VANCOUVER, B.C. – It’s a jersey designed for Canada’s hockey teams at the 2010 Winter Olympics, but John Furlong believes they could become a fashion statement Canadians will proudly wear long after the Games are gone.
Hockey Canada officially tore the wrapping off its Olympic jerseys Monday, giving Canadians a look at the sweater the men’s and women’s hockey teams will wear at the Games. The same jersey will be worn by the sledge hockey players at the Paralympics.
“It just isn’t a magnificent hockey sweater, it’s a great fan sweater,” said Furlong, the chief executive officer for the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee, known locally as VANOC.
“This is a sweater you will see on the street, in restaurants, at every sporting event during the Games. I think it will be one we all want and we will all remember. We will pull it out of the drawer 20 or 30 years in the future and remind ourselves we wore that sweater at the Olympics.”
Amplified music thundered over speakers as two gigantic replicas of the sweaters were hoisted behind a stage at UBC Thunderbird Arena, one of the facilities that will host hockey during the Games.
The dominate feature of the jersey is a large, red Maple Leaf crest on the chest, which is embossed with artwork.
Inside the crest are smaller Maple Leafs, representing the hockey gold medals Canada hopes to win at the Games. There is a thunderbird and an eagle, two symbols important in First Nation culture, and a hockey player with a stick.
Debra Sparrow, a Musqueam artist, and Stuart Iwasaki of Nike collaborated on the logo.
“It’s designed from history that reflects our First Nations people,” said Sparrow. “If you look at the eagle, it’s pretty cross-cultural and represents something that is very strong and soars to the best it can, higher than anyone.
“I think that’s the focus of the athletes and why we chose that design to be forefront.”
The sweater has striping across the sleeves and bottom. It also features the Vancouver 2010 and Canadian Olympic Committee marks.
Above the Maple Leaf is a Nike swoosh. VANOC announced during the unveiling they have signed Nike Canada, the maker of the jerseys, as an official supplier.
In addition to the jerseys, Nike will supply the organizing committee with other high-performance sporting goods.
The sweater will only be used for the Olympics. Hockey Canada will return to its traditional sweater and logo of a hockey player skating through a black and red Maple Leaf at other international competitions.
After using its logo on international sweaters for the past 14 years, Hockey Canada was forced to come up with a new design to comply with International Olympic Committee rules.
National logos are not permitted on uniforms at the Games and the IOC began cracking down at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing when it restricted the uniforms worn by the Argentine and Brazilian soccer teams.
The final design was Hockey Canada’s fifth attempt at finding a compromise to the IOC’s rule.
“We have developed a design that while not a major departure from our current jersey incorporates imagery in a different and meaningful way,” said Scott Smith, Hockey Canada’s senior executive vice-president.
Bob Nicholson, Hockey Canada’s president, said he thinks players will be proud to wear the new sweater.
He also said the partnership involving VANOC and Nike will be “a grand opportunity for Hockey Canada from a revenue point of view.”
Some of the excitement of the unveiling was spoiled when photos of the sweater appeared on a hockey blog last week.
But that didn’t stop Elisa Testa, a seven-year-old hockey player from Coquitlam, B.C., from enthusiastically endorsing the new kit.
“It’s cool,” said Testa, who along with Cole MacEwen, 11, modelled the sweaters. “It has a big Maple Leaf and it says Canada.
“It represents our country. It represents hockey.”
Furlong said the deal with Nike falls into the supplier category and is worth between $3 million and $15 million.
The agreement comes with six months to go until the Games and could be the final domestic partnership for 2010 organizers.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it will be the last,” said Furlong. “I think this is another partner and they’ve taken us to a place we were hoping to get in the market place.
“We will keep pressing on and keep looking for new friends and partners to help deliver the Games the best we can.”
VANOC is still hopeful the IOC will sign up two more international sponsors for the Games.
Without them, the committee is facing a $30-million hole in its budget creating major pressure on their $1.75 billion bottom line.
The replica jerseys went on sale Monday for $135 and come in both red and white.
Furlong wouldn’t say if sale of the jerseys will help VANOC’s budget.
“It’s a complicated arrangement between us and Hockey Canada and Nike,” he said. “We’ll see how this works.
“We’ll have to see exactly what kind of revenues get generated from the arrangement.”