On a Frozen Pond in Ottawa

On a Frozen Pond in Ottawa

To celebrate 100 years of NHL hockey, the Senators and Montreal Canadians faced off outdoors in Ottawa this past December. Although temperatures ended up being well below freezing, there still seems no better way to celebrate the first century of NHL hockey than returning to the roots of the game. Hockey began outdoors, and for many Sens and Habs players, playing outdoors is a an echo of their childhood playing shinny on a frozen pond.

When talking about grassroots hockey, art, and culture, Roch Carrier's classic children's story "The Hockey Sweater" is the place to start. Beyond being a beloved book (and holiday favourite here at The SPORT Gallery), it has been adapted into a award winning animated film by the National Film Board, featured on the Canadian five dollar bill, and was even adapted as a musical staged in 2017 in Montreal.

In the book, a young Roch Carrier receives a Toronto Maple Leafs Sweater instead of the beloved bleu-blanc-rouge (with Maurice Richard's number nine on the back). When trying to join a game at the village's outdoor rink, Roch is, because of his unholy sweater, bullied into staying off the ice. It's a vivid depiction of how passionate Canadians can be about their hockey.

The Montreal Canadiens' red sweater has been largely unchanged for 100 years, and the current on-ice version (although sadly not worn outdoors in Ottawa) is virtually identical to the one worn by Maurice Richard in the '50s -- the one which a young Roch Carrier wanted so badly. It's a true classic and an iconic piece of fashion.

The Senators' uniform history is not as cohesive or consistent in comparison to that of the Canadiens. The modern iteration of the Senators began play in 1992, taking on the name of the highly successful team which won 11 Stanley Cups in Ottawa between 1903 and 1927 (in eye catching barber-pole striped sweaters). Unfortunately, the modern Senators have never enjoyed the success of the early Senators teams, nor have they truly cemented their visual identity.

Over the past quarter century the Sens have not really stumbled upon a look that has the same staying power as the gold standard in heritage brands and hockey fashion (their opponents in the NHL 100 Classic, the Montreal Canadiens). Their original uniform set came close, but they have not worn those since the late 1990s. 

Since 2011, however, the Sens have shown glimmers of hope, with a simple vintage "O" logo taken from the original Senators. This vintage-inspired logo is featured on the NHL 100 Classic jersey, at centre ice in the Canadian Tire Centre, and on their popular black alternate jersey and 2014 Heritage Classic jersey. With the NHL switch over to Adidas for all sweaters this season, the "O" will not see the ice this year on the front of a jersey (except for during the NHL 100 Classic). But it remains popular among fans, and at The SPORT Gallery.

With the NHL 100 Classic outdoors in Ottawa, old became new. The Sens should build off that -- a retro themed uniform set may be the perfect thing to solidify that link between the original and modern Ottawa Senators. They have not had a consistently classic look in the same way that the Habs have. By using the original Senators as inspiration, the modern iteration would be well on their way to creating a heritage brand that will last for the next century of NHL hockey. Here's hoping!

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