While the NHL and AHL take a cautious approach to the 2020-21 hockey season, it’s full steam ahead for the ECHL.
Well, maybe not full steam. Partial steam. A handful of clubs will open the season in December while most of the rest plan to start play in January. It’s an unprecedented schedule for an unprecedented year.
But one thing we can count on every season is new sweaters. And a couple of ECHL teams have announced new designs based on the inimitable Toronto Maple Leafs.
Growlers add new Leafs Night look
It started on Oct. 12 when Newfoundland Growlers—the Leafs’ ECHL affiliate—revealed a new alternate jersey for “Leafs Night” games in 2020-21.
The sleeve striping is reminiscent of the Leafs’ in the 1930s and emblazoned across the chest is the club’s wordmark set in Mattox Shuler’s Gin typeface. That center stripe is wrapped in Growlers gold for good measure.
“The jersey's design gives the Newfoundland Growlers a bold, new and blue look,” read the team’s press release, “different from their throwback St. John’s Maple Leafs jerseys from last season.”
That’s right, this is part of a young tradition started a season ago when the team wore throwbacks based on their AHL predecessors in Newfoundland from 1990s.
They wore it twice—Dec. 7 and Feb. 1, if you’re interested—and won both games.
Will the Growlers have a new Leafs Night jersey every year? Hard to say, but the team doesn’t seem intent on making this new design permanent. Only a limited number of fans will even be able to own one. Working with Athletic Knit, only 115 jerseys were produced to be sold. As such, each one comes individually numbered.
I’m not sure how they landed on that number, but I’ll circle back and update this article if I find out.
Wichita Thunder revamp primary uniforms
Two weeks later and 3,000 miles away in Kansas, the Wichita Thunder revealed new home and road sweaters, which bear a striking resemblance to today’s Maple Leafs—though the clubs have no particular connection to one another. The Thunder are affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers.
The sleeve and waist stripes are identical to what you find on Leafs jerseys since their redesign in 2016. It’s a simple and classic hockey sweater design, to be sure, but it doesn’t really give the team a unique style of its own.
We often see teams mimic the look of their NHL affiliate. We rarely see them mimic one of their affiliate’s rivals. But I suppose you could say, “dress for the job you want,” right?
Kidding aside, there is one element of this uniform that I really love.
The city flag of Wichita is a real standout. It’s become common to see teams incorporate a little civic pride into their uniforms, but when your town has a flag this cool, it’s a no-brainer.
According to the city, “Cecil McAlister drew the flag for a 1937 flag design contest, winning the most votes and creating an object behind which hundreds of thousands have come to love.”
And while this is a tasteful display of the logo, I can’t help but love this specialty jersey the team wore last January for #ILoveWichita Night.
The design was actually chosen by fans through an online vote last November.
Anyway, back to the original issue: What do you think of ECHL teams borrowing jersey ideas from one of the NHL’s Original Six?