As regular readers of this blog know, I am a huge hockey fan, and have been since the evening of May 13 of this year, when the Philadelphia Flyers completed a rare comeback from down 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series. I like when the hockey guys smack that flat ball-thing towards the big net with their hockey bats and then another guy who looks like the Michelin Man tries to get in the way and stop it. Oh yes, I’ve got the soundtrack from Rocky blasting on my car radio, and I’m burning up with hockey fever!
Given that I am such a big hockey fan, I was surprised to learn several weeks ago that a work stoppage/lockout that caused the cancellation of the 2004-2005 National Hockey League season actually ended in July 2005 and that they’ve been playing NHL hockey in this country since then.
Because my native hometown has only one professional sports championship since 1983 (my beloved—for real—Phillies in 2008), I’ll take pretty much any excuse to buy anything that says Philadelphia and Champions on it. The Flyers’ recent success has reawakened in me a desire to purchase one of their T-shirts, not just to brag on the city of brotherly love, but because I have always loved the Flyers logo.
This logo was designed in 1966 by Philadelphia advertising firm Mel Richmann, Inc. and has been in use since the team’s first season in 1967-68. Like many successful logos, it’s so simple it seems that anyone could have designed it, yet it took a very clever person to come up with it. The forward-leaning letter P and stylized wings represent speed, while a simple orange circle represents a hockey puck (that’s the word I was looking for!). Oddly, co-owner Bill Putnam declared that the team color would be orange in part as an homage to his alma mater, the University of Texas. (As Shea detailed in his post, Real Men Wear Purple, Texas officially calls the color “burnt orange.”) The choice of a warm color also conveys energy and motion.
One of the secrets to strong branding is consistency. When I looked up the Flyers logo on Chris Creamer’s sportslogos.net, I noticed that they’ve used the same colors and logo since 1967, and there is only one alternate version—a 3D take on the original unveiled in 2002. While much of the sports gear out there—shirts, hats, jerseys, etc.—is complicated to the point of abstraction, one of the things I love most about the Flyers gear is its simplicity. What you usually see is solid orange or black with the just the logo.
In 2008, The Hockey News ranked all 30 NHL logos. Not surprisingly, the first four logos in the rankings represent original NHL teams from 1942, which speaks again to the value of consistency in branding. The top-ranked logo (according to a bunch of hockey-writer knuckleheads, mind you) is that of the Chicago Blackhawks, who just advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992.
I was shocked to see that the Flyers ranked only sixth. (I was also shocked to learn that there are hockey teams in Phoenix, Nashville, and “Carolina”—the latter of which could be one of two places, neither of which I associate with cold-weather sports.) I was particularly shocked, for reasons that I will detail below, that the St. Louis Blues logo ranked fifth—one spot ahead of the Flyers.
One interesting note (ha!) in any discussion about the Flyers logo is how similar it is in some ways to that of the St. Louis Blues. It’s hard to look at the two teams’ logos and not ask, Which came first? Interestingly, both the Flyers and the Blues started play as expansion teams in 1967, so it’s hard to prove that the Blues stole the idea for their logo from the Flyers, but we all know it’s true.
Like the Flyers, the Blues have stuck to the same basic concept for much of their existence, though they’ve made slight modifications over time. Note that over time, the musical note seems to lean more and more to the left. I’m afraid with one more redesign, that the thing is going to fall over. They’ve also had several alternate logos, including some wacky versions with trumpets and arches and whatnot. You can see them here.
Here’s a completely unbiased perspective on why the Flyers logo is inherently better than the Blues logo:
First, the name Flyers conveys speed and swiftness, while in St. Louis, you have to get past the fact that your professional sports team is named after sad music. Second, related to the name, it makes sense for the Flyers logo to have wings, since things that fly often do. Musical notes only have wings when designers realize that they’re designing a logo for a team named after sad music and they have to spice things up a bit. Third, the Flyers logo is leaning from left to right, which conveys speed and motion, while the Blues logo is leaning from right to left, which makes it look like that musical note is trying to slam on the brakes.
Speaking of slamming on the brakes, Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals is tonight and a trip to the Stanley Cup finals is on the line, so it’s time for me to stop yapping about logos, drink some raw eggs, punch some frozen meat, and run up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum.