BUFFALO, N.Y. – Now that’s a hockey sweater.
It was a crisp, clean look the Toronto Maple Leafs unveiled here Friday night after selecting Auston Matthews with the No. 1 overall pick. The Arizona-raised centre was the first member of the organization to don it publicly on the draft stage at First Niagara Center.
The sweater features a large throwback logo originally used from the 1940s through the 1960s and carries the words “Honour. Pride. Courage.” stitched inside the collar.
That’s a particularly nice touch. It is a nod to the rationale provided by former team owner Conn Smythe when he changed the team name from St. Pats to Maple Leafs in 1927.
“There is a simplicity in the design so that the focus is always solely on the crest,” said team president Brendan Shanahan. “Conn Smythe spoke of his team wearing the Maple Leaf badge with ‘honour, pride, and courage’ and those words are now stitched into the collar of each sweater so that our players, and fans, are reminded of that every time they put it on.”
The timing of the change is no coincidence with the team set to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016-17. There will be no centennial patch affixed to the sweater, just a sticker on the player helmets.
Shanahan took a hands-on role with the new design.
Back in January, he even had players Peter Holland and Frankie Corrado skate around the Air Canada Centre wearing a prototype. The former NHLer wanted to get a glimpse of how it looked from the stands, but also solicited feedback to ensure that the larger logo didn’t inhibit their ability to move around the ice.
The sweaters won’t be available in stores until Sept. 1, but an advanced online pre-sale will be held starting Aug. 1.
With the Leafs hoping to shuttle in the dawn of a new era, they’ll likely be big sellers. However, as Shanahan has noted repeatedly in the past, that will be more dependent on what the players do while wearing them rather than how they look.