by John K. Samson
Like many Winnipeggers, I briefly considered trying to get a group of friends together to buy Jets season tickets when they went on sale last month, but instead watched amazed as the city scrambled to get their seats on that ecstatic and heartbreaking Saturday morning of Ticketmaster musical chairs. I didn’t really care that I likely won’t get to see a game in person for at least a couple years. What mattered was that I would have a team to follow in the paper every morning, have a team in common with my fellow citizens, something I could share an enthusiasm for with folks from every corner of our awesomely varied city.
Then they unveiled the new logo.
In the late 1970s, when I started following the Jets as a goalie-obsessed child, the Jet logo was, despite many revisionist assertions of late, a commercial airliner. Believe me, I would draw that logo practically every day, on every surface I could find, and if that was supposed to be a warplane, it was really badly designed. No, the bulky airplane in the left hand corner of the old logo represented the flowering of exploration and internationalism in the burgeoning age of affordable air travel, and the players that wore its jersey were part of an exciting, fast-skating, multi-national team that played a beautiful, tough, and creative brand of hockey.
The new logo is considerably less subtle and less interesting. Inspired by a CF-18 fighter jet, it attempts to tie our professional hockey team directly to the Canadian Forces base here in Winnipeg, a link that was invented in the boardroom of the new team owners, True North Sports and Entertainment.
Sports teams, of course, often have military implications to their names and logos, and sport as war is an understandable if overly simple simile, but I can’t think of another team anywhere that has attempted to attach itself as blatantly and directly to an existing, contemporary arm of the military. “Bombers,” and “Raiders,” for example, are vaguely militaristic names with somewhat militaristic logos. The Jets new roundel is a recruiting device for a specific branch of the Canadian military. There is an obvious and massive difference there.
To me, at a glance, the new logo will imply that whoever wears it supports both the actions of the Canadian military and the politicians who deploy them. Where does that leave those hockey fans that feel varying degrees of otherwise?
At the very least, putting such a weapon on a logo that every hockey-loving Winnipegger should feel enthusiastic to wear, both here at home and while traveling outside our city, a logo that children will draw and redraw with crayons innumerable times, is a decision we should ask some serious questions about.
Hockey should be one of those rare and valuable activities we can all share and communicate through, no matter our beliefs or backgrounds. The overt militarization of our game by commentators, politicians, and now companies like True North, prevents many people from fully engaging with the sport. We should all be able to participate in hockey, both as players, and as admirers of players who are so many times better than most of us will ever be—those professionals who have dedicated their labours to fulfilling the beautiful potential of the game we know better than any other. The new Jets logo will tell some of us that we simply aren’t welcome at the rink.
So, I won’t be buying any of the new Jets merchandise, but I just ordered a nice blue Dustin Byfuglien Atlanta Thrashers t-shirt from nhl.com, which will at least allow me to express my enthusiasm for our team and its assistant captain, while honouring the franchise’s history. The Thrashers logo is, I admit, pretty ugly, but the shirt was half price. Almost as much as hockey, Winnipeggers love a bargain.