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Remembering the PIFL

IFL helmets 550

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By Phil Hecken

You fine readers will remember a post I had done with John Pulsinelle, which looked at football helmets with “fire” designs over the years. At the time, John had mentioned he had a few ideas for articles involving professional football — and he’s back today with a really great piece which looks at the logos (and helmets/uniforms) of a defunct league. Not only that, he spoke with the designer of the logos for that league. Click on the logos below to see them full-size. Enjoy!

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Designing Logos for the PIFL
By John Pulsinelle

Combine my lifelong enthusiasm for sports with my daughter’s career and passion for commercial and graphic arts and whammo! The idea for this article was sparked.

Imagine a job where you are requested to develop and design logos for nearly an entire professional league. Well neither my daughter nor I got that job but let me tell you about a guy who did. I’ve had the privilege of meeting, via email, Brian Oesch. He is an incredibly talented and ambitious graphic designer and illustrator, located in Western Michigan.

Brian shared that he’s always wanted to include sports logo design in his portfolio and he began his journey observing the logos of the PIFL (Professional Indoor Football League). The PIFL was formed in late 1997, and began the first season of play in 1998. Brian believed “the quality of the logos could be improved” and decided to contact each and every team in the league to offer his services. Given this was his first larger scale attempt in sports, his portfolio mailer was somewhat limited to the High School helmet logo he inspired, and various concept logos for fictitious teams. His only reply (which proved to be key) came from Keary Ecklund, owner of both the Green Bay Bombers and Madison Mad Dogs franchises.

In only its second season, the league was off to a shaky start and many of the teams were in serious financial trouble. With forfeited games, and folding franchises, the PIFL essentially split into two leagues. Keary Ecklund maintained his teams and formed the IFL (Indoor Football League) with the remaining teams renaming the league to the IPFL (Indoor Professional Football League).

It was at that point that the fun and creative energy began for Brian. Although he wouldn’t call his experience with the IFL a typically professional one, never actually getting to meet Keary Ecklund. Correspondence was rather “quick and casual” via phone or email and the “majority of logos went from concept to completion very quickly”. In fact, he created the IFL’s first team logo of the Duluth Lumberjacks from idea to completion in a matter of hours.

2000 lumberjacks

Duluth Lumberjacks; the IFL’s initial team logo

Inspiration for team names and colors was also done quite swiftly. With the assumption that local fans already owned jerseys, tees, or hats for established local teams, “team colors were selected based on college or pro teams already in those areas.” The intention was to capitalize on the already established ”˜look’ in those areas. Examples were the color selections for the Dayton (Ohio) team with silver, red, and black to emulate the Buckeyes of Ohio State, and purple and gold for the Minnesota Purple Rage to mimic the NFL Vikings.

As far as the team naming, Mr. Ecklund was very specific with some of the franchises. In the case of the Black Hill Machine, “Mr. Ecklund wanted a motorcycle engine for the logo and the colors of orange and black because of the area ties to Harley Davidson”. Brian also provided support for team naming such as the Dayton franchise. He suggested Skyhawks to honor the rich, local history of aviation and the Wright Brothers.

ifl-skyhawks 02

2000 skyhawks
The above photo and logo captures the nearby Ohio State University color theme.

ifl-rage 01

2000 rage
The Minnesota Purple Rage design clearly influenced by the NFL Viking colors and logo

2000 machine

The Black Hills Machine captures the Harley Davidson influence

Following the 1999 season, the entire league was purchased by the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators. Two teams, the Lincoln Lightening and Peoria Pirates, as well as many players became part of the newly formed AF2 developmental league with IFL cities resurfacing with rebranded nicknames; i.e. Wichita Warlords later became the Wichita Stealth of the AF2.

I hope the readers enjoy getting this glimpse of ”˜behind the scene’ logo design, and are inspired by Brian’s experience to pursue your own passions. I am confident my daughter Corinne will be inspired.

