D&J Glove Repair Vintage Baseball Jersey

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One of the problems with making vintage baseball jerseys is finding material that is reasonably accurate to what was used on the originals.  You can’t just walk into a fabric store and buy period-correct fabrics in all the right colours.  The companies that make flannel reproductions have the material made for them in large quantities that are not available to the general consumer.

Sometimes, though, it’s possible to get something close.  For example this brown pinstripe fabric I bought in my local store.  It’s the right weight and material, and the pinstripes look similar to what you might find on a baseball jersey.  But I’ve never seen a brown jersey from the flannel era.

So, as usual, I decided to come up with a concept to explain the jersey.  In this case, I thought I would make a jersey based around the concept of a vintage ball glove, with the brown colour being the unifying theme.  I found these excellent old stock ball glove buttons on Etsy to add to the look:

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So I had the fabric and the buttons, all I needed was a team name or logo.  I was then I thought of my internet pal Jimmy Lonetti, a guy I have never met but regularly interact with on Twitter.  He and his son run a small glove repair business, and I thought this jersey would make a good promo piece for the company.  I could put his company name on the front, just like all of those old ball teams that had the sponsor’s name on the front of the jersey.

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So I messaged Jimmy and he was into it so I came up with this design.  I mixed the fancy/Tiffany font with block lettering, and added Jimmy’s number 12 on the back also in the fancy font.

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Here’s an up-close detail of the buttons and cresting:

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All I need to do is pack this up and send it off to Jimmy, which I will do some time this week.

And if you need your glove fixed, here’s how to get in touch with D&J Glove Repair:

http://www.djgloverepair.com

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A Stepped-Placket Art Deco Baseball Jersey

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I recently finished this stepped-placket art deco baseball jersey.  I had this design in mind for a while and finally got around to making it.

This isn’t the first art deco jersey I have made, I made and tweeted this one out a while ago as well:

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My interest in combining vintage flannel-era baseball jerseys and art deco design stems from the simple question I have asked many times before: why didn’t sports jerseys of the 20th century adopt some of the popular and amazing designs of the art deco and mid-century modern eras?

Of course, part of the appeal of vintage sports jerseys is the timeless design, so maybe its a good thing it never happened, because this would have meant perhaps teams would have also adopted some very bad designs.  Nonetheless, its something I continue to explore and really enjoy doing.

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Unlike the Top Hats jersey, I wanted to make structural changes to the jersey, not just add art deco appliqués.  The stepped design element is one of my favourite aspects of art deco design.  Apparently it was derived from the construction of ancient pyramids.

In some ways, this jersey is as much inspired by art deco architecture as it is art deco design in general.  Here’s an example:

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Part of the delay in making this jersey is I had never done machine-made buttonholes before.  I’d heard they were hard to do so I put it off, but it turns out it’s quite easy.  Here are some of my tests:

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So with that out of the way I was finally able to make my first button-front baseball jersey.

I choose an art deco font that was very blocky, as opposed to the more detailed one I used on the Top Hats jersey.  I had envisioned this type of font while I designed the jersey in my mind, and it turned out to be the correct choice.  I was very happy with how the text fit nicely into the stepped design.

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A word about the choice of the name Rays: the real Rays team has a double meaning, referring to both the sea creature and the sun.  I like the name, and thought it would work well with this design as art deco often features sun rays as a design element.

I am always on the lookout for interesting vintage buttons, and choose a salmon pink art deco button style for this jersey.  I associate this colour with the era, plus it adds a nice bit of colour to an otherwise muted palette.

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It was fun to get back to a vintage wool jersey, but I suspect I’m not done with the polyester stuff yet.  We’ll see.

Vintage Necktie Review

For a while I was really into making vintage-style sports-themed neckties.  I made one-page summaries with photos and descriptions and tweeted them out.  Since the lifespan of a tweet is so short, I decided to create this post so they have a more permanent home.

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boston 1908 final

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goalie equipment tie FINAL

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These ties were fun to make and it’s an interesting challenge to work with such a small and unusually shaped item.

The V is for Valentine

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The infamous V jersey introduced by the Vancouver Canucks for the 1978-79 season is surely one of the more curious sports uniform looks in the history of sport.  I happen to love it and tend to put it in the “so good it’s bad” category of design.

I get it: V is for Vancouver.  But that gigantic V on the front of the jersey was just one of a total of nine V’s on that first-year design (they took them off the socks the next year, for a more restrained total of seven).  Eventually they whittled it down to four on the next design that placed the skate crest on the front of the jersey.  Ultimately, no V’s survived on the Canuck uniform, probably for the better; the hockey world is much more comfortable with perfectly horizontal lines.

