Griffins Jersey Design Contest – 80s Edition

As I’ve noted in the past, I have a love-hate relationship with the Grand Rapids Griffins’ annual jersey design contest.  I have the tendency to put more thought than they probably intend into my own entries and, while I was a finalist last year, I don’t think I ever come close to winning.

This year I was going to skip out on the endeavor entirely until they added an impossible new wrinkle to the contest: Design a 1980s “fauxback” jersey.

The Griffins were founded in 1996, hence the “fauxback” requirement.  The idea is to come up with a look that represents a Griffins team that existed in that decade.  Which raises an interesting question: What makes an 80s hockey jersey?

The shoulder yokes of the Minnesota North Stars, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres all jumped out at me, though all but New Jersey’s found their origins in the 70s.  Likewise the 70s birthed the over-the-shoulder stripes of the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and a handful of All-Star teams.

I thought about modern teams that throwback to the 80s and how their identities have changed since then.  The Edmonton Oilers’ logo is virtually untouched but changed from royal blue and orange to navy blue and copper (then back to royal blue and orange, and now navy and orange).  The Calgary Flames were bright red and yellow in the 80s, darkening their red and adding black in the 90s.  The Los Angeles Kings went from purple and yellow to black and silver.  The Devils went from red and green to red and black.

What makes an 80s hockey jersey?  It’s not so much the striping pattern or the logo…  It’s the colors.  The bright colors of 1980s hockey design were virtually abandoned in the 1990s.  In addition to the previously-mentioned changes, the 90s saw the North Stars go from bright green and yellow to forest green and metallic gold.  Like the Oilers, the New York Islanders abandoned royal blue and orange (only to – also like the Oilers – eventually return to it).  The Hartford Whalers gave up green and royal blue for green, silver, and navy.

Which is a problem for this contest because the Griffins explicitly stated that entrants should use the team’s current colors, with the jersey base color being red or black.

By my count, in the 1980s across the National Hockey League, the American Hockey League, and the International Hockey League, only the Chicago Blackhawks (and some of their affiliates) used a red, black, and white combination.  The metallic silver the Griffins now use was unseen in the NHL until the 90s, though the Kings added grey in 1988.  Teams in the 80s used yellow, not the gold in Grand Rapids’ current identity.

As such, I don’t think it’s possible to have an “80s fauxback” that uses the Griffins’ current colors.  That didn’t stop me from trying, though.

My first sketch used the Winnipeg/Toronto-style over-the-shoulder striping and a Edmonton Oilers-like logo, with a griffin silhouette over the word “Griffins” in a circle.  I also dropped gold and silver from the color scheme to simplify things.  The logo felt forced, though, and the striping seemed too modern, so I scrapped that idea.

Next I ignored the logo and tried a striping pattern based on the Buffalo Sabres.  The shoulders featured a black yoke with white and gold outlines. The sleeves and waist had a black/white/gold/white/black stripe set.  I actually like this idea a bit but, again, there was nothing that made me think “80s” so I moved on.

Just to see if it led to anything, I cloned the North Stars’ 1988 jersey set, swapping green for red and yellow for gold.  This led me to believe that the gold just wasn’t going to work and I needed to go back to red, white, and black.

Starting with a red jersey, I added thick stripes in white and black – separated by a thin red stripe – to the sleeves and waist.  I then included a yoke in black with a white outline.  I realized I had something similar to the Devils’ 1982 home uniform and decided it was 80s enough to move forward.  I also decided that between the North Stars, the New York Rangers, various NHL All-Star teams, and some of the 1988 Olympic teams, a drop-shadowed number represented the 80s pretty well, too.

For the logo, the Moncton Hawks jumped out at me, with their bird head and abstract wings inside a circle.  I tried going in that direction with a stylized wing attached to a griffin head with an outstretched claw, all merged together with the team’s name as a wordmark.  It didn’t look like a griffin to me so I decided to go in a different direction.