Following are the remaining logos of the IFL teams; note, the Green Bay Bombers, Madison Mad Dogs, and Lincoln Lightning were established teams from the PIFL and are not included in the following graphics. My personal favorite is the logo Brian created for the Topeka Kings.

2000 warlords

2000 smash

2000 lumberjacks 2000 flames

2000 kings 2000 knights

2000 cobras 2000 cavalry

2000 bolts 2000 blaze

2000 attack 1999 pirates

2000 river rats 1999 freeze

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Thanks, John! Good stuff.

And here is the logo of the League and the “Gold Cup” logo:

IFL logo

Gold Cup logo

You can see all the logos, plus a few game action shots, in this album.

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classic scoreboards splash

Classic Ballpark Scoreboards

I’m pleased to continue with a favorite weekend feature here at Uni Watch, “Classic Ballpark Scoreboards,” which are created by Gary Chanko. You probably know Gary best for his wonderful colorizations, but he has been a solid contributor for many years, and this is his new project. This segment will appear every Saturday on Uni Watch.

Here’s Gary (click on image to enlarge):

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Classic Ballpark Scoreboards – Series II
by Gary Chanko

In this edition of Classic Scoreboards we return to Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C. In Series I, the Natty Boh billboard in left field was featured. Now let’s move over to right field for a look at the scoreboard.

Griffith Stadium II_UW

Griffith Stadium

Home of: Washington Senators (1911-1961), Washington Elite Giants (NNL) (1936”“1937), Homestead Grays (1940”“1948), Washington Black Senators (NNL) (1938), Washington Redskins (NFL) (1937-1960)
Opened: July 24, 1911
Last baseball game: September 21, 1961; Demolished: 1965

Originally called National Park (1911-1920), Griffith Stadium survived the Washington Senators for half a century before the wrecking ball arrived. You can grab a bit of that history in this short video, including a few quick glimpses of the scoreboard.

The original scoreboard, the history path is awfully vague, was located along the right field wall among the cluster of billboard ads. About 1946 a new scoreboard featuring the National Bohemian Beer ad made a first appearance.

This manually operated scoreboard remained essentially unchanged through the last game played at Griffith Stadium. The electronic AT BAT, STRIKE, BALL, and OUT displays were not part of the original installation. These were added, my guess, sometime in the early 50s.

This graphic recreates the scoreboard display for the 1956 All-Star game played on July 10. The game featured 25 players, including both managers, now enshrined in Cooperstown. The scoreboard shows the start of the bottom of the second with Mickey Mantle at bat – he struck out.

A Few Things to Know

• The entire scoreboard in right-center was in play, including the National Bohemian beer sign, shaped like a bottle, 56 feet above the playing field. I assume the Natty Boh character on the left side was also in play.

• Although the most famous case of All-Star Game ballot-stuffing occurred in 1957 in Cincinnati, the 1956 game with five Cincinnati Reds in the starting five is equally suspicious. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, and Duke Snider were all sitting on the national League bench!

• Future MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn began his baseball career during his youth as a dollar-a-day operator of the scoreboard.

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If anyone is interested in purchasing a digital copy of these posters, Gary is working on an online purchase option. In the interim you can contact him directly at

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And The Winner Is…

Polizzi, Ben - Indianapolis Drive Home

Polizzi, Ben - Indianapolis Drive Away

Polizzi, Ben - Indianapolis Drive Alt2 Polizzi, Ben - Indianapolis Drive Alt1

Ben Pollizi, whose design was voted the winner of the “Redesign the Rays” contest (you can see the final entries here).

Ben described his design as such:

It’s every Hoosier’s dream to have a Major League team in Indy. Take a look at a big league team with some racing flavor. Overall Description: All uniforms feature checkered trim on the right pant pocket and racing flags on the left sleeve. The alternate features checkered trim on the hat brim with a “finish line” stripe on the uniform/socks for a classic, clean look. Enjoy fellas.

Ben’s design took home the voting by a fairly comfortable margin (votes as of Friday, July 24 at 12:00 noon):

Rays Redesign final vote

Thanks again to all who participated and congratulations to Ben.