And if all that wasn’t enough, the design was paired with a black, yellow and orange colour scheme that said nothing of Vancouver and much about what was happening in late ’70s design.

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But what if this V design was paired with what may be the best uniform in Vancouver history: the 1979-84 Vancouver Whitecaps?  The NASL franchise took a route somewhat similar to the original Canucks design from 1970: colours and a name that reflected the scenery and environment of Vancouver.  Sky, water, trees, the natural beauty of the area.  In the Whitecaps case, a clever double meaning of both the waves and snow-capped mountains.

So I made a jersey that paired the shocking V design with the beautiful colours of the Whitecaps.  A hockey/soccer hybrid jersey.  Two eras of Vancouver jersey history combined into one.

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But V doesn’t just have to stand for Vancouver, in this case I made the jersey for Whitecaps great Carl Valentine.  I think it’s a fitting tribute to a great player and great member of the community.

On this jersey, the V is for Valentine.

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In Search of ’79: My 30-Year Quest for Whitecaps Jersey Perfection

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I have fond memories of the original NASL here in Vancouver.  Especially the 10-foot bounces the ball took off Empire Stadium’s artificial turf (essentially indoor-outdoor carpet glued down onto asphalt), and the bizarre invention that was indoor soccer.  But, as usual, I liked the jerseys best of all.

An overview of the height of the polyester/screen printed/heat pressed era is unnecessary, as the fantastic http://www.nasljerseys.com already exists.  All I can add is I love this era of jerseys, especially the unique design the Whitecaps adopted in the 1979 season: two shades of blue and white, with a distinct horizontal stripe that wrapped around the entire jersey.

I’m not a serious jersey collector, but I do like game-worn jerseys, and I have a few from local Vancouver teams.  My desire for a game-worn Whitecaps jersey dates back about 30 years, after the 1984 demise of the NASL.  I remember watching the local evening news at home, when there was a feature on the auction held to liquidate the assests of the team.  All I remember was seeing the feature, and wishing I had heard about it in advance.  Not that it would have made much of a difference; I was 17 years old with not much money of my own.  But seeing the auction in a room with jerseys lining the walls stuck with me for many years, and I often wondered which jerseys they had, and how much they sold for.  I also wondered where they all wound up – game worn NASL jerseys are rare, and seldom turn up.

And then it happened: I saw one for sale on an online sports auction this past fall.  A real 1982 game-worn Whitecaps jersey.  But not only was it a game-worn jersey: it was the blue road jersey (my preferred colour). And, most astonishing of all it was the number 29 jersey of Mark Nickeas – my favourite number.  I resolved to win the auction and was fortunate to receive this beautiful piece of polyester glory:

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Finally, 30 years later, I owned one of the jerseys I would have hoped to bid on had I attended the auction in 1985.

I recently obtained a copy of the notice for the 1985 auction from a local collector.  At least I now knew when and where it occurred, and that I had remembered it as it actually existed:

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I thought my quest was over, but there was one thing I couldn’t shake: the fact the 1979 design was my favourite of all of the variations of the jersey.  Each year the design changed slightly, but 1979 was the year they used that fun big round font, and had the name placed, unusually, in the middle of the back of the jersey in the stripe.  Also, due to this name placement, the numbers on the back are unusually high.

Since I started sewing again (I learned when I was young, but only took it up again in the last couple of years), I thought maybe I could make a decent replica of the ’79 jersey.  So I set out to collect materials to see how close I could get to making one.

Here’s version one:

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I used a heavy mesh material that would be more suited to football or hockey jerseys.  Everything is sewn on, even though the real ones used a combination of screen printing and heat pressing. Overall it turned out well, but it was a little small, and the heavy, high-quality feel didn’t seem to capture the era.

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I decided to make it number 29, the number Carl Shearer wore in 1979.

For version two, I found a lighter weight mesh and used a flocked heat-press material for the cresting.  The lighter mesh felt more like a soccer jersey, and the cresting was far more similar to the screened-on designed used on the originals.

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For this one, I applied Kevin Hector’s number 11.  There were a couple of reasons for this.  For one, the sans-serif one as part of this font is a great way to save material, as both ones use less material than any other single digit.  The other reason is in the 1979  playoffs (where the Whitecaps would go on to win the Soccer Bowl Championship), Hector wore the earlier of two versions of the jersey worn in 1979.  In this case, the back numbers were a two-tone sky blue and white that was placed in the normal mid-back position, with the name above.  Oddly, he wore this style in the playoffs while the other players had switched to the number-above-name style.  I wonder if his jersey had gotten lost or stolen, or if perhaps he was superstitious and wanted to wear the old style.

