Senators look to past to set tone for future with logo rebrand

The Ottawa Senators have unveiled a new logo for the upcoming 2020-21 season and say new uniforms will be shown at the NHL Draft on Oct. 6. (Photo courtesy: Ottawa Senators)

The business of sport demands fresh looks and new takes on the old way of doing business.

Sometimes, what worked in the past gets reworked as part of an exciting new future.

With that in mind, the worst kept secret of the Ottawa Senators’ long, quiet summer – a logo rebrand – was finally revealed Friday. Judging by social media commentary in recent months, fans have been clamouring for this new/old look, a return to the hockey club’s early design with the original centurion 2D logo. It will look closest to the logo used from 1997-2007, which happens to reflect the Senators’ most competitive seasons, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007.

There is one significant difference: gold trimming replacing the original red on the cape.

Long-time Senators fans will recognize the two-dimensional profile of the Roman soldier. The gold semicircle with laurel leaves, which anchors the logo, makes its return with the idea of emphasizing its association with the letter ‘O.’ The new/old logo replaces the modernized version that was first introduced prior to the 2007-08 season. There will be no secondary logo for the 2020-21 season.

This glimpse of the logo is Stage 1 of the rebrand. Stage 2, a full uniform reveal, will take place just prior to the NHL draft on Oct. 6.

"It is time for the Senators to return to our roots," Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said in a statement. "The fans of this great franchise have high expectations. We have heard from our fans, our partners and our players, and we have listened. It is time to return to our heritage, but in a bold, new manner. The Senators have a rich history in our community, and we are ready for the next chapter to begin."

Reports of the logo change were rampant over the course of the summer, and while the organization had thought of holding off on the announcement until the draft, there was an almost daily embarrassment of redesign sightings on merchandise at Canadian Tire and Giant Tiger stores in the region.

At the announcement of a new Senators charitable foundation last month, incoming club president of business operations Anthony Leblanc had said that, "one of my main mandates is a rebrand."

The rebrand, he admitted, was in the works before Leblanc joined the club in April. He had previously been CEO and alternate governor of the Arizona Coyotes from 2013-17.

"A logo is an important part of any team’s identity, but it isn’t the only part," LeBlanc said on Friday. "The way this logo will be incorporated into our updated uniforms is the mark of a winner. It is time to start our new chapter of hockey excellence, a chapter that will make Sens fans in the Capital Region proud. We very much look forward to the unveiling of our new home and away uniforms on Oct. 6."

The rebranding is badly needed as a spark after a couple of tough losing seasons. With an average gate of just 12,618 fans per game, the Senators were dead last in attendance in 2019-20 and have not played a game since March 11, when the NHL regular season was halted due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

With the pandemic showing every sign of a second wave in North America, the status of the 2020-21 season is very much up in the air, and won’t likely begin before January, if that is even possible. An earlier expectation of training camps in November and a season starting in December has been rewritten by the coronavirus. Whether fans can be allowed in NHL buildings, and if so, how many, is just one of many questions to be answered in the weeks and months to come.

Whenever the season can start – if it can start – the Senators are counting on a renewed interest in the club due to a few young stars, like Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot, augmented by prospects in Belleville (Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, etc.) and the prospect of having two high picks (third and fifth overall) in the first round of the upcoming NHL draft.

When I asked him at the foundation launch in August if he was concerned about the lack of momentum for an organization that had been on the sidelines for five months (and now six, and counting), Leblanc said he feels it might actually work in the Senators’ favour. There is a pent-up demand for news and developments and, eventually, HOCKEY again in Ottawa.

"I think fans are going to be so starved for their local team to come back that there is going to be a tremendous level of excitement," Leblanc said. "I defer to Eugene and (GM) Pierre (Dorion) with what they are doing with the club. ... But as someone who split loyalties between the Senators and Coyotes, I think things are going in the right direction.

"It’s not optimal to go from March to December or God knows when without playing, but I do think through these unusual circumstances people will be excited and they will come back."

When the team and its fans are able to reunite at the Canadian Tire Centre is anyone’s guess. But long before then, the Ottawa Senators have some new-look team merchandise up for grabs.

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