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all sport uni tweaks

Uni Tweaks Concepts

We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.

So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.

Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.

Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.

And so, lets begin:


First up today is Alfie Koetter who has these Clippers redesigns (which were sent in before the official rebrand, but not for Paul’s contest):

Clippers Home - Alfie Koetter

Clippers Road - Alfie Koetter

Clippers Alt - Alfie Koetter

Hey Phil & Paul,

Long time reader, first time submitter.

My mind has been blown by how mediocre the Clipper’s rebrand is. It looks more like a logo for the nba playoffs than it does for an actual NBA team.

I’ve always been into their semaphore alternate uniforms so I took a stab at playing with that for the sake of reimagine a set of clippers unis I would like to see on the court. I’ve attached jpgs of home, away, and alt unis for you if its of any interest.

Maybe they aren’t good but I sadly suspect that they will be better than whatever comes out of what is currently in the works for them.


. . .

And we close today with Daniel Carroll with some USA Baseball concepts:

2015 Home - Daniel Carroll

2015 Away - Daniel Carroll

2015 USA Home Detail - Daniel Carroll 2015 USA Cap Detail - Daniel Carroll


I’ve never been very happy with the uniforms USA Baseball wears during the World Baseball Classic — I feel like the uniform is a place where we could celebrate US Baseball History. To that end, I designed these uniforms, which draw inspiration from the Yankees, Tigers, and Dodgers.

Daniel J.J. Carroll

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And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.

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Li’l Help?

With August approaching, Paul will be taking his well-deserved sabbatical from the daily Uni Watch posts, and, as we’ve done the past six or seven years, I’ll be handling the content for the weekday posts.

If you’re interested in working with me for a uniform-related piece, I’m always looking for contributors. If you have an idea for a good uni-related story, shoot me an email:

Let me know if you’re interested and we’ll discuss the parameters!


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Uni Watch News Ticker:

Baseball News: Great photo from July 24, 1911: All-Stars pose at the Addie Joss Benefit Game. In the front row, Ty Cobb in a Cleveland Naps uniform! (thanks to Bruce Menard). … Check out this black baseball — for some possible background, check out the replies to this tweet from Tom. … Here’s a game I’m sure Paul is glad he didn’t see: a purple on purple in an amateur baseball playoff series Wednesday night in Lakefield, MN (thanks to Dan Condon). … Stefan Boehmer asks, “What better way to represent 1970 in Eugene than tie-dye jerseys?” … “Is stirrup Friday still a thing?” asks Kevin Dugal. “Added embroidery to our custom stirrups, happy with how they turned out. From the same team you mentioned a few weeks back — Oakridge Reds out of London, Ontario.” … “1976 White Sox Throw back Uniforms coming at the end of July?” asks Patrick Budny. “This hat just popped up on the team shop!!!! Now the question is will they wear shorts for warmups and batting practice?” … Check out the baseball and image of Utah in the Salt Lake Bees infield & outfield grass (from Cody). … Not as bad as purple vs. purple, but the Norfolk Tides and Durham Bulls both wore orange jerseys last evening (via Travis Hancock and Norfolkology respectively).

NFL/College Football News: Here’s a look at the new ACC patch which will be worn by the Pittsburgh Panthers this year (h/t The Emblem Source). … Interesting soda display at Wal-Mart for Bowling Green football (nice spot by Steve Day). … Here’s a look at the “new Garnet SpeedForm Cleats” which the South Carolina Gamecocks will be wearing this year (via Gamecock Equipment). … Is Kansas football going to be sporting chrome numbers? (good spot by Adam Faust). … “Now here’s a strange variant on the St. Louis Cardinals helmet logo I’ve never seen before,” writes Sports Paper.