This jersey fit much better and looked more accurate; however, I still felt I could do better.  So, I made this third (and probably last) version, which is very accurate and fits very well:

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The material is another type of mesh, with smaller holes and what looks like a very accurate shade of blue.  All the cresting is heat pressed, and overall I am extremely happy with the design.  I went back to the number 29 Shearer design, as this is what I wanted my dream jersey to look like.

All of this has been a fun project, from the research to the experimenting with materials to wearing the final product.  I think I can finally say I have completed the quest which started with seeing that auction back in 1985.

Note: I do all of this for myself and just for fun, and don’t sell anything I make.  But Copa makes a decent replica of this era of jersey.  It’s not accurate in many respects but is well-made and a good choice if you are looking for one of these jerseys.  In Vancouver it’s available at The Sport Gallery on Granville Island.

I think the only place left for me to go on this would be to acquire an authentic game-worn 1979 jersey with the numbers over the name just like the one I made.  But because this was the championship year, I suspect all of the players kept their jerseys and likely few, if any, have escaped to the collector’s market.  Still, I’ll probably keep my eyes open for one – the quest never really ends, does it?

Version 1

Version 2

version 3

 

Wooden Art Deco Goalie Masks

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I was recently inspired to design and build this art deco goalie mask.  One of the big questions I often ask myself is: how did uniforms and sports equipment escape the influence of the great design periods of the 20th century?  I love art deco and mid-century modern design, and these two movements affected the design of almost everything imaginable: cars, architecture, fashion, furniture, right down to some of the most simple and unassuming objects.  Yet sports uniforms during these two periods did not change drastically and certainly did not seem to be influenced in the way almost everything else was, from a design perspective.

I explored this idea previously in a DIY piece featured on Uni Watch, where I made a series of jerseys in sort of a ‘what if’ scenario.  One of the jerseys was this oxblood and tan art deco design:

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I am a former amateur goalie, and have always dabbled in uniform and equipment design.  I love the classic fibreglass mask era, and a number of years ago made this vintage-style mask:

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I’m glad I did it, however I’m not interested in working with fibreglass again.  The fumes are horrible, and the fibreglass dust gets everywhere, is itchy, and in general just not pleasant to work with.  So I just forgot about mask making and focussed on other things like jerseys and other things.  But the desire to make masks still lingered. I began thinking how I could make a goalie mask from other materials that would be easy to work with, and eventually wondered if I could make a mask from wood, and if I did, what kind of story I could come up with to explain its existence.

Goalies did wear masks prior to Jacques Plante popularzing them beginning in 1959.  Wire catcher’s masks were sometimes worn by goalies such as Teiji Homna, and Clint Benedict wore a leather nose guard probably intended for football in the 1929-30 season.  Both were fairly practical solutions to the issue of face protection, and didn’t show any hint of what was to come with the era of fun painted designs in the 1970s.

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So, I came up with a design based on what a goalie mask might have looked like prior to the development of fibreglass, but not based on masks intended for other sports.  Wood may seem like an unlikely material, but consider that raising the puck, not to mention high-velocity shots, were not commonplace as they are today.  In addition, I thought about what other materials could have been used.  Metal, like a knight’s helmet, would probably have been too cold to wear in a frozen barn.  Wood would have decent insulating properties. Leather was possible but I really think a rigid design is needed to stand up to the puck.  So, I accepted a fictional wooden mask design as a somewhat plausible answer to what an art deco goalie mask may have looked like.

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From there, the fun part was working in different elements and materials to make my art deco hockey mask come alive.  I used a fluted art deco-like trim, and made the ‘cage’ portion from hardware and dollar store finds.  I Wanted a vintagy Art Deco look and this grill suited the look I wanted, while still somewhat referencing the modern mask with the cage opening.  You can see through it – vision is limited but yes you can see.  Also part of the fun was sourcing these materials, it might be fun to guess what the grill is – I didn’t make it from scratch.

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I used various paint techniques to add a weathered appearance, as if the mask had been used for years.  The green and cream colours were influenced by colours I had noticed in architecture and industrial design.  The interior features a cotton webbing to hold the mask in place, and the interior is lined with vintage-looking thick felt padding.