Next I went simple.  A griffin silhouette in a circle with “Grand Rapids Griffins” around it.  Specifically, this was based off of an old Muskegon Mohawks jersey that I couldn’t figure out the exact year for.  The wing came from the Detroit Red Wings’ logo while the tail was from the Griffins’ original logo as a pair of homages.  It looked more 1960s than 1980s, though, so I went back to the abstract griffin idea.

I removed the circle and added in the bottom half of the griffin’s body. This gave me an opportunity to reuse the tail from the Griffins’ original logo, as with the silhouette logo. Then I switched up the griffin’s head to look more like an eagle and less like a dragon.  At this point, I had my crest, and I decided not to worry about shoulder logos because, by and large, they weren’t used in the 80s.

While I’ve submitted the red, black, and white design, I still don’t think it’s 80s enough.  The colors make it look 90s to me.

I tried simplifying the design to just red and white and, while I think it looks more 80s, I don’t think it looks as good.  In the end, the design has to look good enough to win.

But I come back to the idea that, by forcing the modern colors, the Griffins have unintentionally made any submission less 1980s.  I tried the team’s colors from before their rebrand two years ago – red, white, and blue – and feel that it’s a design that screams 80s.  I just can’t use it.

Wrong colors or not, as I said at the start, I don’t expect to win this thing anyway.  Based on last year, the voters seem swayed by submissions that look like they came out of a catalogue or a video game, not flat designs in the template I use.  I don’t get to submit all the thought I put into it. But it will be interesting to see what the voters think an 80s jersey is.

Rebranding FantasyHockeySim.com

I launched FantasyHockeySim.com as a spinoff of DetroitHockey.Net last summer and the visual elements of it were a rush job.  Getting the site out the door was my priority, so I stole design elements for FHS from DH.N and put together a logo that didn’t say “fantasy hockey” at all.

Awhile ago I ranted about the Detroit Red Wings’ “Hockeytown” logo and how the only way it said “Hockeytown” was literally, with the text splashed across it.  I’d done the same thing with the FantasyHockeySim.com logo, as crossed sticks said “hockey” but the only way it said “fantasy hockey” was via the FHS acronym across the front.  Even then, it looked more like the logo for a high school hockey team than for simulated fantasy hockey software.

While stuck on a development project, I decided to take a crack at a new FHS logo.

Because I like shield-based logos far too much, my first pass centered around different shields.  Eventually I put together one that I really liked the look of and started building alternate logos around it.

I showed the “final” set (the shield logo and “promotional” versions featuring additional text) around and realized I hadn’t solved the problem I was trying to handle in the first place.  The logos still only said “fantasy hockey” literally, and even then it was only the promotional ones.

I stepped back from it and didn’t think about it for awhile until an idea came to me during my drive into work a couple weeks later.

Representing hockey in a logo is easy.  Sticks, pucks, all sorts of imagery is available.  How do you represent “simulation” though?  Well, simulation means computers and code and, even to a layman, X/HTML’s angle brackets are recognizable as code.  So I wrapped a pair of crossed hockey sticks in angle brackets and went from there.

The first issue I hit with the logo was that the crossed sticks looked a bit like an X, so I changed their position and added lines representing tape to the blades.  After that, I decided to give up on my attempt at a monochrome logo, changing the color of the angle brackets to help separate them from the sticks (with the added effect of appearing as syntax coloring).

As I worked on a primary version of the logo, I also created an alternate version and a “promotional” version.  The promotional logo features the “bracket” logo inside a roundel containing the “Simulated Fantasy Hockey” descriptor and the site name while the alternate is simplified version of that, without the text.

The biggest issue with the alternate and promotional logos was making sure the broken inner circle of the roundel didn’t appear like it was supposed to be attached to the angle brackets.  To handle that, I shrank down the width of that inner circle and made the break in it wider.  Changing the color of the brackets completed the effect.

The FHS site still needs a redesign to get away from borrowing so much from DH.N but at least now the logo is original and descriptive.

On Journalism, Credit, and Perception

I am not a journalist.

At least that’s how I see it.

