Problem Solving and Hockey Photography

I’ve written about applying development-like problem solving to realms outside my day job before and another interesting case of that came up for me this week.

I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last couple days at MSU’s Munn Arena for the annual MSU Pro Camp, where a bunch of former Spartans and affiliated players come back to East Lansing to get ready for their upcoming professional seasons.  It’s open to the public so I go on down and take photos for DetroitHockey.Net.

Once those photos are edited, I tag them with the player they’re of.  That’s easy when it’s someone like Justin Abdelkader or Drew Miller, who I’m familiar with, but a lot of these guys haven’t made the NHL yet or play in organizations I don’t see much.  Many wear visors so their faces are obscured.  They’re all wearing un-numbered MSU practice jerseys.  How do you tell who is who?

Some of those are still easy.  The NHL added numbers to the front of their helmets a couple years ago and there’s a guy in an Oilers helmet with #2 on it…  Well that’s Jeff Petry.  Boston #6 is Corey Potter.

Who’s this guy with a bunch of ads on his pants and helmet?  Oh, that must be Colton Fritter, who’s been playing in Europe where they have ads on their equipment.

The guy in New York Rangers pants but a helmet from the AHL’s Texas Stars?  Oh, Chris Mueller played for Texas last year and just signed with the Rangers as a free agent.

So it’s a matter of looking at the equipment and working through possible combinations.  At least until something really weird comes up.

So there’s a guy in Rockford IceHogs gear.  Okay, Jared Nightingale played for the IceHogs last season, no big deal.  Oh, wait, there are two guys in Rockford gear.  Nightingale is the only player listed as a participant who played there.  What’s happening here?

Well, sometimes non-Spartans tag along and they rarely get mentioned in the promotional material.  So while I thought equipment was enough, I didn’t know that Brett Skinner was there wearing the same gear as Nightingale.  Thankfully, Skinner is left-handed and Nightingale is a righty, so there’s an identifying trait there.

Hardly anything groundbreaking but I thought it was a fun kind of puzzle that I don’t get to try to solve very often.

Grand Rapids Griffins Jersey Concept

I’ve written before about branding a fake hockey team, but with this week’s announcement of the Grand Rapids Griffins’ formerly-annual alternate jersey design contest, I got to try my hand at doing it for an actual team.

The contest is still running so, unlike usual, all of the images included in this post are watermarked (I should probably do this anyway). Also, if any Griffins employees are reading this and the existence of this post somehow breaks the contest rules, please let me know, that’s not my intent.

I’d had a few ideas kicking around in my head for awhile, waiting for this contest to come back. I knew I wanted to go with a “vintage” look, with a muted red and blue and an off-white instead of the Griffins’ standard colors. I also knew that I wanted to use an interlocking “GR” logo of some kind and a more “traditional” griffin in silhouette rather than Grand Rapids’ primary logo.

My initial thought was that the GR logo would be a standard block font and would appear on the shoulders. Then I decided to work with the team’s existing lettering from their alternate logo to make something similar to one of their old alternate logos. I didn’t think the lettering would stand on it’s own so I placed it inside a shield to use as the jersey crest. That didn’t really work, either, so I relegated the letters back to the shoulders and decided to keep the shield as a crest, with the griffin silhouette inside it.

To finish off the shoulders, I reached to my design work for DetroitHockey.Net and placed the interlocking letters in a roundel based on that which I use for DH.N. The text in this version of the logo reads “Grand Rapids Griffins Hockey Club – Est. 1996” (the Griffins use their original IHL founding date of 1996 rather than 2001, the year they joined the AHL).

The crest shield is actually the same shape as DH.N’s primary logo. The griffin itself is based on several griffin designs (it’s hard to find a live griffin to use as a model these days) but the tail is taken directly from the team’s primary logo as an homage.

The jersey design I submitted for the contest is primarily vintage white with blue shoulders outlined in red and then blue again. The cuffs of the sleeves and the waist follow the same pattern – blue outlined in red and blue. The player’s nameplate is a standard block-serif font in blue while the back and sleeve numbers are a modified version of those used by the Chicago Blackhawks. To keep the vintage feel, the numbers and nameplate have no outlines. Carrying over my favorite design element from Grand Rapids’ red alternate jersey, the webbing in the collar features the player’s jersey number – something only possible in the AHL as the NHL has reserved this space for the league’s logo.

My submitted Griffins concept jersey.
My submitted Griffins concept jersey.

One thing that was a little difficult for me to decide on was how to present the striping. In the template I usually use, I would show a straight line with a straight line. However the contest template showed more stitching detail than my template does so I had to decide whether to follow those curves with the understanding that they would appear straight in 3D. As such, the hem stripe appears curved but isn’t intended to represent a curve, while the sleeve stripe is straight. The shoulders would follow the curve of the jersey template. I clearly over-thought this.

I could only submit one jersey for the contest so I went with the white one as the Griffins typically wear white at home and three of the five past contest winners were white jerseys. That didn’t stop me from designing a full set, though. There are two blue jerseys and two red ones, each a color-swapped version of the white. My favorites are the blue with red shoulders (represented with Anthony Mantha’s name and presumed number above) and the red with blue shoulders (Tomas Jurco above). I worry that I gambled wrong by submitting the white one over these.