From Rural Tennessee, with Love

It's been awhile. Maybe you remember my stint as HJC writer on the weekends from 10/13-2/15, and maybe you're a youth or a newcomer to the website and have no idea who I am.

Allow me a moment to re-introduce myself.

My name is Caz Williams. It's an old family name, and it's not short for anything. I'm a relative new-comer to the sport of hockey, having only attended my first game in November of 2009, but don't mistake that for ignorance. I'm a fast learner. HJC was introduced to me by my college roommate, and I began creating concepts way back in 2011 while I was working as a substitute teacher. Through hard work and critiques from Ryan Haslett and others. In October of 2013, I began writing for the site, hoping to bring a fresh perspective to the blog, from outside of hockey's "traditional markets." This lends itself to my relative irreverence towards traditional hockey design. I don't have a problem taking on the "untouchable" and my designs trend toward the unconventional and asymmetrical. When reading my critiques, it is important to keep that in mind. Daring design is always commendable when executed properly, and should be encouraged to prevent hockey design from become stagnated in nostalgia.

Sometime around late 2014, I got sick of traditional hockey design. It's not bad, but it rarely ever aspires to be something greater, it inspires respect, but rarely love. There are a lot of jerseys that I like, the design I respect. When a jersey or design inspires a deep emotional connection, when it causes you to suspend some of your design scruples, when you find yourself drawn inexplicably towards a design despite it's strangeness; that's where design should aspire to go. That rare zone of pioneering perfection that is so difficult to achieve.

I am not a prolific as I once was. I'm at a stage in my development arc where I prefer to write and critique rather than create; I've done all I set out to do. If you asked me to reflect upon my designs and pinpoint a time in which I felt I had reached my "zenith," one would likely assume it was when I designed the jerseys worn by the Mississippi RiverKings from 2014-2015.

As a reminder, here is that design:

That wouldn't be my answer, though. Not even close. I can sum it all up in one word: safe. I badly wanted a set of mine to become reality, so I shot for the middle. Looking back, I am proud that something I created on my computer became real, that players put these on and were (hopefully) proud to get to wear them. I have one of the green jerseys in my collection. However, I've only rarely worn it. I like these jerseys, but I don't love them. Deep down, I know I took no risks. I know that I did what was easy, and now I associate that small guilt with them. 

My answer to that hypothetical question would be my "And Now For Something Completely Different" series I started near the end of my first writing stint here. With that series, I threw my concerns for practicality and realism out and concentrated on creating designs that would hopefully inspire a positive emotional connection. I have a strong affinity for all those designs, even the ones that weren't well received. I felt it was a good way to go out.

That's really what this is all about: creating something you love. Don't play it safe and create a design that panders to the greatest common denominator. Hockey design depends on it.

2016 NHL All-Star Jersey concept - Bradley D.

Positives: Using gold prominently on the All-Star jerseys was a huge win for Nashville's brand marketing. You must give credit to Nashville on creating a brand that is so unique that the NHL felt compelled to use it in marketing the game itself. You didn't see much of Columbus in last year's jerseys. Now, I say all that to say that I'm glad you used gold here. 

Negatives: There are plenty of things wrong with this year's ASG jerseys, which I won't go into because that was covered well by other writers. Here, a major issue is that it is too Nashville-centric. I like the use of gold, but using Nashville's jersey template is taking it a bit too far. It's not the greatest template anyway. The sleeve numbers should have the same outline as the numbers on the back. The font used for the name and numbers is very plain. The white gloves are unnecessary. 

Overall: Using an original design with these colors would be an improvement. (6/10)

2016 NHL All-Star jersey concept - Bradley D.

See above, but take out everything I said about gold. Neon green doesn't improve things.It's completely at odds with the logo for the event. The "NHL All-Star Game Presented by Monster" look doesn't need a return. (5/10)

Bowling Green Falcons NCAA concept - Taylor R.

Positives: Bowling Green has such an underrated look. Those colors, when used correctly, are just wonderful. The color scheme is almost identical to that of the Cleveland Browns (who had some of my favorite NFL jerseys until the Browns screwed that up, too) who a classic color scheme. I really like the striping pattern and yoke. It's classy.

Negatives: It's not ground-breaking. I think the white jersey could use a little more brown.

Overall: A very respectable set for the Bowling Green Falcons. (8.5/10) COTW nomination from me!