I spent a lot of time over the last year – DetroitHockey.Net‘s 20th season – thinking about what kind of site I wanted to run and what I wanted to write.  I decided that I don’t want to force myself to be unbiased.  I don’t want to sit in the pressbox, I want to sit in the stands.  I want to write about what I find fun.

That doesn’t mean I won’t hold myself to a certain standard.  I expect my readers to hold me to that, too.  It also doesn’t mean I don’t want to write serious pieces or topical pieces.  It just means I want to be more picky about what I write and when.

That said, today I was reminded that no matter how seriously I take myself, I can’t make those who would be my peers take me seriously.

Yesterday I published a post to DetroitHockey.Net that was the result of a not-inconsiderable amount of research and data tracking.  After weeks of compiling information about domain registrations, I thought I had discovered the name of the new Las Vegas NHL team, which isn’t set to be announced for another month.  Or at least a possible name.

There wasn’t much of a reception.  The Red Wings fanbase doesn’t really care about the Las Vegas team name and the Vegas fans don’t seem to really trust a Red Wings blog.  Disappointing, but not unexpected.

Until this morning when an article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal was published, featuring all of the same points as my post (though some of them were slightly off, as if paraphrased by someone without full technical understanding of the details).

It was clear that my work was the basis of that article.  The original post did not credit me.  Since then, the following line has been added:

DetroitHockey.net first reported the new domain name Thursday morning.

It’s credit, and it’s probably all I can ask for, but let’s take a look at how other outlets have picked up the news…

Yahoo:

On Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported the name could be Desert Knights.

Fox Sports:

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal…

CBS Sports:

According to the Review-Journal…

Somewhat hilariously, NBC Sports credited the Review-Journal with breaking the story, then proceeded to quote the part of the article that credits DH.N.

How is it that all of the major outlets came to name the LVRJ as the source even as that paper named DH.N?  Why did we not see Fox Sports credit the Review-Journal only for NBC Sports to credit Fox Sports?

Well, lets take a look at the first couple paragraphs from the Fox Sports piece.

The NHL’s Las Vegas expansion team may finally be leaning towards a decision on its name, if recent domain registrations are any indication. Those domains point to the Sin City hockey club being dubbed the Las Vegas Desert Knights.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Moniker Privacy Services — the same company that procured the NHL’s own website domain — has privately registered the rights to lasvegasdesertknights.com, vegasdesertknights.com and desertknightshockey.com. When asked about those registrations and the potential team name, team owner Bill Foley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he had no comment on the matter.

Fox Sports opens with a summary, immediately credits the LVRJ, and goes into exactly what information they got from that source.

The Review-Journal, however, opened as follows:

Bill Foley may get his wish on his hockey team being called the Knights. Just with a modifier.

Last week domain names were registered that might be an indicator that the NHL team scheduled to begin play in 2017 could be called the Las Vegas Desert Knights.

Last week the domains lasvegasdesertknights.com, vegasdesertknights.com and desertknightshockey.com were privately registered to Moniker Privacy Services, which is the same company that procured the domain name to NHL.com.

DetroitHockey.net first reported the new domain name Thursday morning.

In this case, a summary was provided, then all of the information, then a retroactive credit to the source.  Ignoring the fact that said credit wasn’t even in the original version of the LVRJ story, it’s not hard to see that Fox Sports put the source front and center while the Review-Journal slid it in as an aside.

The LVRJ writer, Justin Emerson, apologized via Twitter after being called out.  However, it’s clear that the paper got what they wanted out of this.  They made no effort to correct the people who were crediting them with the find.  Not their job to do so, I suppose.

So – after some prodding – the Las Vegas Review-Journal gave DetroitHockey.Net credit.  They also got all the credit.


From a technical perspective, I find it hilarious to see all of these sportswriters trying to paraphrase how domain registration works.  Near universally, Moniker has gone from the registrar for all of the related domains to the registrant.

Look for the technically accurate information and you’ll find the original source.

Thoughts on Hockey Sweaters

I think about hockey sweaters a lot.  I’ve collected them since I was a kid.  I doodle jersey concepts for fun.  I study their history.

