Identity In-Depth: A closer look at every logo of the 2020 NHL Winter Classic

In the first edition of a new series, let’s examine the branding of the next Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators. There’s a lot to unpack.

Over the weekend, the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators unveiled special logos for the upcoming 2020 NHL Winter Classic. It was a big deal in our world but my coverage was admittedly anemic. Sorry about that. In my defense, I was in Hawaii for six days... which should be explanation enough.

Now that I’m back home in a weirdly wintry Seattle, I thought we should take a closer look at all of the logos for the next Winter Classic. Let’s see what we can glean from them while we await the jerseys, slated to be revealed early next month.

We’ll start with the team logos and then dig deeper into the event branding as a whole.

The Stars’ logo was quite clearly inspired by the old Dallas Texans of the United States Hockey League in the 1940s. To get anything less than a Texans throwback in Stars colors would be a genuine surprise. But I still can’t wait to see the Adidas execution.

Dallas Stars 2020 Winter Classic logo

That’s how the logo looks in its normal presentation, but as we saw in the Stars’ own reveal video, the crest itself will be felt with a retro-style stitching pattern inside.

Dallas Stars 2020 Winter Classic logo (stitching)

Where it’s a toss-up for me is in the jersey’s base color. Are we getting a white sweater for Dallas, or a green one? We’ll get to Nashville in a moment, but they’re all but guaranteed to be wearing yellow, allowing their opponent to go either way without losing contrast on the ice.

Personally, I think green/yellow would make for a better-looking game than white/yellow.

There’s certainly precedent for a game without white jerseys. Some examples include the 2014 Winter Classic, in which we saw the Leafs in blue and the Wings in red.  In last year’s Stadium Series, the Penguins wore black while the Flyers wore orange. And when those teams met outdoors in 2017, it was yellow versus black.

Color vs. color outdoor game jerseys

Things get a little more complicated with the Predators. They unveiled this logo on Sunday. These are the actual images they tweeted.

Nashville Predators 2020 Winter Classic logo unveiling

But there’s a problem. In reviewing the NHL’s official style guide for the Winter Classic, I noticed the tiger head is facing the left. And there’s a note on the page that reads: “This tiger-head logo may not be flipped or reversed under any circumstances.”

Huh. So that means it’s not supposed to be facing toward the right at all—as it is in the images the team posted.

On the other hand, all of the merchandise has the tiger facing left, as the style guide mandates.

Nashville Predators 2020 Winter Classic merchandise

This is how it’s supposed to appear.

Nashville Predators 2020 Winter Classic logo

I’m curious about the guidance on this. It looks fine either way. And more importantly, when you look back at 21 years of Nashville Predators branding, the tiger has always faced right. So why flip it now for this faux-retro design? Seems odd.

Regardless, this won’t be the primary logo on the jersey. The Preds have declared it to be their shoulder patch—which is the first hint we’re getting a Nashville Dixie Flyers throwback. The Dixie Flyers of the Eastern Hockey League were Music City’s first professional hockey team in the 1960s.

Nashville Dixie Flyers team photo / mid-1960s

As you can see, they wore a script mark inside the center stripe of their jersey. Odds are good the Predators will follow suit for the big outdoor game on New Year’s Day. What’s my other evidence?

Nashville Predators 2020 Winter Classic script

This script logo can be found on all sorts of Predators-branded Winter Classic merchandise. It bares a passing resemblance to the Dixie Flyers script and I haven’t yet come across an equivalent for the Stars, which leads me to think this is indeed a design special to Nashville.

Nashville Predators 2020 Winter Classic merchandise / Hat photo via @Dunlap

So I’m picturing that as a good possibility for the front of a yellow sweater. But even still, that’s just a hunch. We’ll find out for sure in early November.

All right, normally that would be enough for one blog post, but I’ve been away for a while and I’ve got more. Let’s look at all the varieties of the overall Winter Classic event branding. And as usual, there’s a lot of it.

2020 NHL Winter Classic primary logo

That, of course, is the primary logo, which has been around since March. And even then we all took note of the designers taking inspiration from a big ol’ Texan belt buckle. And then just this week came the thing we all knew had to be coming.

2020 NHL Winter Classic belt buckle / Stars Hangar

Yes. You can buy an actual belt buckle in the design of the Winter Classic belt buckle logo. I think this may actually be the first time we’ve gotten a real-life version of a Winter Classic logo. (Did the Notre Dame people even try drawing their logo on an actual icy clover leaf? Doubtful.)

So that’s worth its weight in gold as far as I’m concerned. But let’s move on just the same.

Here’s a look at the sponsor-branded version alongside the clean copy.

2020 NHL Winter Classic standard/sponsor logos

A design that detailed becomes a real challenge to accurately reproduce when you’re embroidering a patch or the like. So there’s a toned down version without all the floral arrangements and faux-3D gradient work.

2020 NHL Winter Classic embroidery logo

That’s the version we’ll see for the shoulder patch on the jerseys. For all the sponsorships that go with these events, the league has so far held off on forcing the players to wear the sponsor logos on their uniforms.

As cynical as it sounds, that probably has less to do with protecting the integrity of the game and the sweaters and more to do with needing NHLPA approval, which would almost certainly require some type of revenue sharing. And why would the NHL want to give up any of that money?

Moving on. Even though it will perplex some of those south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there’s another version of the Winter Classic (Classique Hivernale) logo for use by our French-speaking friends to the north.

2020 NHL Winter Classic logo in French

We also have some simplified wordmarks.

2020 NHL Winter Classic wordmark

What about a version that highlights the match-up? Covered.

2020 NHL Winter Classic match-up logo

Also included is this busy but fun banner design.

2020 NHL Winter Classic banner art

See what I mean about green and yellow looking good together? I really hope this is a preview of the sweaters that are coming.

Continuing through the Winter Classic logo art, there’s also this little guy, listed as “support art” in the official style guide. Not sure where or how it gets used, but with all the branding that goes into this one game, I’m sure someone will find a way to deploy it.

2020 NHL Winter Classic support art

And to wrap things up we’ve got a Western-style flying puck, too.

2020 NHL Winter Classic puck art

It’s a big game with no shortage of branding that’s heavy on its Old West theme. And I think I’m right in saying it’s the first Winter Classic identity ever that wasn’t dripping with snow and icicles—quite literally. I’m impressed with the evolution.

If you want to check my work, here’s every Winter Classic logo ever, all in one place.

NHL Winter Classici lo

And with that, I’m off to start writing my next article. So much happened while I was away. What’s that about?

What do you think of all the 2020 NHL Winter Classic branding?