About 8,500 people, taking advantage of free tickets and enormous hype, trekked into GM Place on Wednesday to watch as five of the team’s most popular players skated onto the ice wearing the new uniforms. They will look strikingly familiar to fans.
The jerseys carry the most recent orca logo on the front and the original hockey stick emblem on the shoulders. But above the orca logo the word Vancouver is written across the jersey.
The sweaters are in the same blue, green and white colours the Canucks wore when they first joined the NHL.
After finishing out of the playoffs since 2004, the Canucks advanced to the second round last season before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
The enthusiasm from the mostly under-30 crowd and the huge turnout of TV cameras and photographers almost made it look like the Canucks had won the Stanley Cup.
The new uniforms will go on sale next month for $139.95.
“It’s really just to capture the dollars from the fans’ pockets,” says Nick Arcieri, a marketing analyst with All Sports Marketing in Toronto.
“In addition to ticket sales and beer sales and food sales, they need another stream of revenue, so merchandise is where it comes from.”
Many teams with great longstanding traditions would never change their uniforms, such as the New York Yankees and Montreal Canadiens.
In Toronto, said Arcieri, “the fans don’t want to see the (Maple Leafs) jerseys change. There have been some artists’ renditions and all have been totally ripped apart by the fans. They like what’s going on now.”
Every team in the NHL will be using new form-fitting, stretchier uniforms this season, and some of those teams took the opportunity to change other things.
“A lot of the teams are just using this (new form-fitting uniform) as an opportunity to update their logos and things since they’re getting new jerseys anyway,” says Arcieri.
Arcieri says the large crowd at GM Place is not surprising.
“It’s considered the beginning of a new era so I guess a lot of fans want to be part of it. A hard-core hockey fan wants to be there.”
Star centre Markus Naslund modelled the new uniforms along with Mattias Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa, Trevor Linden and Willie Mitchell.
Naslund was asked how important uniforms are for success.
“I think it’s a big part of it. You want to look good winning and I think this is a great step for us. We’ve got a new fresh outlook and hopefully that will be a positive thing.”
Bieksa said he liked having the word Vancouver across the jersey.
“It’s strong and bold and the material is a lot more comfortable, too.
“When I first heard about the Vancouver across the jersey I was a little skeptical but after seeing it it looks good.”
He said he likes the new material.
“You notice the difference for sure. It’s stretchy and it gives a little bit. It’s a little lighter and a little more air gets through so I’ll probably be just a little bit faster this year.”
Canucks fans Clarice Chow gave a thumbs up.
“I like the colours and I like how they kept the orca but I’m not sure about the Vancouver across (the jersey). Otherwise, it looks fine.
“Thank God it’s not red and orange and black,” she said, referring to the lamentable uniforms the Canucks wore through the 1980s that looked like something to be worn on Halloween.