Of the ones I owned growing up, my favorite was my Steve Yzerman Team Canada jersey from the 1998 Olympics.  White with the alternate captain’s A on it.  Pro-weight, with that thick Bauer mesh over the body. Red dazzle material over the sleeves and shoulders with a loose mesh for venting down the side.

I always loved the feel of that sweater.  The weight of the mesh.  The giant Team Canada crest.  Wearing it felt like wearing armor.

Though I’m a Detroit fan, no Red Wings jersey has felt like that.  The mesh of an authentic jersey always feels good but the Winged Wheel is too small, its proportions are off.  It’s a thing attached to the front of the sweater, not a part of it.

I think about the submissions I’ve done for the Grand Rapids Griffins’ jersey design contest and I realize how much those are influenced by that Team Canada jersey.  I created them to be like armor.  Heraldic imagery.  And a big damn shield right on the front.

Grand Rapids Griffins Alternate Jersey Concept 2016

Once again, the Grand Rapids Griffins are holding their annual jersey design contest and, even though I know I disagree with their design preferences, I’m throwing my hat into the ring.

Two years ago I entered a design featuring a griffin silhouette on a shield as the primary logo, with the jersey in “vintage” white, blue, and red. The shoulder logo was a roundel with an interlocking GR logo the team had previously used. Last year I tweaked the logo to make the griffin’s wing a little cleaner, switched up the shoulder logos, changed the number font, and updated the colors to go along with the Griffins’ color change, but the striping pattern stayed the same.

This year I thought for certain that I was going to enter another red jersey, so I started with my previous design. I swapped out the “vintage” colors and simplified the striping pattern. Rather than black numbers with a white outline, I went with white numbers outlined in black as they would be more legible.  I kept the player’s jersey number in the collar webbing because, as I’ve said before, I loved that feature of their old alternate jersey.  I also brought back the shoulder logo from my original entry as a 20th Season patch no longer made sense.  Finally, I broke down and put the Winged Wheel logo of the Detroit Red Wings on one shoulder, as the Griffins do that on their standard jerseys to denote their parent club, no matter how much I dislike the practice.

The first version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
The first version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

I felt like that design was too simple, though, so I continued evolving the design. For the second generation, I switched the order of the sleeve colors and removed the shoulder yoke. I wanted the Griffins’ jersey to have an homage to the alternate colored sleeves of the Red Wings’ white jersey. I also brought back the black numbers outlined in white as I figured for a one-shot jersey, legibility is less of a concern (in fact, the Griffins wore dark red numbers on a dark blue jersey for one game two seasons ago).

The second version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
The second version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

Unfotunately, I thought that looked far too close to the design of the Texas Stars. While the Griffins selected a design two seasons ago that was basically a color swapped Iowa Wild jersey, I wasn’t comfortable submitting something like that.

As such, I decided to fully embrace the alternate-colored sleeves. I made the jersey body red with a black stripe bounded by white and the sleeves black with a red stripe and white outline. I also changed up the shoulder logo, replacing the interlocking GR with the griffin silhouette I used on the crest as I didn’t want to re-use one of the team’s existing marks, even modified.

The third version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
The third version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

At this point, I thought that I had my final design. I started showing it to a handful of people and near-universally the feedback was that they wanted to see a black version. Of course, I had started out trying to make a red jersey, so at first I ignored this.  Eventually I hit the point where I had to listen to what my informal focus group was saying and did a switch of the colors. While a quick Twitter poll showed 53% of fans would have preferred a red jersey, 100% of people who saw both the red and black jerseys picked the black one. As such, the black one was my final design.

My submission for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
My submission for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

There are some coincidental homages in this design.  The Grand Rapids Owls, an International Hockey League team in the late 1970s, wore jerseys with red sleeves that had black stripes outlined in white.  Additionally, the Red Wings sold “fashion” jerseys (alternate jerseys that were never actually worn in-game) that had a black body with a red stripe at the waist, red sleeves with a black stripe, and numbers that match this design.  The stripes did not include a white outline.


