The NHL's latest Stadium Series game will be held Sunday when the Minnesota Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. But for serious uniform aficionados, the real action will come the day before, when Minnesota and Chicago old-timers face off in the Alumni Game. That's because the Minnesota players -- a mix of former Wild and North Stars standouts -- will deliver a blast from the uni-verse's past:
That's right -- Team Minnesota will be wearing uniforms based on the old North Stars design, which has been sorely missed ever since the team retired it in 1991. Two years later, the franchise moved south and became the Dallas Stars, and the old North Stars look has been mothballed ever since, not even appearing as a throwback. That's a shame, because the logo was a classic of its era:
Always loved both versions of the North Stars logo. Version on left used from 1967-85, on right from 1985-91. pic.twitter.com/Ix3QfbJKm9— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 16, 2016
Those designs have always been big favorites here at Uni Watch HQ. There's something about the upward-pointing arrow that feels confident but not cocky, fun but not cheesy. In short, it feels like the mark of a winner. (In reality, of course, the North Stars never won a Stanley Cup. But hey, sometimes the package is better than the product.)
The North Stars' logo was designed by George Karn, a local cartoonist who did a lot of work over the years for the General Mills cereal line. (He's credited with creating the Trix bunny, the Lucky Charms leprechaun and Count Chocula.) Karn, who had also played minor league baseball and semi-pro hockey in the 1950s, was one of five finalists in a design contest held by the team's original ownership group. Here's a great photo where you can see team execs looking over some of the submissions, including Karn's:
Great shot of North Stars execs considering logo options in 1967. pic.twitter.com/LBFHF6FLmX— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 16, 2016
You can see an early version of Karn's familiar "arrow-N" design in the left foreground. But the sheet of logos at far right was also his -- he submitted several different designs, including one that would have dressed the team in Minnesota Golden Gophers colors:
North Stars logo designer George Karn also developed these early concepts. Check out the Minn.Gophers colors! pic.twitter.com/X3y1RPhsdJ— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 16, 2016
Here's the remaining North Stars jersey variations from George Karn submitted to North Stars inaugural ownership: pic.twitter.com/MoGjSptiRd— Vintage MN Hockey (@VintageMNHockey) December 22, 2015
Karn's original logo design went through a few tweaks before being finalized, and the team wore one of the transitional versions during the 1967 preseason. This logo is often referred to as "the crooked N" because the upper-left serif is awkwardly diagonal, and it's one of the great pieces of NHL uniform trivia, because it was only worn for a handful of preseason games:
North Stars wore the "crooked N" during '67 preseason. Top-left serif was adjusted to be horizontal for reg season. pic.twitter.com/JyTc63jy5L— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 16, 2016
The North Stars' uniforms went through a series of minor revisions from 1967 through 1991, but for the most part the team maintained a consistently sharp look (there's a good rundown of the team's jersey history here). Interestingly, back in 1981 -- long before the eventual trend toward black uniforms took hold throughout the sports world -- they were considering a black jersey with striping that evoked the Houston Astros' "tequila sunrise" design. That approach was eventually rejected, but we can see what the team had in mind thanks to this rare prototype jersey:
Unfortunately, the team stopped using Karn's logo after the 1990-91 season and moved to Dallas two years after that. Karn died in 2000, so we can't ask him what he thinks about his design being revived for this weekend's Alumni Game, but at least we can enjoy seeing his handiwork on the ice one more time.
Would you like to nominate a uniform to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.
Paul Lukas usually doesn't care about watching old-timers' games but might make an exception for this one. 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.