How The Barons Became The Sun Valley Suns

By Phil Hecken, with Lex Levy

As you guys are aware, when Paul takes his annual August sabbatical, I will put out the call for readers to submit pitches for articles. I also have “my” guys lined up for pieces. As August progressed, I found myself with too many guest pieces and not enough days in which to run them. So, here today is reader Lex Levy, who wanted to take a brief look at a much quainter time in the National Hockey League, when a professional team actually gifted its old uniforms to an amateur men’s team in the mountains of Idaho. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s a nice short read, and I think you guys will enjoy it. Here’s Lex:

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How the Cleveland Barons became the Sun Valley Suns
By Lex Levy

As a kid growing up in the ski town of Ketchum, Idaho in the 70’s and 80’s, I knew very little about hockey or the NHL. My time was spent skiing and sledding in the winter and playing baseball and swimming in lakes and rivers in the summer. I was aware that our neighboring community Sun Valley had an amateur men’s team. I was brought along to at least one game by my older brother because he got stuck babysitting me, a game he spent making out with his girlfriend. I got seriously hockey crazy when the USA Olympic team won the gold medal in 1980 and started playing myself shortly after that.

Obviously, after that I became very interested in our local team, the Sun Valley Suns. I attended games regularly, was a stick boy for one season, and sold Suns t-shirts at games as a job. One thing that always stuck out to me was that the Suns had really cool jerseys. Their red, black, and white colors jumped out and looked classy, but were different than the Blackhawks, the NHL’s standard bearer for the use of those colors. Over time, the story of the origin of the Suns and the unis they wore trickled down to me. Here is the short and sweet version.

The Gund brothers had been part owners of the Golden Seals during their brief run in the NHL. When the team failed to find success in California, the Gunds gave it a go in Ohio with a new team, the Cleveland Barons.

The Barons were part of the NHL from 1976 to 1978.

Lack of attendance and success on the ice led to them merging with the Minnesota North Stars, who were having their own financial issues. Prior to this, about 1975, the Gunds, who spent time in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, helped start the Sun Valley Suns team. George Gund was one of the original Suns and was a big supporter of youth hockey in the area. When the Barons folded, Gund donated their entire uni kits to the Suns — home and away jerseys, breezers, socks, gloves, maybe even helmets too. So the Suns, which had grown into a top-notch men’s team thanks to an influx of East Coast players who loved to ski and the general lifestyle of the area, now sported very classy uniforms which lent an air of professionalism to what has always been a proudly amateur team.

As for the jerseys, these were the old-school satiny ones that looked beautiful, but got very heavy with sweat and water. The home whites had red shoulder yokes and both jerseys had a very traditional design that held their own with the classic NHL designs of the day.

The Suns wore the old Barons jerseys throughout most of the 1980’s, until they became to tattered and worn. I hope you get a kick out of this little-known history of how an NHL uniform set was given a second life with an amateur hockey team in the mountains of Idaho.

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Thanks, Lex! That’s a piece of hockey history I’m betting very few of us knew. Fascinating how back in the day things just kind of worked out. Well, at least for the Suns.

Sixers Drop New “Phila” Red Alternate

Yesterday, Philadelphia 76ers Prexy Chris Heck tweeted out an image of a new uniform that looks very similar to last season’s but instead of “Sixers” across the front they have “Phila” in script. It’s confirmation of an earlier leak.

Here’s the tweet:

You may recall the Sixers took some heat last season when they introduced the “Sixers” alternate, as the script made it appear to say “Suxers” if you looked at it right. So, now they’ve avoided that unpleasantry by replacing it with a jersey that phonetically says “FEE-LA”

If you’re going to shorten Philadelphia to Phila, shouldn’t you have a period after the “a”?

Sorry but the merch grab new jersey is just as bad as the old one. It’s, as they say, “too cute by half.”

There are so many better jerseys the team could throw back to, or probably even create, than this. But my guess is they don’t particularly care much what the aesthetics are, only that there’s more $100+ jerseys out there for suckers to buy.


Kreindler’s Korner

I had the distinct pleasure of featuring the wonderful artwork of artist Graig Kriendler on two occasions over the summer and fall of 2017, and more recently, in August of 2018.

For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.

Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.

Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):

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Title: “Willie Wells, 1925” (color study)
Subject: Willie Wells, 1925
Medium: Oil on linen mounted to board
Size: 5” x 7”

In 1924, Willie Wells signed with the St. Louis Stars for $300. He had been courted by the Chicago American Giants as well, but signed with St. Louis intending to stay within a days ride from his home in Austin, TX. He would go on to play for various Negro League clubs in the states throughout his career, as well as make stops in both the Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban Leagues.

“El Diablo”, as Wells was known, is still widely considered to be one of the greatest shortstops the game has ever seen. His nickname supposedly came from his stints in the Mexican League, where players were dissuaded from hitting the ball anywhere near his position, noting that ‘the devil’ played there. His stellar glove play, as well as a quick release and scholarly approach to studying batters compensated for a weak throwing arm.