The Griffins explicitly stated that they wanted a dark jersey from this year’s contest.  I imagine that’s because of the AHL’s new rule that will see light jerseys worn at home until Christmas and dark jerseys after that.  Previously there had been some flexibility with regards to alternates but I’d guess that’s out the window with these new rules.

At any rate, just for fun, I created a white version of my submission.

An alternate white version of my concept for the Griffins' 2016 jersey design contest.
An alternate white version of my concept for the Griffins’ 2016 jersey design contest.

As I mentioned, the primary logo is carried over directly from last season’s submission, aside from the color switch.  This is a logo full of homages.  The shape of the shield is that of the DetroitHockey.Net logo as a reference to my previous work.  The feathers on the griffin’s wing are those of the Winged Wheel.  The griffin’s tail is that of the original Grand Rapids logo.

The crest logo for my 2016 Griffins jersey contest submission.
The crest logo for my 2016 Griffins jersey contest submission.

The shoulder logo went through a number of revisions as I sorted out what color it would be placed on, how much detail should be included, and what element would be inside the roundel.

While I think that having a silhouetted griffin on both the crest and the shoulder is a bit repetitive, I see the different uses to be somewhat like how the Tampa Bay Lightning have a lightning bolt on both the crest and the shoulder.


As I’ve said every year, I don’t expect to win this contest.  This year is interesting because ten finalists will be determined by fan vote and then the Griffins staff will decide.  Additionally, this year submissions do not have to follow a standardized template.  If I had to guess, the vote will skew towards submissions that look like they come out of a video game, as they come across as the most impressive.  Whether or not those are actually the best designs will have to be seen.


Update: After posting this I noticed that the shoulder logos are incorrectly depicted on the view of the back of the jersey.  They should be switched so that the Winged Wheel is on the right shoulder and the roundel is on the left, as they appear in the view of the front of the jersey.  I’m not going to update the graphics, just use your imagination a little.

Another Odd Site Launch: DetroitHockey.Net 2016

After launching a new site that wasn’t all that new, my next project was a redevelopment of DetroitHockey.Net that removed features rather than adding them.

With the fantasy side of the site gone and no longer reliant on the rarely-used DH.N Community Forums, I reworked DetroitHockey.Net to remove the forums.  I also pulled out my custom blog software and replaced it with WordPress.

The idea behind going to WordPress was that, while I enjoyed writing my own blog software, it left me somewhat behind the times as far as what the site was capable of.  It’s a wheel I don’t want to reinvent, so instead I learned how to tap into native functionality of WordPress to do the things I wanted to do.

With the loss of the forums and the continued simplification of the site content, I was able to go with a more streamlined design.  The header features the site logo (I launched with the 20th Season logo in place but it will revert when that season ends), an advertisement, and one navigation bar.  This is in contrast to the old version of the site, which had a logo, three navigation menus, a login menu, an ad, and a set of links to forum discussions.

I also took the opportunity to implement the sub-navigation menu system that I developed for FantasyHockeySim.com.

The home page features seven recent headlines from the WordPress-driven news section, an embedded Twitter feed (replacing a custom developed version of the feed display), the score of the most recent Red Wings’ game, and a calendar showing the current month’s schedule (with games denoted by opponent logo).

The individual article pages use a modified version of the WordPress Twenty-sixteen theme, wrapped in the DetroitHockey.Net template.

The only other page that was heavily modified was the DH.N Contributors page, which pulls from the WordPress user system.

This version of the site is intended to be transitional, with further revisions coming after seeing how the forum-less site is used.

It’s Quiet Uptown

So Jenny is obsessed with Hamilton and has been for months.  We got our tickets to see it in Chicago last week, she’s had tickets to see it in New York for months, she’s had the recording on a near-constant loop for quite some time, all that.

Of late, I’ve found myself listening to it pretty often, and something just clicked for me about “The Election of 1800.”

After several scenes of heavy drama surrounding the collapse of Alexander Hamilton’s political career, marriage, and the death of his son, Thomas Jefferson asks, “Can we get back to politics?”  It signals a shift in the narrative, that the characters and story are moving on.

