Monday, February 27, 2006

The Nike "Swift Hockey" Abomination

The Unfortunate Product of Nike's Secret Queer Eye for the Hockey Guy Program

Ever one to focus on the cosmetic and peripheral in hockey, I want to build a bit on a shot I took at Nike in a comment on Hockey Rants yesterday. On Sunday morning, I told my wife that if Sweden were to win the gold medal I'd blog about how sweet it was that the old school sweater won out over all the slick and form fitting Nike rags worn by nearly all the other competitors.

I've hated these uniform combos since I first saw them unveiled at the WJC and that night on OLN when the Team USA roster was announced. Nike calls them the product of "Swift Hockey" technology. Wind tunnel tested, and perspiration wicking, they are none the less silly and butt ugly.

This bit of propaganda from the NBC Olympics site:

Jordan Wand, director of Nike's Advanced Innovation Team, said the development project included the first wind-tunnel tests of hockey uniforms, as well as research that determined hockey was lagging behind other major sports in terms of sleek apparel.
His goal was to make the uniforms more comfortable and efficient - not to revolutionize the look.

"The psyche of a hockey player is like nothing I've ever seen before," Wand said at Nike's New York office. "The culture and tradition of the sport -- you've got to make sure you don't do anything to denigrate that."

The biggest differences come in the jersey -- made from four different fabrics and featuring mesh vents to help evaporate sweat -- and the socks, 40 percent lighter than traditional hockey tube socks.

Overall, Wand says the streamlining produces a 14 percent reduction in drag, enough to provide a 20-inch advantage over a traditionally clad skater of equal ability in a 50-yard sprint across the rink.

I just hate the unfinished look of these hideous things. I look and see plain CCM practice sweaters that somebody slapped reflective tape on as an afterthought. I see socks that look like they are adorned with grocery store bar codes. I see vertigo inducing wavy striping under the armpits. I see girlish squared off collar cuts.

All uniforms lacked uniqueness and balance in any sense of the word. When Team USA wore white, everything but their breezers looked plain white on TV. On certain days, every item of clothing the Czechs wore was red-their helmets, sweaters, socks, and breezers, all nearly solid red. It practically burned out the picture tube on my beloved Sony. The Soviets, errrrr Russian Federales, had a slick and gaudy gold embroidered double-headed Romanov eagle, but the rest of the uni had the same striping scheme and just as much overkill red as the Czechs. It's clear to me that all of these uniforms were designed to look like slight variations on a central "Team Nike" identity first and foremost. Only the Swedes found a way to make Nike respect their national and hockey heritage. And the magnificent bastards won the gold!

Hockey players aren't NBA stars. Fashion has never driven hockey culture. Hockey players don't want a form-fitting, sailor collared, micro fiber leisure suits. All were probably embarrassed to take the ice wearing these things in Torino. All a hockey player really wants from a sweater is enough material to go over that separated shoulder with minimum agony-a sweater that is roomy enough to not catch and bind on all the worn out velcro straps that hold their shoulder and elbow pads in place.

Shame on you Mr. Jordan Wand. You and your crew blew over the line and right into denigrationville. Your design team disregarded the national identities of your team/clients in an effort to sell a global and Nike-centered identity. Like everybody at Nike, you secretly long to "revolutionize the look," to mold hockey culture so that it will ultimately conform to the latest fashion dictates eminating from Beaverton. The real message you wish you could say is that it's a Nike world and we should be honored that they have finally chosen to emancipate hockey culture from the shackles of a Neanderthal past.

Come on. Did Derian Hatcher really get 14 % faster in this tournament?

Wait, I think I see black helicopters with strange white swooshes hovering outside my window...


Michael said...

Okay, that doesn't make any sense! Who is mentally challenged to skate in a wind tunnel?

What was their next test - skate uphill?

CasonBlog said...

The Nike Hockey Website features Jerome Iginla, Marty St. Louis, and Douglas C, errrr Scott Niedermeyer in some very sleek windtunnel-appropriate fashions. Maybe it was them.

Jes GÅ‘lbez said...

Good rant!

Generic...yes! Nike didn't just make the uniforms suck ass, but they made all the teams generic. When you are playing for your country or making uniforms for them, the last thing you want to do is take away their distinctness. Team USA's white duds hardly looks that much different from Slovakias...

Stormbringer said...


I am so sick of Nike AND Reebok feeling like they can change and shape various aspects of a sport, ESPECIALLY a great and rich one like hockey, to their own whim. I'm also glad to know that I am not the only one who felt like they were watching hockey clones throughout the Olympics, with the exception of Team Sweden.

Once again, I find it hard to believe that Reebok's proposed new duds will fly in the NHL...especially considering how Nike's similar outfits did not even win the Olympic gold, at least for the men. But as much as I don't want it to happen, Reebok will force the NHL to wear the duds as long as they please...afterall, Reebok has already made it quite clear how involved with hockey they are through, of all things, their name's initials (Rbk) being on the red and blue line indicators on the boards. Don't believe me? When the NHL starts back up tomorrow, take a gander whenever a camera shot gets near the boards or benches/penalty box, and you'll see what I am talking about.

Also, while I'm at it, I cannot thank Nike and Reebok enough for making my Ronnie Francis collection goal that much harder to accomplish. The die hard in me seeks retro replicas of the jerseys Ronnie wore throughout his OHL and NHL career. Well now, thanks to the said two, companies, everybody and their brother and cousin are going to snatch up the old school jerseys when the new jerseys start "to become in vogue". I've lost count of how many people are saying they are going to be getting an old school jersey while they still can...all I know is it's A LOT.

So therefore, in closing...

God, I love that picture. :D And to be honest, I never realized how handy that thing would be when I created it.

CasonBlog said...

Could anybody imagine NFL outfitter, Reebok, walking into Cleveland Browns offices with the brown and orange variation on the same uniform template used by the Steelers? Why should international hockey be any different. The IHF/IOC sold their souls to Nike.

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Jeff said...

Also, while I'm at it, I cannot thank Nike and Reebok enough for making my Ronnie Francis collection goal that much harder to accomplish.
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