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Once I completed this first mask, I wanted to make a couple more to experiment with some different graphics and cage designs.  The first one is this two-tone nautical-themed mask.  Due to the flat surfaces and prominent place of the masks, I figured it would be a likely spot for advertising to appear.  In this case, a fictional seafood shop based in Seattle.  I used a wooden rope trim and also a wooden anchor as the raised details.  I also made a hanging throat guard from thick wool fabric.

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I spent a bit more time on the interior harness, making it from a few different materials including a leather holder and coloured wool trim. In the photo above you can also see the wool interior padding.

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The final mask was this turquoise one based on a team called the Whales.  I used wide craft popsicle sticks to create the streamline designs.  I couldn’t decide which cage to use so I decided to double two of them up, which wound up looking good.

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This was a fun and unusual project for me, but a nice way of shaking things up a bit.  And in case you are wondering, yes they are wearable and yes, you can see out of them (a bit).

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A Patchwork Baseball Jersey

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As usual for people who sew, I wind up with a lot of scrap fabric.  Since I make a lot of small items I can often find ways to use up these pieces that aren’t big enough for full jersey panels.  But then there’s the question of what to do with pieces that are too small for the small stuff?

I decided to make a patchwork jersey out of small pieces.  I figured this would be a good way to use up these beautiful scraps without wasting them.  Nothing unusual about this, the sewing world has always had rag clothing, quilts, and other ways of using up good material.  Perhaps this mentality had its roots in poverty or frugality, but the results are usually as attractive as they are practical.

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But then I had the thought: maybe there’s a fictional backstory I could drum up to explain how such a jersey could have come to be?

The solution: make the jersey as if it was a store display or salesman’s sample, used to show all of the options for someone ordering jerseys for their baseball team.

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I wound up using all kinds of scraps, including various wool pinstripe material and polyester mesh and solids.  I also have a bit of satin so there’s some of that too.  In the fictional world of the Wafflebored Athletic Apparel Company, we offer any material you want, modern or vintage; a full-line jersey company.

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For cresting, I used felt, both polyester and wool.  I made sure to use different typefaces, as a customer would be able to pick from various looks depending on what they were after.  I stuck to the classics for the most part, although there are many more options I could have chosen.

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I was happy to use up a lot of small scraps of different types of braid for the trim.  I have used this material for small projects like the neckties and puck bags, but some of these pieces were even too small for that.  The exception would be the keepers on the back of the ties, which use a very small piece of braid, but I still have lots left.

The final detail was the tag, which indicates this is a store sample display in case anyone wasn’t sure.

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I really hate throwing out good stuff so I was really glad to have come up with this project.  There will always be scraps so I’m sure I will do more patchwork stuff in the future.  Jerseys, quilts, blankets, and wall hangings are all possibilities.

 

 

A Whale-Shaped Arena for Hartford, CT

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I recently made this architectural-style model for a concept of a whale-shaped hockey arena.  I have always loved these kinds of models and always wanted to make one.  I really like how, unlike other types of models, they really strip things down so you can just see the basics.  I also like how the items of primary focus tend to stand out, while the background context often has more muted or natural colours to blend into the background.

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The concept for this arena was my love for the old Hartford Whalers team.  I know there are lots of other people who still love this team although it’s been defunct for a while.  The team logo is a fantastic and enduring piece of design, and the green colour looked great.  Plus, the name evokes a romantic notion of the past that is original and appealing.

Unfortunately, the return of the Whalers is unlikely.  Still, I thought, if the team came back, they would probably need a new arena, and why not make it the coolest arena ever, an extension of the super-fun identity so many people still love?

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To test the idea, I built a pseudo-architectural model based on other stadium models I have seen.  It’s made from sheet plastic, cardboard, and wood.  Trees are made from wire and model railroad foliage.

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The idea for the arena is to have a non-retractable cable-supported roof based on the Olympic Stadium in Montreal.  Hopefully all of the bugs from that structure have been worked out by now, because that was one problematic design.  Nonetheless, it’s still one of my favourite sports venues based on its unique look.  The cables in my version are suspended from a great whale’s tail tower, and the main part of the arena forms the whale’s body.

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The pectoral fin provides a nice space for a restaurant/bar space, shown in an artist’s rendition below as The Blowhole Bar & Grill.  OK, I scrawled that on a scrap of paper but you get the idea.  I debated perhaps calling it The Pectoral Pub, but The Blowhole has more personality.

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Most modern arenas and stadiums seem to have spectacular translucent panels that are backlit in team colours, so here we have it lit up at night in Whalers green.

