right from the get-go. Obviously they scrambled to ease the reaction, and using a uniform that was part of the team's past was the easiest way to do it (both from a "The fans will like it" and a "The league will approve it" point of view).

And yes, given the fact that the 2nd year of the slug was the year in which the whole league went to the new sweaters (remember, there were no 3rds for anyone that year), you can effectively chalk it up as a lost year for making the change. Perhaps they could have rolled out the new stuff last year, but it wouldn't shock me if the league told them to wait one more.

One part where I slightly disagree is in the genesis of the slug in the first place. You assert that the team could have and should have put their foot down and told Reebok to F Off. True, they could have, but I think that would have been tougher to do than we think. I remember all the buzz going into the summer of 2007 was that the plan for 2008 was that EVERYONE would get an entirely new look to go with the new sweaters. Gone would be the classic looks of the Blackhawks, Red Wings, etc. All logos were going to be swooshy and compact, just like the slug and the current Ducks logo. Now if that was a league directive it would be awfully tough to go against it. It seems to me that the only reason that got shot down was because the other 28 teams went through the redesign process together a year later. If you're the league, it's one thing if two teams bitch about the proposed new look one year, but it's an entirely different thing if you have the Habs/Leafs/Bruins/Devils/Flyers/etc bitching about it en mass the next. Obviously without being privy to the closed-door negotiations we'll never know for sure, but that's how my gut tells me things played out.

But holy lord will they ever look good starting now...