It was August 15, 2019. The Buffalo Sabres were a day away from revealing their 50th anniversary third jersey. But they sort of stole their own thunder by announcing royal blue would be returning as their primary color for the 2020-21 season.
Of course, that was a simpler time just 10 months ago. The world was still normal then. Now every plan that gets made is perpetually up in the air.
But it does seem this plan is still moving forward.
Last night, the Sabres were awarded the 8th overall pick via the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery. When sharing the news on social media, they posted this graphic.
Other instances of Sabres logo without silver can be found dating back to last year and as recently as a statement posted June 1 from the team’s owners regarding the murder of George Floyd. Here’s a comparison with the colors sampled.
In addition to the simplified Sabres logo, that creative featured hallmarks of the club’s 50th anniversary campaign—which ran throughout the 2019-20 season—including navy blue and grungy gold accents.
You can see a slight difference between the navy blue box and the blue circle of the Sabres logo. It’s not as bright as the original royal blue—nor even as bright as the Montreal Canadiens blue, as seen in the Draft Lottery logo. But it is still an improvement over the silver-outlined version in use for the past 12 years.
In the image above, the logo on the right is a closer look at the new mark being used on Sabres social media this month.
You’ll notice fewer rounded corners in the new design, which brings it back in line with the original logo from 1970. But even then, it still lacks the detail of the updated design Adidas implemented in the 2018 Winter Classic throwback jersey.
So, here’s another side-by-side comparison between the simplified design being used currently and the updated version.
The only adjustment I’ve made to the Winter Classic mark is to remove the “NY” between the sword hilts.
When you really dig into the details here, there’s no comparison. The Sabres need to adopt the logo on the right. The anatomical improvements on the buffalo silhouette and the sharpness of the swords prove it.
Even this blue is more accurate to the team’s original color. But I can see why one might argue against it. If they did this, all three New York teams would effectively share the same shade of blue. And a darker blue does help the yellow accents pop.
Either way, they do seem to be moving away from navy, even if by a small degree. It’s a variation of one step in the Pantone color chart. But this takes us down a rabbit hole of color that I could go on about for days.
Instead, I’ll try to keep it simple. First thing to know: Pantone is a globally-accepted color matching system designed for consistency. Every NHL team has specific Pantone color assignments.
For example, here are the Pantone color chips representing the shades of blue currently in use around the NHL.
These color assignments come directly from the NHL’s official brand guidelines. As you can see navy, or 282, is the the most popular in the league.
The Sabres currently use it, and have done so since the Slug was introduced in 2006. What we’re seeing in the more recent iteration of the Sabres logo, including the Draft Lottery graphic, is 281. The royal blue used in their throwback logo for the 2018 Winter Classic was 287.
Some of these variations are just a matter of degrees, and can be a bit tough to discern depending on the quality of your screen. My point is, if the Sabres really want to evoke their historical colors in 2020, I think they might want to be closer to 287 than 281.
However, not to contradict myself, but digging deeper into this rabbit hole takes us to the NHL Vintage program, which standardizes colors and logos for all that retro merchandise you see. Interestingly, the Sabres’ official blue in that program is 281.
One other item of note is an Instagram post from Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark from this week. He showed off his new equipment, which uses the new colors!
To my eye (and screen), the blue definitely appears to be the deeper 281, rather than 287. But it looks fantastic anyway. Much better than navy.
I’ll keep an eye on these color developments and we’ll see where the Sabres end up for whatever the 2020-21 season looks like. But while we’re on the subject of colors, here’s a fun tidbit for those of you who have made it to the end of this article.
A trusted source has revealed to me that one of Seattle’s base colors will be a very dark navy blue—the darkest they could go without it looking black. Interestingly, it’s Pantone 296—a color they’ll share with their regional rival in Vancouver, who use it only minimally in their primary logo. The rest of the overall color scheme, of course, will look nothing like the Canucks.
Before I wrap up here, I do have a question for the comments. Would you prefer the Sabres in a deeper royal blue, or a brighter one? Should it be 281 or 287?
After I published this article, a couple of interesting follow-up tweets came in, which can add even more context to this story.
A couple of readers drew my attention to a May 14 tweet from the Sabres. The post was joining a trend wherein teams post a throwback logo and ask fans which players first come to mind when they see it.
It’s like the logo in the Draft Lottery post from last night, but with a much brighter blue—Pantone 287, in fact.
The tweet led some, including hockey writer Joe Yerdon, to speculate that this could be the new logo and color palette going forward. However, the context of this social media trend involved teams showing past logos, rather than current (or future) ones.
This seems to be an updated version of the 1970 logo, with the primary differences being a more modern shade of yellow and a thicker outline around the logo. But my interpretation of what they were going for was a sense of nostalgia for Sabres players in action between 1970 and 1996, when this logo was in use.
Another tweet that caught my eye was from Budd Bailey, who served as a long-time reporter for the Buffalo News before retiring in 2017.
“In the stupid things you remember from the past department, the Sabres’ blue when I worked there 30 years ago was PMS 287,” Bailey wrote.
So there you have it. If the Sabres want to properly return to their roots for 2020, the color needs to be 287.