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A brief note on the photos: I generally don’t like retro filters, but my Dad was a structural engineer and I remember growing up with all of these architectural renderings in his office, and they all seemed to fade or look old, so it’s a look I associate with this type of project.

Will the NHL ever return to Hartford?  Probably not, but if a team did return to the city, they could have an arena that aesthetically equals their logo, colours, and name.

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A Mid-Century Modern Goalie Chest & Arm Protector

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Since goaltending began, the search for the ideal upper body protection for hockey goalies has been problematic.  Early padding was fashioned from leather, felt, and other protective and durable materials, but it wasn’t until the ’70s that goalies had the opportunity to wear modern nylon and foam padding.  Even then, the designs left a lot to be desired, with the body and arm components being separate, leaving gaps at the shoulders.  Of course, that is exactly the place the puck would find, to exert maximum pain on the poor goalie.

All of this was seemingly taken in stride; I guess it was considered manly to get bruises and to otherwise be tough and laugh at pain.  And considering the late adoption of the mask as a regular piece of equipment, I’m sure the upper body equipment goalies wore was considered more than adequate.

Still, I’ve written before on how surprised I am the sports world did not adopt modern materials and designs in the same way the rest of the world did.  Sports equipment and jerseys used standard materials and designs through the great eras of 20th century design.

  Which leads to today’s project, a one-piece mid-century modern goalie upper body protector.  Until recently, this piece of equipment was known as a chest and arm protector, or C&A for short.  These days I seem to see it referred to as a “chesty,” which seems to make sense – the other options are just too long.

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I love mid-century modern design, so I made this unit from peach, turquoise, and grey canvas.  The interior padding is felt and polyester batting.  I embellished the unit with starburst designs, and the shoulder “floater” pieces are in my favourite boomerang shape.

A brief word on the floaters: I decided to make them asymmetrical, as this is one of my favourite features of ’50s design.  This seems to make sense as goalies aren’t symmetrical, and the different arm movements should require different padding for each side.  In this case, I made the trapper side smaller to reduce weight and resistance.

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I was able to find this fantastic vintage buckle that fit in perfectly with the design.  The straps are made from leather, canvas, and jute twine.

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Overall a really fun piece to make.  I really wonder if a modern unit like this could have existed in the ’50s, and if some equipment maker would have taken the step to make the design of the unit so modern.  Given that sports design seems to be conservative, and that the idea of design in general seems to go against the macho culture, it seems unlikely.  Having said that, if I was a goalie in the ’50s this is what I would have worn.  Although I probably would have gotten a mask first.

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A Canucks Towel Power Jersey

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The entire white towel phenomenon in hockey can be traced back directly to Roger Neilson’s towel-waving antics in the 1982 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  For a while it was copied by many teams, and I’m glad the Canucks made an effort to reclaim it with the installation of the Roger Neilson statue outside of the Canucks home arena.

My personal attachment to the event is pretty simple: I was there.  Not in Chicago, but for the first game back in Vancouver.  My uncle somehow got a hold of two tickets for the game, and me and my brother flipped a coin to see who got a chance to go.  I won.

My biggest memory of the game was the woman in front of me who kept waving her towel around in circles, hitting me in the head.  Whack, whack, whack, whack.

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I decided a white towel jersey would be an entirely appropriate project given my Vancouver roots and presence at the game.  The idea was simple: a Canucks jersey made of white terry cloth.

  I wound up choosing the classic stick/rink design for a few reasons: it’s my favourite; unlike the ’82 jersey, it’s white; and the logo provided a fun opportunity for adaptation to the theme.

The body of the jersey is a thick white cotton terry cloth, similar to what you would find in a luxury bathrobe.  The stripes are polyester sports mesh, and the cresting is good quality craft felt.  I found a white and green sports braid for the collar trim.

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I added the V sleeve design as found on the first-year Canucks jersey.  The number 82 is an obvious reference to the year of the incident.

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It seemed natural to add Roger Neilson’s name on the back.  I really admired Neilson as he was an intelligent man and an original thinker.  The captain’s C on the front of the jersey is a reference to Captain Video, Neilson’s nickname due to his early adoption of the use of video to study game tape.

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The crest was especially fun, as I adapted it to represent the sticks Neilson and the Canucks players held up with the towels.  I used a small piece of the terry cloth, with the edge trim at the bottom.  This gave the towel a convincing finished look, it actually looks just like a miniature bath towel.  I only attached it at the top onto the stick, so it is actually loose and hanging like the real thing.