He would shine at the plate as well, hitting .378 and .346 in 1926 and 1927, and even establishing a single season record in ’26 with 27 homers in only 88 games. His stellar hitting continued into the later part of the decade, winning back-to-back batting titles in ’29 and ’30. It’s no wonder his Stars won Negro National League championships in 1928, 1930, and 1931.

He’s pictured here in his 1925 Stars road uniform. This is one of 200+ paintings of mine that will be on display at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the spring of 2020.

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Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.


Uni Concepts & Tweaks

After being dormant for a while, the Uni Tweaks/Concepts have returned!

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

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Occasionally I’ll have some concepts tweeted at me. This one comes from Mike Wagner, who simply tweeted this new Tampa Bay Buccaneers concept at me.

He writes:

I’m no @Nike design “expert” but here’s my take on the @Buccaneers uniforms. Not too different from old uni, but with striped sleeves to match the pants (pewter accents.) The white helmet makes the #creamsicle unis possible. @ab89 (template by @1andonlyMau)

And here are his designs:

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Thanks. OK readers, tweeters (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.

Guess The Game…

from the scoreboard

The game has returned! At least for a trial basis, but I got a lot of positive response to its return, so we’ll see how long we keep this one going.

Today’s scoreboard comes from reader Thomas J. Brennan.

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

This one probably won’t stump you (I never seem to be able to…), but you may want to roll the Dice-K, mmmm-kay?

Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

If you guys like this, please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.

Click to enlarge

Gumball reminder: Paul here. In case you missed it on Thursday, I DIY’d a bunch of Uni Watch gumball helmets! Full details on how I made them are available here.

I have a limited supply of these that I’m offering for purchase (each with its own vintage plastic capsule!). Ordering details here.

While we’re at it: The Uni Watch 20th-Anniversary Patch is now available at a final closeout price of only $3.99. Full details here.

Also, we have a few new Naming Wrongs shirts. Get the full scoop here.

We now return you to your regular weekend Phil-fest.

The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: The Astros wore their “Los Astros” unis yesterday evening for Hispanic Heritage night (from Ignacio Salazar). … Add the Twins to the list of teams that let the starting pitcher pick which jerseys the team wears that night (from Matt Moehr). … Mount Union’s field will have a new look and name next season (from Jim Vilk). … Good spot by C.B. Ciullo who noticed that Pete Alonso’s squatchee was missing in the 8th inning of last night’s Mets/Reds game.

NFL News: Sports Brand Jury has come out with their rankings of the best and worst NFL logos. … The Packers will wear their throwbacks tomorrow (thanks, Phil and Drew Beringer). It appears the team’s seamstresses are coloring in the green captaincy patches with blue pens, so they don’t clash with the rest of the uni (from Dan Gawronski). … Here’s a good shot of Tom Flores’s FNOB during his time as Raiders QB (from @NFL_Journal). … It appears ESPN photoshopped Antonio Brown’s head onto — what appears to be — Phillip Dorsett’s body in this image. Dorsett wears No. 13 and Brown wore No. 17 during his brief time in Foxborough (from Christopher Hohe).

College Football News: A grocery store in Georgia has removed all Irish Spring products from the shelves ahead of today’s UGA/Notre Dame game (from Josh Hinton). … Black-black-yellow for Mizzou today (from Jacob Bogage). … Colorado State is going green-orange-white tonight, with orange horns on the helmet (from @RamVision). … Yesterday, we mentioned the Tempe Buttes topographical maps in ASU’s endzones. Today, @ASU_Uniformity sends us the finished product. Beautiful. … An Air Force pilot training program with multiple former college football players designed their own gameday patches (from @VictoryCB). … Here’s a video of BYU assistant AD David Almodova talking about the prep work going into this weekend’s throwback game. … ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption used the old Pitt logo during a segment on the UCF/Pitt game (from Jeff Flynn).

NBA News: The Clippers’ training facility has a new corporate name (thanks, Paul). … Pistons G/F Joe Johnson will wear No. 24 (from who but Etienne Catalan).
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College Hoops News: New unis for St. John’s women. More pics here (from @Starkman55). … New unis for Houston men (from Greg Propes). … New unis for Central Michigan men.
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Soccer News: PSG has gone kit-crazy. They already have a special Champions League kit, and will introduce a new special Champions League kit for the knockout rounds (from Josh Hinton).
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Grab Bag: Russia fortunately wore white shorts during the Rugby World Cup’s opening match against Japan. Pre-competition shots featured the blue kit paired with blue shorts, which I find much less attractive. … The town of Hays, Ks., is looking for a new city-wide logo (from Kyle Eilts).

22 comments to How The Barons Became The Sun Valley Suns

  • Dustin | September 21, 2019 at 7:33 am |

    The link to the suxers jersey instead goes to a mets jersey. Not sure if that is subliminal or not. The Met’s aren’t that bad.

    • Phil Hecken | September 21, 2019 at 8:23 am |

      Not intentional. Should be fixed now.

    • Nestor Chylak | September 21, 2019 at 10:26 am |

      The SUXERS jersey looks more like SLICERS to my eye.

