October 07, 2011
It's widely accepted that the original Winnipeg Jets logos are iconic, beloved and quite rather awesome; whether we're talking about the 1970s-style logo or the one Teemu Selanne(notes) wore during his legend-making years with the Jets.
It's also widely accepted that even though True North has borrowed that nostalgia to market the former Atlanta Thrashers as the Winnipeg Jets, there was no compelling financial reason to return to the ice in those uniforms.
So they created the new militaristic (and rather vanilla) logo while slightly augmenting the color scheme, and they now have a Scrooge McDuck money bin of revenues generated from the sales.
But here's the thing: Fans love the old gear. And since the name of the team is the same as it was before the Phoenix Coyotes were christened, they can rock the old gear at the game and not feel like they're outside the cult. Which is a problem when you're trying to sell as much new gear as possible.
The solution? Put the old gear into mothballs, as the Winnipeg Jets have done. At least for now.
Scott Brown, director of communications for the Jets, confirmed the team obtained the trademarks for the old logos from the NHL this past summer. The league had owned them since the team moved to Phoenix in 1996 and became the Coyotes. He declined to speculate on how long the new logo might have the merchandising market to itself.
"We believe the focus in the market needs to be on the new logo for the next period of time," he said. Any merchandise a producer wants to make featuring the old logo needs to be approved by the hockey club, Brown said.
The move is being characterized as a cash-grab for the new gear, but that's only half the story. As Brown said: The old logos are out of circulation but they're not gone for good. Which leads anyone logical hockey fan to assume the Jets will have a heritage/third jersey in two-to-three years, leading to a starved marketplace gobbling them up like sportswriters at a pregame buffet.
The real winners in all of this are the bootleggers.
There are 203 Hartford Whalers shirts available on eBay right now — you think they're all officially licensed? True North has worked with the RCMP to crack down on counterfeit gear, but there's always going to be a way to get the logo you want on the gear you want through the black market.
But that's a temporary fix for Jets fans who can't find their nostalgia-wear in the stores. Wait a couple of years — there will be spiffy Winnipeg Jets heritage gear to purchase once True North turns the faucet back on. And then they'll change the current jerseys. And then there'll be another third jersey. And then ...