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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Trail of The Stanley Cup

Greetings!

I have made mention several times in earlier blog postings about a remarkable three volume series of books that my grandfather Bert Powell gave me called The Trail of the Stanley Cup.

It was a limited-edition series that the NHL published in 1966-67 to celebrate the league’s 50th season. They only printed 1000 copies of the first two volumes - Volume 1 was published in 1967 and is 807 pages, Volume 2 in 1969 and was 913 pages - and a 978 page third volume was published in 1976, of which 1500 copies were printed. My grandfather was lucky enough to be given a two volume set in 1970-ish because of his involvement in helping to locate Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and Hockey Hall of Fame at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in 1961. He gave the two volume set to me late in his life, around 1980, and I augmented his two volumes with the third volume thanks to my old friend Gary Meagher of the NHL.

These books were written (and illustrated) by a well respected and at the time retired mining engineer living in North Hatley, Quebec, Charles L. Coleman (Born 1902, Died 1985, buried here). Charles' bio from the book is below:

The following are pages from the preface to Volume 1 which might give you a sense for the books.








The books are a remarkable achievement and tell the history of the teams that competed for the Cup, from 1893 up to 1967, and they included 64 beautiful hand-rendered uniform illustrations done by Charles that were the inspiration for what I eventually did with Maple Leaf Productions and Heritage Sports Art.

I wanted to show you the uniform illustrations from the books - they are shown below - and as I said, these really were my inspiration for the 1700+ images of NFL, MLB, NHL, CFL and NCCAA football uniforms we later created. Keep in mind the illustrations below were done by Charles Coleman himself simply as a way to add a little colour to his remarkable books and they were certainly not intended to be anything more than a nice little reference. Little did Charles know what would become of some of them - more on that in a moment. But for now, drink in the illustrations.

















Aren't these wonderful? Truly beautiful in their simplicity.

Now here's the rest of the story...

In the early 1990's the folks in the NHL licensing department made the decision to honour their past by creating a line of reproduction vintage jerseys under the "Heritage" label. This collection of jerseys was made by CCM Sport Maska, and below you will find six photos of jerseys from this collection that I actually own. I am unsure as to how many different jerseys were included in this 1990-ish CCM collection - - I do know there was at least one jersey for each of the Original Six teams plus at least the Philadelphia Quakers, New York Americans and St. Louis Eagles as pictured below.







If you know how many jerseys were in this collection, I would love it if you could share your knowledge with me ssillcox@rogers.com, just as I would be interested to know how many other Heritage Jerseys were produced in later collections in the following years. I believe the jerseys in this collection (ie those made in 1990-ish by CCM) can be differentiated from later collections by the following:

A. These jerseys seem to have the Heritage tag pictured below both in the back inside collar and lower left front panel of the jersey. Don't get confused by jerseys produced beginning in 2002-ish when the NHL initiated the "V" Vintage program for all NHL throwback products and ceased the Heritage collection logo - if it's got a "V" logo tag, that's from 2002 onward, not pre-2002.



B. These 1990-ish CCM jerseys seem to have "Circa 19xx" embroidered in the lower left front panel. (Having said that, I am fairly certain the St. Louis Eagles jersey below is from this collection and yet it doesn't have the Circa 19xx embroidered anywhere. I say that I am fairly certain the Eagles jersey is from this collection because I believe I bought all of these jerseys at the same time, but I could be mistaken and the Eagles could be from a later collection.)

The impetus for creating this 1990-ish collection was almost certainly the NHL's 75th anniversary season of 1991-92 when the Original Six team throwback jerseys were actually worn on some occasions by the Original Six teams. I am almost certain none of the other jerseys in this collection were actually worn by NHL teams, they were simply made for consumption by the general public.

In the grand scheme of things, I applaud the folks from CMM and NHL Licensing at the time because this was pretty leading edge stuff - even as recently as 1990-ish the leagues (NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA) didn't really honour their past, so this was a terrific first effort.