NBA/Basketball News: Oh baby — check out this January 6, 1970 Wire Service Photo of the University of Hawaii basketball team, playing Loyola of the South. Love love love the “green floral design” on the shorts (big thanks to Phil Lawson for the photo). … Nice shot of the Miami Floridians’ home uni (including stirrups!), circa 1970, from Super70s Sports. … Based on a request, Conrad Burry has mocked up the “Saints Pride” alternate uniform concept for the Pelicans. … “I’m a long time follower. Graphics design HS teacher and Boys basketball coach at Stanwood High School, located about 60 miles north of Seattle,” writes Zach Ward. “We are going through a redesign of our gym floor, and the district allowed me to design the new floor. Not everything I wanted was OK’d, but most was. What a cool and great process. All the work you guys do provide inspiration to follow thru on this type of fun, and give it validated meaning. Anyway, wanted to share by showing you some pictures.”

Hockey News: The Colorado Avalanche have announced several 20th Anniversary Special Events. John Muir notes that outside of the Stadium Series game, three dates seem primed for special jersey/patch/other differing aesthetics: October 24 ”“ Celebration of Hockey in Colorado; December 7 ”“ 20th Anniversary Team; and, March 5 ”“ Military Appreciation Day. … “Are you a Pittsburgh fan who can’t decide whether to rep the Penguins or Pirates?” asks Super 70s Sports. “This cap has you covered.”

Soccer News: Here’s a follow-up on the Manchester City away kits, from Mike Lindquist: “Either the lighting is off, or the actual jersey used in the picture this morning is a training kit, but here is a better visual of the moon sleeves. The 2015/2016 kit was used last night/tomorrow (game played in Australia). The moon on the sleeves is a connection to City fan’s main chant/song ‘Blue Moon’.” … The Kawasaki Frontale shirt commemorating their stadium renovation is “something else” (according to Holy Calamity). … Tweeter Juanelo Godínez says, “if any of your fllwrs are interested in mexican soccer, a 15/16 uniform recap.”

Grab Bag: Here’s a neat gallery of the custom paint jobs on bikes at the Tour de France (thanks to Sean Clancy). … Check out the Rugby 7 jerseys for the Santa Monica Fightin’ Nicolas Cages (via Doug @ CavsHistory).

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And that’s going to do it for today. Big thanks to John, Gary and the concepters, and congratulations to Ben.

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken


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“I’m really curious… when did wearing Native American headdresses at concerts become a thing?”
–The Jeff

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Comments (15)

    Just wanted to make sure, is the strange Cardinal variant logo helmet an old one for Saint Louis or is it something new which would involve the Arizona Cardinals?

    Great post today. I was in high school at the time and went to a lot of Steel Valley Smash games. I loved them. They used to take the field to Blue Oyster Cult “Godzilla”. I think of that every time I hear that song. I remember all these teams. Great stuff.

    Thank you for your comments; much appreciated! Sounds like a great and very suitable theme song for the Smash. I also love this level of pro football. I have season tickets for the Philadelphia Soul but also attend a number of games for the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the PIFL. Getting to see great athletes out of div. 2 and div. 3 colleges makes it especially entertaining.

    The Maroons were leading the majority of the time the voting was open up until the last few days when a bunch of people suddenly started commenting on the Indy design and the votes for the Drive surged. Anyone else find that a little strange?

    Interesting that in the Griffith Stadium scoreboard showing the 1956 All-Star Game, all 8 AL position players have single-digit numbers, and even the pitcher is just #19.

    I’m liking those new Man City kits. It’s nice to see that they’re staying away from red. It always drives me batty when a team chooses its rivals colors for its away / third kit.

    Hat tip to Zach Ward and his work on that Stanwood Spartans basketball court. It’s a beauty and I hope it was a dream come true for him.

    Kings/Knights colors were picked based off of the largest high school in Topeka (Topeka High). Fun fact- the Knights/Kings were partially owned by George Lemon, son of Harlem Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon.

    Alfie Koetter should get a trophy for his work on the Clippers uniform he did. Unlike the organisation, he seemed to put some thought towards history and aesthetic design. The unis are BEAUTIFUL. Alfie Koetter, the best thing to happen to the Clippers since the removal of Sterling.

Comments are closed.