I recently had an ESPN piece about how Alex Ovechkin was about to become the first NHL player to wear custom-painted skates. A few hours after that story was posted, I received an email from a filmmaker named Mark Greczmiel (that’s him at right), who pointed out that while Ovechkin’s skates might be the first to feature custom-painted artwork, the fabled California Golden Seals routinely painted their skates for several seasons — first green and gold, and then, more infamously, white.
Greczmiel, it turns out, grew up rooting for the Seals and recently wrote, directed, and narrated a documentary about them, called The California Golden Seals Story. You can see the trailer above, and Greczmiel recently let me check out the whole thing. It’s sensational — I can unreservedly recommend it to any and all Uni Watch readers. If you’re a history-minded hockey fan, so much the better, but even non-NHL fans will enjoy this one. (You can purchase it or rent it on iTunes.)
The film is crammed with uni-related goodness. Here are some highlights (for most photos, you can click to enlarge):
• The Seals were originally a minor league team, and they had pretty cool uniforms in those days. Dig:
• An early Seals player — I’m pretty sure it was Tony Featherstone — wore a helmet with what appeared to a be a slice cut out of the crown area:
I found a photo of Featherstone wearing a similar piece of headgear later in his career with the North Stars. Anyone know what that was about?
• When Charlie Finley wanted to purchase the Seals in 1970, his primary rival was a guy whose family had helped to popularize televised roller derby, so the movie includes some great shots of roller derby uniforms. These are actually the best-looking unis in the film.
• There’s a great shot from Finley’s introductory press conference, where he held up a mock-up of himself in what he envisioned as the Seals’ new uniforms:
• Although the mock-up shows white skates, the Seals initially wore green/gold skates during Finley’s reign. I think they looked pretty sharp:
• Finley was also among the first NHL owners to give his players NOBs, in 1970 (the Rangers also introduced them that same year), but only at home. Rival owners insisted that the team go NNOB on the road, so as not to threaten their scorecard sales. (This is the part where I have to mention the Maple Leafs.)
• I knew Finley had famously given the A’s a mule mascot, which he named after himself. But I didn’t realize that the Seals had a pantomime version of the mule — on skates!
• As for the white skates, there’s lots of chatter about how the players hated them, how opposing fans said they looked like women’s figure skates, how the multiple coats of paint supposedly made them heavier, and so on. In retrospect, it’s odd that an NHL team couldn’t simply get a skate manufacturer to supply white skates, instead of having the black ones painted white, but relationships with equipment vendors were different back then.
The white skates would invariably get scuffed up during games, and the trainers were under strict orders from Finley to do touch-up paint jobs in between periods. Jeez.
• Finley also insisted that his players wear kelly green blazers while traveling, and that they pack their clothing in green/gold Seals suitcases.
• One more note about Finley: You may know that he once tried to get MLB to change to orange baseballs. But did you know he also tried to introduce orange pucks to the NHL? It’s true.
• Oh, and since the movie has so much chatter about Finley and the A’s, it includes a great shot of Catfish Hunter’s nickNOB, complete with the quotation marks.
• The movie has lots of cool-looking goalie masks, including backup Seals goalie Gary Smith’s gold mask, which must surely have been one of the first colored masks in the league, right?
• A later Seals goalie, Gary Simmons, had two notable masks: One with a cobra (that was his nickname) and one with a Native American war paint motif.
• At one point the Seals were so desperate for attention that their promotions staff hired a streaker to skate across the ice nude with “Seals” painted on her body. The film shows this, briefly. Unfortunately, there’s no mention of whether Greczmiel tried to locate the woman to discuss her fleeting moment of fame.
• I’d forgotten that Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, who was a big hockey fan, created a Seals mascot, named Sparky (which was also Schultz’s own nickname). There are some good shots of Sparky on T-shirts, billboards, pennants, and so on.
• One non-Seals uni note: I knew the Bruins wore a 50th-anniversary shoulder patch in 1973-74, but I didn’t realize they wore it on both shoulders until I saw this shot of Bobby Orr toward the end of the film:
That’s a good sampling. Aside from all the visuals, there’s a ton of great info, storytelling, and so on. A very nice job.
One final note: For most of the talking-head interviews that take place in the movie, Greczmiel made sure to have a Seals jersey hanging in the background. One of the interviews was with sportswriter Brad Kurtzberg, and some of the lettering on the jersey behind him was peeling off — an apt (if presumably unintentional) metaphor for the Seals’ low-budget operation.
Once again, the film is available for purchase or rental here.
NEXT-TO-LAST CALL for Larry’s shirt: Today is the next-to-last day to order our latest limited-edition T-shirt in the Uni Watch Artist’s Series, which was designed by the great Larry Torrez (aka Eltee of DC). In the spirit of his Meatscots caricature series, he’s imagined a fictitious Japanese baseball team called the Kyoto Yakitori, whose mascot is a baseball-playing samurai with a sword that serves as a baseball bat and as a yakitori chicken kebab skewer (click to enlarge):
It’s available in three different black short-sleeve options (two of which come in sizes up to 5XL) and one long-sleeve option (up to 5XL). plus I’ve also made the design available as a sticker.
Some of you have also asked why I’m okay with this design if I have issues with Native American-based sports designs. That’s a perfectly valid question, and I’ve created a separate page to address it. Look here.
The shirt is available here through this Thursday, April 6. My thanks, as always, for your consideration.