But what I find so wonderful and yet frightening at the same time about this 1990-ish effort is that the NHL and CCM went to a lot of effort making these jerseys, using a great woolen material (the label says 70% acrylic and 30% wool, but to an amateur fabric person like myself they scratch like 100% wool) and great sewn-on patches and logos, but when it came to the actual research into what the original jerseys looked like, outside of the Original Six teams, it appears they went no further than Charles Coleman's simple little illustrations as their primary, and in some cases only, source of information as to what the jersey looked like. Even Charles would have been horrified to think that 25 years later his little colour sketches were actually going to be reproduced as actual jerseys.

Would you agree with me that CCM used Charles Coleman's sketch as the basis for producing this New York Americans jersey?

Would you agree with me that CCM used Charles Coleman's sketch as the basis for producing this Philadelphia Quakers jersey? Especially when the picture below shows what the actual jersey looked like? (For fun, count the sleeve stripes: CCM 1990-ish reproduction above on left = 6 stripes; Charles Coleman above on right = 7 stripes; Original jersey shown below = 9 stripes;)

In this St. Louis Eagle's case, CCM must have done some research beyond Charles Coleman's sketch - bravo!

Isn't it amazing? To think of all the effort and expense that went into creating this Heritage line of jerseys and yet how little research was done into what the actual jerseys looked like - frighteningly lazy on someone's part and if nothing else, it makes for a great story and offers insight into what happens when marketing and sales take control of the ship - you don't know where you're going to end up!

As I said earlier, I don't know for sure how many different Heritage Jerseys were made in this 1990-ish CCM collection, and if someone knows this info I would love a definitive list so that I could then cross-compare and chronicle the reproductions jerseys against Charles' little sketches. I have a strong memory of visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame when it opened in its new location in 1993 and seeing:

A. A Winnipeg Victorias jersey clearly made from Charles Coleman's sketch below, which when reproduced on the jersey looked like a blob of fabric and certainly bore no resemblance to a Bison. Does anyone out there have a CCM 1990-ish reproduction Bisons jersey that we could cross-compare to Charles' sketch?


The image below was added in June 2011 and shows what the reproduction jersey looked like:


B. A Hamilton Tigers jersey clearly made from Charles Coleman's sketch below, which when reproduced on the jersey makes for a very odd tiger's head and certainly not at all what the actual tiger head on the Hamilton Tigers' jersey looked like. Does anyone out there have a CCM 1990-ish reproduction Tigers jersey that we could cross-compare to Charles' sketch?


The image below was added in June 2011 and shows what the reproduction jersey looked like - note how closely the CCM reproduction jersey matches the Coleman sketch and how different the tiger head looks from the actual one as seen on Joe Malone's jersey:


I can't help but think of what my father always says, "Never let the facts ruin a good story" - some of these 1990-ish CCM Heritage jerseys may not have been very accurate reproductions, but at least they got the ball rolling and I think Charles Coleman would have had a good laugh.

Thanks to Charles L. Coleman and thanks to you for reading!

All the best -
Scott

1 comment:

  1. The Hamilton Tigers jersey is a good example of how little effort was put into that project. That crude sketch was actually trademarked by the NHL and became the Tigers' official logo but it looks nothing like the original crest. What's even crazier is that a replica jersey has been hanging in the Hockey Hall of Fame for decades now.

    Some of the jersey colours in those sketches are wrong too. The Victoria Aristocrats 1914 uniforms were red not blue. Ditto for the Portland Rosebuds 1926 jersey. That jersey was actually black with gold stripes not blue. Both of those uniforms hang in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    I've also noticed that some Red Wings and Blackhawks logos were "created" for throwbacks and merchandise in the 90's and seem to have become official logos now. Ditto for the Leafs. For some reason the 35 point leaf logo from their 1964 throwback uniforms is now the basis for ALL of their 35 point leaf logos. Take a look at any vintage Leafs sweater and you will see soon enough that they are not the same. They are not even close looking.

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