The NHL’s new uniform system is officially being unveiled today in Dallas, where the All-Star Game will be played later this week. But a small pre-unveiling event was held last Wednesday in New York, for media members who wouldn’t be in Dallas.
The Wednesday event was embargoed, meaning attendees had to agree beforehand not to disclose any information until 2pm today. Now that the embargo is over, here’s a peek at what went down:
Where was the event held?
In a back room at Aquavit, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan.
Was there food?
Enough shrimp to keep George Costanza very happy, and enough langoustines to keep me very happy. Plus some fruit and stuff, but c’mon, who wants free fruit?
How many media people attended?
Not many. There was a guy from Crain’s, a guy from a sporting goods trade magazine, a guy from Sports Illustrated, a few other people whose affiliations I didn’t get, and myself. All the regular hockey beat writers will presumably be at the Dallas event.
Who else was there?
About half a dozen people from the NHL (including Commissioner Gary Bettman and Executive VP Brian Jennings), maybe half a dozen more from Reebok (including Reebok CCM/Hockey prexy Matt O’Toole), defenseman John-Michael Liles from the Colorado Avalanche, and a few people with cameras.
Isn’t Liles injured?
Yeah, but they flew him in just for this event, so he could give the players’ perspective (or at least his perspective) on the new unis. He wore a suit but had a soft cast on his left leg, with the Avs’ logo emblazoned on the cast. An NHL official later told me that Liles had been stopped several times in the Denver airport by people who wanted to know where they could get their own Avs-branded cast.
So what actually happened?
There were some introductory remarks by Gary Bettman, then some remarks by Reebok’s Matt O’Toole (who at one point said, “There’s never been a major professional sports league that’s changed all 30 teams’ uniforms en masse,” to which I immediately thought, “Yeah, and there’s probably a good reason for that”), and then a short video explaining the features of the new uniforms. After that, John-Michael Liles and the NHL’s Brian Jennings took questions from the audience. Then Liles had to leave, at which point we were all free to mingle and address questions to whoever we could corner.
What sorts of questions got asked?
Most of the other media people asked business-related questions (how much will the new jerseys retail for, that sort of thing), and I kept asking really detail-oriented questions like, “Will the Red Wings’ nameplates still have vertically arched lettering?” Afterward, I was asking one of the Reebok guys if the Blackhawks’ logo would still be chain-stitched, and Brian Jennings, who was standing nearby, looked at me and said, “Who are you anyway?” When I told him, he said, “Oh, right — that guy.”
What did Liles have to say?
Basically, he said he really liked the new unis, which was no surprise — they wouldn’t have flown him out there otherwise. But he seemed very genuine and sincere. The most interesting thing he said was that the new uniforms weren’t as snug as the ones he wore during the Olympics (which were made by Nike, although he didn’t say that). “The socks at the Olympics were noticeably tighter — too tight,” he said.
Did they have any live human beings wearing the new uniforms?
No. They had two mannequins — one dressed up in the Eastern Conference All-Star uni, facing front, and one wearing the Western Conference design, facing backward.
Were there any live demonstrations?
At one point Brian Jennings took one of the new jerseys, stretched it out over his lap, and poured a glass of water onto it, so we could see how it repelled water. Sure enough, the water rolled right off of it (“just like after you Turtle Wax your car,” as Jennings put it). Another NHL exec later told me, “He’s been dying to do that trick all day.”
Weren’t they supposed to show the individual team uniforms, not just the All-Star designs?
That’s what I had assumed, and of course I was disappointed when that turned out not to be the case. To be fair, nobody at the NHL ever specifically said that the new team designs would be unveiled, and many fans — myself included — were probably guilty of getting ahead of themselves in terms of their expectations. But there’s no getting around the fact that the league has been making a big fuss over the introduction of “the new uniforms,” and it’s hard to see how that fuss is justified when all they’ve shown us so far is some new fabrics, a slightly slimmer silhouette, and the All-Star designs.
So are you saying the NHL intentionally misled everyone?
No. But I think they may have botched the PR aspect of all this by sending mixed or muddled messages about what was in store.
Was there a goodie bag?
Upon leaving, we were each given a box containing a couple of press releases that summarized most of what we’d just been told, a really cool little booklet full of very Uni Watch-ish info, and an Eastern Conference All-Star jersey about 17 sizes too large.
Can I have the jersey?