The joy of jerseys

Keeping the Olympic teams well-dressed is a full-time job

10.02.2010
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The jerseys are being produced for the Olympic ice hockey tournaments. Photo: Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images

VANCOUVER – Kent Angus has worked at IIHF tournaments as manager of apparel for 15 years, but when it comes to jerseys, he's never seen anything like the 2010 Olympics.

“We've got close to 1,300 jerseys stacked in our offices,” explained Angus in an interview with IIHF.com. “Everything is going to be game-worn. Every team is getting a set of home and away jerseys, obviously, but that's just for starters. We have additional jerseys for every NHL player, and those will be allocated toward charitable concerns.”

NHLPA Director of International Affairs Tyler Currie told IIHF.com some jerseys will be earmarked for disaster relief fund-raising through the Hockey for Haiti program. Others will likely be auctioned off online with other Olympic memorabilia in support of the NHLPA's Goals and Dreams program, which provides equipment for youth hockey programs worldwide.

Some countries have gone the extra mile with their 2010 jerseys. Hockey Canada has ordered additional sets of sweaters for the men's and women's team, also earmarked for their charitable programs. The Americans, meanwhile, have commissioned a special third jersey to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1960 Olympic gold medal victory in Squaw Valley, California.

But that's not all. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto will also claim a minimum of two game-worn jerseys per team for its collections.

And then, of course, there are reserve jerseys which each team's equipment manager brings to the bench in case of emergencies.

“If an athlete gets cut and the referee determines there's too much blood on the jersey according to the IIHF rules, or if a jersey is severely damaged in some other fashion, that jersey has to be changed out,” Angus explained. “The replacement will have no name bar on it and whatever number is selected. The athlete would play for the balance of that game with that jersey. Then he'll revert back to his normal jersey for the next game after it's been washed or replaced.”

With 12 men's teams and eight women's team participating in Vancouver, the workload is considerably heavier than at the annual IIHF World Championship, which features 16 teams. No wonder Angus and his staff will be putting in 12-hour shifts daily.

The staff includes two representatives from SP Apparel in Granby, Quebec, which manufactures all the Olympic jerseys. Their responsibility is to know the jerseys inside out, from the raw materials (87 percent polyester, 13 percent spandex) to the finished product. The basic look and feel is similar to Turin 2006; these are still the “swift jerseys”.

Meanwhile, 14 students from Vancouver Community College's Fashion Design Program have been brought in to stitch on name plates and numbers.

Angus and his staff go on high alert for the IIHF directorate meetings that take place the day before the start of the men's and women's tournaments. What if, say, Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf is unable to suit up for Canada due to a sprained ankle? That would mean a whole new set of jerseys would have to be prepared for Getzlaf's replacement.

“If there are any last-minute changes due to injury, because the NHL season goes on hiatus on the 14th and everybody's travelling, then we'd have to react and produce home and away jerseys for the replacement men,” said Angus. “We have to be prepared to make those changes overnight on the 15th and have them ready, because the first game is at noon on the 16th. And for the women, it's going to be February 12 at noon when the directorate takes place. There, we have eight teams times 21 jerseys, compared to 12 teams times 23 jerseys for the men. At 12 noon, we have to make sure that what we have is complete and correct, and if it isn't, it has to be done by the end of that day.”

A stitch in time saves nine, indeed.

What Angus enjoys the most about the 2010 jerseys is the selection of “discovery pieces” that several nations have incorporated. These are subtle aesthetic touches that might not be visible from a distance, but delight the eye upon closer inspection.

“Canada's 2010 jersey has a discovery piece in the Maple Leaf crest,” Angus noted. “There are thunderbirds, little maple leafs representing Canada's gold medal victories in men's, women's, and Paralympic hockey, plus Canadian symbols like beavers, fish, moose and so on.” The crest was created by native artist Debra Sparrow of the Musqueam First Nation, one of the Four Host First Nations in the Vancouver area.

The U.S. jerseys feature muted tattoos of the Statue of Liberty and American currency, while the end of the sleeve, quoting from the national anthem, sports the phrase: “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.” Russian and German fans will enjoy checking out the national eagle symbols that have been sublimated into the sleeves for their teams.

On the retro side of the equation, the Norwegians will wear the same 1960s “NORGE” design they sported at the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Halifax, Canada. The Finnish jersey, with its lion and crossed swords, recalls the look from 1965 when Tampere became the first Finnish city to host the Worlds. The Swiss are reaching back even further: their cross-over-the-heart mirrors what they wore in the 1920s, which included capturing an Olympic bronze on home ice in St. Moritz in 1928.

Looking to buy an Olympic hockey jersey? Check out the official online Olympic store at vancouver2010.com. Or shop in person at Canada Hockey Place and the UBC Thunderbird Arena, the Olympic Superstore at the Bay downtown (674 Granville St.), Vancouver International Airport (yvr.ca), and other outlets.

LUCAS AYKROYD

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