The first half or so of the song sets up the conflict between Jefferson and Aaron Burr.  The title character finally gets brought in when asked, “Dear Mr. Hamilton: John Adams doesn’t stand a chance so who are you promoting?”

His response?  “It’s quiet uptown.”

It’s a callback to the previous scene, in which he and his wife reconcile while mourning their son.  It’s also a beautiful sign of how, while the rest of the world has moved on, he has not.

A New Site That Isn’t New: FantasyHockeySim.com

A few days ago I launched a new website. Kind of.

FantasyHockeySim.com went live last Thursday. The site plays host to a couple simulated fantasy hockey leagues using the FHLSim software. Through FHS, league members can manage their teams in real-time, as opposed to all kinds of manual data entry that is required by FHLSim out of the box.

And if that sounds familiar, it might be because up until FantasyHockeySim.com launched, all of that was a part of DetroitHockey.Net. FHS is simply that functionality spun off into its own site.

One of the leagues that had been hosted at DH.N, the National Hockey Association, is the official league of SportsLogos.Net. And some of its members were not happy about having to be members of a Red Wings site to do their fantasy hockey. So I decided to move things to a neutral site.

With the fantasy hockey side of things no longer reliant on DetroitHockey.Net infrastructure, this would also allow me to update the two sites more easily.

Originally, the site was going to be called FHLSite, as that’s what I had referred to my software as when it was a part of DH.N. I had a hard time coming up with a logo for that, though, so I changed the name to FantasyHockeySim.com, abbreviated FHS.

For the logo, I took the shield from DH.N’s primary logo and changed the colors to gray and blue, then put the letters FHS over the top of it. A pair of crossed hockey sticks – the sticks from the DH.N logo, appear behind the shield.

The logo for FantasyHockeySim.com on a blue background
The logo for FantasyHockeySim.com on a blue background

The basic site design was ported over directly from DetroitHockey.Net but the header and footer were updated. For the main site and each league, the basic elements of the template are the same, with branding images and an accent color swapped out to provide uniqueness. The main site is a blue-gray while the DFHL is red and the NHA is a dark blue.

The biggest change was the replacement of the DH.N Community Forums as a communication hub and an identity provider. DH.N’s Invision Power Board installation is integrated into the entire site, which included the fantasy hockey side of things. It would not be available upon moving to a new domain.

I decided to create a team on Slack and build a login system around it.  I’ll write more about this in a future post on lessons learned about the Slack API, but the short version is that their OAuth workflow and API combined to allow me to have users with accounts on the FHS Slack team log in to the main FHS site and see their unread message counts, effectively replicating the functionality of the forums.

The end result is something curious, where I’ve launched a new site but created virtually no new functionality.  I think it’s a good starting point, though.

Building Physical Things

Part of why I love software development is that I get to make things.  Through my efforts, something new has been created.  It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

As much as I love it, there’s something even better about building physical things.  Even something as simple as an Ikea bookcase.

Ikea "Hemnes" bookshelf box
Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase box

You start with a box.  It’s relatively small and clean and self-contained, but it really isn’t anything useful.  And the first thing you do is destroy it.

An unboxed Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase
An unboxed Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase

That neat and tidy box becomes a bunch of parts spread all over the floor.  It’s a mess.  It’s not useful and it’s even worse than the box because it’s in the way.  But the mess is also potential, as each of those parts has a place.

A partially-assembled Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase.
A partially-assembled Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase.

Then you get to work, and things start to come together.  The pile of parts gets smaller and smaller, fitting together with each other.  Your project starts to look recognizable, like, perhaps, a bookcase.

A completed Ikea "Hemnes" bookcase.
A completed Ikea “Hemnes” bookcase.

Then it’s done.  Your pile of parts is gone and in its place is a piece of furniture.

Working in software, there are no parts, really.  No matter how many pieces your project may be in, none of them are physical.  You can’t spread it across the floor and piece it together like a puzzle.  I wouldn’t trade my job, but sometimes it’s nice to solve a problem that’s a little more tangible.