Edmonton Oilers McFarlane jersey continues to divide 20 years later
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the third original Edmonton Oilers jersey. Designed by legendary comic book author and writer Todd McFarlane, it was unveiled on October 26, 2001 and the team first wore it the following night when they beat the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Hockey Night in Canada in Edmonton.
As you’d expect from the man who created Spawn, the design looked like something from another planet, far removed from Edmonton. Mostly navy blue with silver and white and featuring a lace up collar, the jersey couldn’t be further from the Oilers aesthetic. As you might expect, the reaction was everywhere. Some fans loved it, others hated it, but no one was without an opinion.
I have always been a big fan of the “McFarlane jersey”. The day he turned 20, I tweeted that it was “long overdue for a comeback.” It took me about two minutes before I realized that the reaction only intensified with time.
Responses keep pouring in, from nodding gifs of approval to vomit emojis; some called it the greatest Oilers jersey, others the ugliest in NHL history. Good or bad, everyone everywhere had a hot plug. Two decades later, and this jersey is more polarizing now than when it started.
Love it or hate it; I think we can all agree that this is part of the fabric of Oilers history. Here’s a look at how he was born, what makes him special, and what his future potential is.
The origin the McFarlane jersey
While most NHL teams have a third or alternate jersey these days, the concept was still relatively new at the dawn of the century. Only 11 teams used a third uniform in 2000-01, but that number has increased each season, and in 2001-02 the Oilers joined the party.
The Oilers initially looked for a designer outside of the organization, but were eventually won over by McFarlane, who was part of the Edmonton Investors Group that then owned the team. McFarlane, originally from Calgary, was at the pinnacle of pop culture in the late 90s and early 2000s, involved in feature films, music videos, action figures and video games, and, of course, comics. .
The design of the jersey
The story on the front page of Edmonton Journal described the jersey as having “hip-hop sensibility” with “a generous nod to skateboard chic” and “the allure of a rap star with the allure of Generation X” (from ‘Oilers reveals 3rd Jersey’, Edmonton Journal, 10/27/01). It was aimed at 18-30 year olds, and as someone who recently joined this demographic, I can say it worked.
One of my favorite parts of the design was the symbolism; every detail of the main brand (front logo) and secondary brand (shoulder patch) had meaning. It might have been a bit of a stretch, but you couldn’t help but admire the thought put into it. The following is McFarlane’s explanation, taken from promotional material that was released by the Oilers and posted on the team website.
The primary brand
The sharp, blade-like shapes symbolize both the blades of a hockey skate and the vibrant and exciting tradition of Edmonton Oilers hockey.
The five rivets that form around the drop of oil represent the five Stanley Cups won by the Edmonton Oilers hockey club since joining the NHL in 1979. There are also ten cogs on the mark. main; five on the large outer gable and five on the inner gable. Each gear tooth represents each of the previous team captains in Edmonton Oilers NHL history.
The shapes of the inner and outer gears signify a strong and formidable force while reinforcing the concept of teamwork and diligence. They provide the stability on which the “well-oiled machine” rests. Gears, like team members, need to be strong and work together to be successful. They operate in a dynamic environment and should always be ready to go when called upon.
The Oil Drop is derived from the original Edmonton Primary brand. It has been turned sideways to accommodate and boost the speed of the brand new primary. It has also been highlighted to help define it and set it apart from the rest of the logo. The Oil Drop creates the transition from the tradition of the original Edmonton Oilers logo to the launch of the new one for the third jersey.
These elements provide the perfect blend of the rich tradition and history of the team, its players and heritage blended into an all new modern hockey logo. Of course, there is always room on the logo to add additional rivets.
The secondary brand
The type of treatment of the word “OILERS” portrays classic strength and boldness in the tradition of pro and college level sports, while paying homage to the retro logos of gas stations and oil companies of the past.
The top of the shield logo signifies two things. First, the three peaks form a crown at the top of the badge that references and pays homage to the Edmonton Oilers’ roots as the “Oil Kings”. Second, the badge or shield style of this mark is intended to evoke a sense of authority and command that is commonly associated with marks and badges of military and police application. Sports in general, and hockey in particular, are all about mental and physical strength and bullying. This brand is a tribute to that.
The equipment that complements the bottom of this brand is intended to complement those seen in the new main brand. Again, the equipment itself represents strength, teamwork and courage. He has to work hard and be relentless to accomplish what needs to be done, day in and day out. The analogy with athletic excellence, success and consistency is evident here. This equipment, like those of the main brand, also contains five rivets each signifying the Stanley Cup championships won by the Edmonton Oilers hockey club. Of course, the drop of oil was taken from the original main mark and placed prominently in the center of the gear, in its place.
Inheritance the McFarlane jersey
It can’t be overstated how radical the McFarlane jersey was for the Oilers. From a brand’s perspective, this design was and still is the boldest move in franchise history, which now stretches back more than four decades.
For a very long time, the Oilers have stubbornly clung to tradition, sometimes to their detriment, by retraining former players through technical staff and the front office (a phenomenon known as the “old boys club”). A milder manifestation of this can be found in their fashion sense. All other jerseys in the history of the team featured the original patch on the front, and the colors remained consistent, shades of blue and orange / copper that only changed in hue.
Related Link: History of the Edmonton Oilers Alternate Jersey
That’s why the McFarlane jersey is important. It’s a rare moment when the Oilers have stepped out of their comfort zone and challenged their fans to do the same. Enough of us loved it, not just the Oilers loyalists, but those who wore hockey jerseys for fashion rather than fandom.
“The jersey broke NHL records for third jersey sales for units and dollars sold,” says Patrick Laforge, who was CEO and chairman of the Oilers in 2001-02. “As we hoped, it was a hit with Todd fans as well.”
The organization kept the McFarlane jersey in its rotation until the league switched to Reebok Edge jersey for the 2007-08 season when all uniform sets were reduced to two jerseys.
Will the McFarlane be seen again?
The jersey could resurface with updated colors, fit, style and patterns that match the aesthetic of the day. Many fans have designed modern versions of the McFarlane, and some look pretty good. Every now and then you’ll see someone in Rogers Place wearing a McFarlane, adorned with # 94 for Ryan Smyth, # 27 for Georges Laraque, or one of the other popular Oilers of the time. It’s still a conversation starter.
I think it would be amazing to look in the stands and see this jersey with Connor McDavid’s # 97 or Leon Draisaitl’s # 29. But these are only my two cents. As they say, don’t @ me.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and host. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season for the Edmonton Oil Kings.