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Bettman says new NHL uniforms aren't about making a fashion statement

"The focus on this was never about fashion, it was never about retail," Bettman told The Canadian Press on Thursday. "It was about getting the players into a uniform that would be better, that would enable them to have a better range of motion, that would keep them cooler, that would be more aerodynamically fit, that would keep their protective equipment in place, that would be safer. That has been the focus."

The new jerseys will be worn by the NHL all-stars in Dallas next week and then by the entire league next season. That's also when they'll go on sale for the public.

So far there's been a lot of words but not many pictures of the new look.

Judging from the one photo released of Sidney Crosby in the new Reebok gear, the revamped outfit doesn't seemed drastically different than the current ones.

So much for the rumours of a radical one-piece outfit that would make the players look like robots.

"I think there was a lot of speculation and I think a bit much prognosticating on things that people really didn't know about," said Bettman. "But you know, that's OK, it created a lot of interest. The fact of the matter is, this was a very slow and pain-staking process with the goal to get it right."

The uniform, three years in the making, is a little tighter than the current jersey but not as much as the Nike ones worn by Team Canada at least year's Olympics.

The look of the new uniform may not be drastically different, but the feel is. It's dryer, lighter and more flexible.

"It really is just modernizing the NHL uniform and taking advantage of a lot of materials and technologies that exist in the world of sports today and applying it to the game of hockey," Matt O'Toole, president and CEO of Reebok/CCM Hockey, said Thursday.

The biggest change is the fabric, a water resistant material that retains 76 per cent less moisture than the current NHL jersey. Hence it's lighter.

"One of the players was saying, 'You won't feel like you're carrying 10 pounds on your back.' That's exactly right," said Bettman. "And it'll keep body temperatures four to 10 degrees lower. The point is guys will be less fatigued at the end of the game."

The new jersey also features stretch mesh in areas including the underarms and back which apparently provides for an additional range of motion.

For a sport that's largely had the same jersey for decades, some people won't like it. But Bettman believes any criticism will eventually be forgotten.

"Change is always something for which, particularly in sports, there's no shortage of opinion," said Bettman. "But if you go back and look at uniforms in the other sports over the years, you look at football uniforms and how the went from being loose and baggy to form fitting.

"The fact is, when the players actually get in them and feel how good they feel, the reaction from the fans will be, you won't notice it after the second game."

The full launch goes Monday at a news conference in Dallas. Just don't expect Bettman to come out wearing the new uniform.

"Will I be wearing them? No," Bettman laughed. "I assure you that they will look better on any of the players than they will look on me."


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