If something ain't broke, how do you fix it?
That was the challenge facing Uni Watch readers in our latest design contest. With the Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly set to mark the franchise's centennial by unveiling a new uniform for the 2016-17 season, we wanted to beat them to the punch and see how you folks would redesign the team. But as many of you pointed out, the Leafs already have one of the NHL's better-looking uniform sets, and tinkering with the design of an Original Six team is always a risky enterprise, making this a very tricky assignment.
What follows are the most interesting solutions we received. As you'll see, many of them acknowledged the Leafs' heritage by including throwback uniforms based on the old Toronto Arenas and Toronto St. Patricks, which were the first two incarnations of the Leafs franchise. In all cases, you can click on the images to see larger versions.
Ready? Here we go:
1. Best "less is more" design: Ross Taylor
Sometimes the best solution is the simplest one. While everyone else played around with various typographic treatments and jersey formats, Ross Taylor did something ingeniously simple: He removed the lettering from the chest logo. It's so obvious once you see it, right? After a century of play, the Leafs don't need to spell out their name -- the plain, iconic leaf on the jersey says everything that needs to be said and feels simultaneously classic and contemporary. Taylor's centennial patch is a winner too. Great job all around.
2. Best modern design: Jim Brewster
It's not the right look for this tradition-minded franchise, but Jim Brewster's stylized maple leaf is a cleverly minimalist take on what the Leafs could look like in an alternate universe (or uni-verse). His Toronto Arenas throwback provides a nice historical counterbalance to the forward-looking feel of the home and road sets. Nicely done.
3. Best design that would provoke a riot: Casey Tebo
Much like Jim Brewster (see above), Casey Tebo has come up with a design that isn't a good fit for the Leafs but is nonetheless an intriguing look that stretches the boundaries of what a hockey uniform can look like. Bonus points for the symbol on the side of the pants, which is based on the Toronto municipal flag.
4. Best bang for the buck: Alan Su
Alan Su got surprisingly good mileage from a series of small tweaks to the Leafs' current design, the most impressive of which is the removal of the stem from the leaf logo. This small move somehow makes the logo seem more modern and makes the whole uni set feel more dynamic. Who knew such a tiny adjustment could have such a big visual impact?
5. Best failed design: Peter Reusch
Good ideas can sometimes be found lurking within bad ones. At first glance, Peter Reusch's uni set is way too busy. But if you eliminate the typography below the chest logo and scrap the overdesigned anniversary patch (a leaf within a leaf within a leaf!), the core design of a partial maple leaf framing the Toronto skyline is really nice. Imagine that logo on a jersey all by itself, without all the other gewgaws. Not bad!
6. Best presentation: Eric Poole
I'll be honest: Eric Poole's uni set doesn't do a lot for me. But it looks a lot better, or at least a lot more fun, when mocked up on the Maple Leafs' longtime mascot, Carlton the Bear. And while ferocious mascots are pretty much a cliché at this point, Poole gets bonus points for transforming Carlton from a cuddly but boring bear into a hilariously over-the-top marauder. The lesson: Presentation counts, kids.
Many entrants incorporated Toronto's CN Tower into their logo designs. The most successful of these came from Adam Mergens, who managed to work his leaf/tower hybrid logo onto the pants, as well as on the jersey. ... Longtime Uni Watch reader Tom Bierbaum always comes up with beautifully hand-drawn entries for our design contests. He usually goes the extra mile by coming up with new uniforms for multiple teams at once, and this time was no exception. He redesigned the Bruins, Flames and Devils, in addition to the Maple Leafs and provided a great logo sheet to boot. ... Most fans would probably be satisfied if the Leafs went with Ben Peters' design. Solid work. ... Brett Thomas came up with a good centennial patch, incorporating maple leaves into the numerals. ... More good centennial patches: Nolan O'Brien went with a crossed-flags approach, and Charles Noerenberg scored with a more contemporary treatment. ... Chris Giorgio came up with a very nice retro-themed design package and upped the ante with his road uniform, which is a real stripe-o-rama.
Want to see more? You can view all of the entries here.
Paul Lukas thanks all Uni Watch readers for a wonderful 2015 and is looking forward to more good things in the new year. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.