Vernon Vipers BCHL concept - Brooks F.

Positives: The gray jersey has a good flow to it. Gray can be difficult to work with at times for a hockey jersey, but I think it works here. The logo used for the primary on the third is better, I believe, that the primary used for the black and white jerseys. Execution is good.

Negatives: The white and black jerseys look like something I would have made on an EA Sports jersey customizer back in 2002. The overall aesthetic is dated. Black and red are hard to work with because both colors used together communicates too much aggression, to the point of looking like it's trying too hard. The edginess of the striping reflects that as well.

Overall: The gray third is the star here. Make a white version of that, and you're golden. (7/10)

San Jose Sharks concept - Alan S.

Positives: Teal is a must for a Sharks home jersey. It's their color and their brand, and should be predominantly used. Orange trim is used fairly well, but more would be acceptable. Not feeling the tie-down collars here.

Negatives: The logo doesn't make sense to me. I don't get the number. Would you have to change crests for every player? How would you fit a double-digit player number in that space. The logo itself makes it look like the shark is trapped in a circular fish bowl that is too small for it. The sleeve numbers are too large, resembling the cartoonish size of the Stadium Series numbers, which few people like. The jerseys could use some hem striping of some kind; more than just a little contrasting hem stitching. The striping as a whole just isn't that interesting.

Overall: There are some interesting ideas here, but the end result isn't appealing to me. (6/10)

Milwaukee Bucks NBA concept - Jay S.

Positives: The Bucks had one of the most successful rebrands in recent years. Their new logo and jerseys met a warm reception, showing that design in the NBA isn't quite dead yet.

Negatives: Striping is pretty plain. Switch the logo, and it could be anyone. I don't see "Bucks" here besides the colors and logo. More white needs to be used to lighten the set up a bit. Double-outlined numbers are only necessary if you're going to use a contrasting color for the numbers.

Overall: Not bad, but generic. (7/10)

University of Nebraska-Omaha NCAA concept - Phil B.

Hmm...I wonder where this university is...

Oh, ok. Thanks, Peyton.

Positives: It's well executed, and looks appropriately collegiate. Red is dominant, as it should be when working with a Nebraska university. Striping borders on excessive, but works for the jerseys.

Negatives: Pant stripes should be removed. There is enough striping on the jersey and socks. Sometimes less is more. The current striping is fine, but using a more organic pattern would be an improvement. The linear design here is at odds with the non-liner logo. (Aside: UNO's logo is brilliant. It's a U and N that combine to form an O. Simple, but perfect.)

Overall: Execution is good, and the design is good. Good is ok. (8/10)

It's great to be back writing again. I hope you all enjoy the read, and feel encouraged and challenged by the critiques. Don't forget to vote this week! Here are the reminders:

COTY Semi-Finals votes (end Friday @ 11:59pm Eastern)
COTW Jan 17-23 vote (ends Friday @ 11:59pm Eastern)
ASG ReDesign Pick 5 vote (ends Friday @ 10:59pm Eastern)

See you all back here next week!
From Rural Tennessee, with Love Reviewed by Caz on January 24, 2016 Rating: 5


winnipegjets96 said...

Welcome back, Caz! Glad to have ya back on the team

COTW nom to Taylor R.

Unknown said...

Welcome Back Caz!
I'll nominate Phil for COTW

Unknown said...

Caz is back!

Ben Shaffer said...

I'll third for Taylor R's BGSU. It's awesome to see my school on here and I would be glad to see them wear that.

Steve Marc said...

Welcome back Caz. It's a shame the riverkings changed from your design to what they have. But at the same time they took the old Pens colors and I'm a Pens fan so I accept it. Anyways, I look forward to be writing with you.

Caz said...

Thank you, everyone. It's good to be back. I will miss writing with the Dylans, but I'm excited to work with the team we have now.

Steven, SPHL teams change their jerseys every year. I fully supported The Riverkings rebranding. Their new logo and colors are a vast improvement. They have a really cool, unique font as well. The jerseys are a bit bland, but so were mine (their ownership likes bland). Overall, they improved.

Steven Grant said...

Welcome back Caz! I'm glad you're back writing again.

Also I really enjoyed your "And Now For Something Completely Different" series, that was one of the best series on HJC. Hopefully you still have a few more concepts left in you.

DBro Alexander said...


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