  • Jesse | September 21, 2019 at 8:39 am |

    Really nice work on the TB Bucs uniforms, huge improvement over their current set.

    • MJ | September 21, 2019 at 9:47 am |

      No football team, at any level, needs 4 sets of pants for 16 games. Pants are the least marketable piece of the uniform, so I can’t see anyone signing off on putting that much time and money into something that can’t be monetized. It’s a bad idea from a design standpoint and a modern sports as business standpoint, to say nothing of trying to meld orange/red with red/pewter/black. Bad concept, well executed.

  • Hudson Slaby | September 21, 2019 at 9:13 am |

    Did the Astros wear the Los Astros uniforms last night? It isn’t clear.

  • Corey | September 21, 2019 at 9:13 am |

    Los Astros is on the ticker twice

  • Joe | September 21, 2019 at 9:18 am |

    You repeated the “Los Astros” mention (by the same contributor).

    • Rick | September 21, 2019 at 12:45 pm |

      It’s always a poor effort to throw “Los” on a jersey and call it good. Just don’t do it.

      • Nestor Chylak | September 21, 2019 at 2:29 pm |

        The English equivalent would be just putting “The” in front of the team name. Not sure how that salutes Hispanic Heritage.

  • Wade Heidt | September 21, 2019 at 9:22 am |

    Lex, interesting piece on the Sun Valley Suns! Learn something new each day.

    The Chicago Blackhawks have also donated uniforms to be worn by another team. In 1976, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WCHL (now WHL) relocated to Portland, OR. The team acquired surplus uniforms for Chicago. The Portland Winter Hawks started play looking like the team that donated the uniforms.

    Later on, WHL teams started wearing Cooperalls. Here is Cam Neely while playing for Portland. How the Chicago Blackhawks would have looked in Cooperalls:

    https://steemitimages.com/DQmd1z5bEcEuY2nigFY7DHXELk6UDR1vtSK7YEvbLCztk1p/Former_Portland_Winterhawk_Cam_Neely.jpg

    Now known as the one-word Winterhawks, Portland has made small changes to the primary logo to distinguish them from Chicago:

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/chl-network/archive/chl-wordpress-uploads/whl/app/uploads/2019/01/17171504/POR-CHL-0117-1024×576.jpg

  • Rob G | September 21, 2019 at 10:01 am |

    Scoreboard is from 6/27/2007. Red Sox vs Mariners at Safeco.

    • Chris | September 21, 2019 at 10:51 am |

      Yep. Wily Mo Peña in the Sox line up narrowed it down to 2007. I have been to many M’s-Sox games in Seattle, but I was NOT at this one. No bonus point for me.

      • TJB | September 22, 2019 at 1:44 am |

        I sent in this scoreboard. This was Daisuke’s first trip to Seattle after coming to MLB. It was heavily promoted, they even printed “Daisuke vs Ichiro” t-shirts.
        Ichiro scores winning run in the 11th on a Jose Lopez double over Manny’s head in left.

  • Smokin' Joe | September 21, 2019 at 10:15 am |

    Scoreboard is June 27, 2007. Boston 1 at Seattle 2 (11).

  • Mike Wissman | September 21, 2019 at 11:43 am |

    I’ve always loved the original Barons uniforms sleeve numbers nestled inside the Ohio outline. Wonder why they moved away from that look in 77-78.

  • Will S | September 21, 2019 at 12:11 pm |

    On a much, much lower level of hockey the current Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL – Junior A) were previously known as the Wolves when they first started.

    Back when I was playing beer league, our team rep had one team in the B side (one I was on) and ran one team in the A side. They A side team used the old Wolves jerseys. Wish I had a picture. They used a jersey in the style of the NYI fisherman/wavy jerseys but with a multi-coloured embroidered crest of a wolf’s head on the front and numbers just like the fisherman’s jerseys. Wish I had a picture.

  • Les Holmlund | September 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm |

    I don’t have any documentation, but it was widely known that after the WHA Calgary Cowboys folded in 1977, their uniform sets ended up with a men’s beer league team in Calgary. They may have been obtained via the liquidation auction that dispersed many of the team’s assets. A friend of mine attended the auction and scored some merch including T-shirt’s, jerseys and calendars.

  • Ella | September 21, 2019 at 3:32 pm |

    It doesn’t look like the Green Bay captain patches are going to be coloured (to me). The seamstress is holding a fabric marking pen to mark the spot to line up the patch. If it was going to be coloured, don’t you think they would have done that before attaching to the rest of the jersey?

  • Nathan Parks | September 21, 2019 at 4:07 pm |

    Re: Alonso’s squatchee

    The Mets played the Reds last night, not the Braves.

  • Robert Brashear | September 22, 2019 at 9:46 am |

    Enjoyed the story on the new life for the Barons jerseys. For decades the Barons were a beloved team team selling out their own arena. They had a classic logo and unis. I always felt that had the NHL honored that history in more than name they might hat have been more successful.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/52/ClevelandBarons4.png

  • Rauc | September 22, 2019 at 11:17 am |

    Love the buccaneer concepts

    A++++