Roenick on Coyotes’ old jerseys: ‘They were so ugly they were pretty’
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jeremy Roenick had no trouble recalling his reaction when he saw the Coyotes’ newly created uniforms for the first time after he was acquired in a trade with Chicago in August of 1996.
"Holy (expletive)!" Roenick said. "I guess they’re coming to Arizona with a bang."
The team wore its Kachina style jerseys from the time it arrived in the Valley in 1996 until 2003, the year it moved west to Glendale. In that time, fans’ opinions of the uniforms generally fell into one of two camps.
"You either loved them or hated them," said Coyotes assistant to the GM Sean Burke, who played goal for the Coyotes from 1999-2004. "I liked them. I never thought of them as being really strange or quirky. The collar on them was always something that made them stand out. But I guess I liked them mostly because we had good teams then and I associated the two."
The Coyotes will wear their black Kachina jerseys when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday at Gila River Arena. It will be the first time the Coyotes have worn a throwback jersey in an NHL game.
As part of Throwback Night, the organization is making a number of upper level seats available for $19.96. Fans attending Thursday’s game and Saturday’s game against Montreal also can tour the Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit near Gate 7. It will feature the Stanley Cup, the Jack Adams Trophy, the King Clancy Trophy, the Mark Messier Leadership Trophy and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
Greg Fisher was the man responsible for designing the Kachina uniforms and logo, but there were many cooks in the kitchen, including owners Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern, America West Arena and Suns owner, Jerry Colangelo, and the league itself.
"As we were moving into this the league gave their opinion on the color palette they thought might work for a new NHL team and they were adamant about the logo," said Fisher, who was working for Campbell Fisher Ditko at the time but has since founded the Fisher graphic design firm. "There were so many angry animals coming on board at that time that they were like ‘do not do an angry animal logo because we’ll never say yes.’"
Fisher created several logos that are radically different from the one chosen, including one he calls a flaming paw motif. The one that was chosen, however, incorporated several southwestern themes.
"We decided to see if we could build this legacy of Coyotes in the desert and the American Indian tradition," he said. "That’s where the Kachina logo came from."
There are several details that casual glances may miss, including the fact that "Phoenix Coyotes" is written on a puck flipped on its side.
Burke and Fisher both think that some of the negative reactions the logo drew may have stemmed from the reality that fans tend to like safe, confortable, familiar logos rather than designs that climb outside the box.
"It’s polarizing because of that," Fisher said.
Whatever your opinion, the players who wore them will almost universally say they came to love the Cubist Coyote uniforms once they wore them a while.
"They were so ugly they were pretty," said Roenick, who will be on hand Thursday when the first 5,000 fans receive JR bobbleheads. "I still think the Chicago Blackhawks’ are the best of all-time, but having said that, you know me, I don’t mind a little extra crazy every once in a while. They definitely grew on you."