Contest reminder: I’m running a new ESPN design challenge to redesign the Raiders for their move to Las Vegas. Full details here.
By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Yesterday marked the on-field debut for the White Sox’s new matte batting helmets with 3D logos. … Looks like Yankees’ base coaches are wearing glossy helmets even when on the road, while batters wear matte helmets (from Dylan Goforth). … Miguel Cabrera’s helmet logo may have been a bit off-center yesterday (from BJ). … Brewers outfielder Eric Thames wore a shirt featuring the Milwaukee skyline during a pre-game workout yesterday. … Can’t wait for these Astros tequila sunrise socks to make their on-field debut (from Spring Sweatsuit). … Orioles manager Buck Showalter got away with wearing a cap without a New Era logo on Monday (from Zach Spencer and Brian M.). … Here’s what Reds minor leaguers wore for the team’s Future’s game on Saturday (from Kub). … The Las Vegas 51s are wearing a “35 Seasons in Las Vegas” patch this year (from James Beattie). … The Salem Red Sox are wearing a patch commemorating 50 years in the Carolina League this season (from Clark Ruhland). … Creighton’s jerseys have overlapping Gs on both sides of the placket, so at times their jerseys read CREIGGHTON (from David Westfall). … Longtime reader/contributor Jimmy Lonetti guest-wrote a Uni Watch entry about his glove repair business back in 2013. Now he has a new project: wallets made from vintage glove leather. … Here’s a nice human interest piece about another guy who has a side business repairing gloves (from Ilana Hardesty). … Here’s a new line of shirts celebrating signature ballpark food from a few big league cities (from Derek Linn). … Clinton LumberKings manager Pat Shine is wearing No. 16 this season in memory of Jose FernÃ¡ndez (from Zach). … The Rangers will not issue uniform No. 69, even if a player requests it (from Brinke). … A’s OF Rajai Davis has been wearing stirrups with white sannies, instead of Oakland’s traditional gold (from Johnny Bartlett). … The new MLB socks are designed to be worn with the team logos facing outward, as seen here with these new Brewers socks. But Cardinals reliever Brett Cecil wore his socks on the wrong feet last night, resulting in the logos facing inward (from Brian White and John Luther). … When Under Armour takes over the MLB uniform contract from Majestic in 2020, they’ll keep using the same Pennsylvania factory that Majestic has been using (from Joe).
NFL News: If these retail jerseys are any sign, it looks like the Cowboys will be updating their jersey template (from Texas Bacon). … Teams of students at SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology entered their best NFL-related designs for a contest. Voters can choose their favorites, and the winning team is awarded $5,000 (from Joseph Bailey). … Ryan G. found a pack of football cards featuring Bills lineman Cordy Glenn wearing No. 00. He normally wears No. 77.
College Football News: It’s weird to see former LSU coach Les Miles in a Nebraska hat. His son just signed with the Huskers. At least he stuck with white (from Colin Tierney). … Looks like Iowa State is teasing all-gray uniforms. It’s not clear if these are new or the same ones they wore last season (from Jeff Jensen). … John Canterbury found these classic Big Ten (and Southern Illinois) posters at his grandparents’ house.
Hockey News: The Wild wore North Stars jerseys during pregame warm-ups yesterday, and Zach Parise wore his father’s old North Stars gloves and helmet (from Hockey Feels). … Bruins draft pick Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson has just joined the team. By Jeff Israel’s count, if he makes his debut with a full hyphenated NOB, he’ll have the longest nameplate in NHL history. … The Predators wore jerseys with their social media handles for warm-ups last night. … The Penguins have special tags sewn in their jerseys for their annual final home game “Shirt Off Your Back” tradition. Each year, every Penguin gives their jersey away to 29 random fans in attendance (from Jerry Wolper). … The Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL are set for a makeover (from Jason Rhodes).
NBA News: Color-on-color last night in Indianapolis between the Pacers and Raptors (from Jarrod Campbell). … Here’s a great photography collection of basketball hoops from around the country . … Good story about Raptors equipment manager Paul Elliott, who’s had to do his job with a torn Achilles tendon (from Mark).
College Hoops News: Couple of post-championship Tar Heels notes from James Gilbert: North Carolina’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, used an old version of the interlocking “NC” logo, discontinued in 2015. He also sent along this blog post about the T-shirt printed after the Heels’ first championship in 1957. … A Reddit user drew every single NCAA D-I basketball logo in MS Paint.
Soccer News: Manchester City is letting its fans vote on next season’s number font (from Donovan Shartswell). … In a related item, the Mexican team Pachuca’s number font is based on the team’s crest, which looks really weird on the field (from @Barsotta and Gabe Ramirez).
Grab Bag: This podcast episode features a conversation with noted designer Michael Bierut, and features a good conversation on logo design (from Rex Henry). … Want to get a Coke at the Masters? Well, you might get one ”” or it could be a Pepsi, or some other cola, because the soda machines at Augusta aren’t branded (from Robert Hayes). … Carlton FC of the Australian Football League has new “blueout” jerseys (from Scott Nuzum). … WWE Raw was in Orlando this week, so wrestler Enzo Amore wore a Magic-themed singlet for his match (from David Firestone). … Today, people are encouraged to wear orange to raise awareness for roadway worker safety (from James Gilbert). … There’s a company out there that makes reggae-themed jerseys, including one based on the Astros’ tequila sunrise design and another based on the Nets’ Dr. J-era design. Lots more here (from Nathan Samuel).