On Breaking NHL Logo History

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I’ve been on a bit of a retro logo research kick lately.  DetroitHockey.Net’s NHL logo database isn’t publicly accessible anymore – it’s no longer necessary with the emergence of other, better sites for that information – but I still keep it around for my own purposes and I was doing a little bit of an audit; replacing some of the graphics with better logo renderings.

Which led me to the Hamilton Tigers.

The Hamilton Tigers relocated from Quebec City in 1920.  For their first season, they wore sweaters with a crest depicting an orange and black tiger’s head.  For the next two years, their crest was a yellow and black walking tiger.  For the final two years of the team’s existence, they wore a block H with the crossbar extended, ending in diagonal lines, with the word “Tigers” across it in yellow.

That third logo was the one I was curious about.

I found that my rendition of the logo didn’t match the ones at NHL.com or SportsLogos.net.  The crossbar on mine was significantly wider than the other two.  NHL.com and SportsLogos.net were identical except for the fact that, for some reason, NHL.com’s version featured orange text.

A comparison of different versions of the same Hamilton Tigers logo, from DetroitHockey.Net (top left), SportsLogos.net (top right), and NHL,com (bottom).

I moved on to the NHL Uniform Database to see which version they used, only to find a fourth different version, which seemed to have the same crossbar as mine but used a block font for “Tigers” that didn’t match any of the others (it also appeared to be different from the Tigers’ logo used on that site’s main menu).  While that site is a great resource on NHL sweaters, the lower-resolution images made it hard to determine exactly how the text was supposed to appear.

I thought for a bit on why there would be two different shapes of the letter H before I realized I was asking the wrong question.  The real question was why my database and NHL.com and SportsLogos.net all had the same “Tigers” text.

Why, for a logo last used in 1925, when production quality was lower and uniforms were less than uniform, did all of our graphics include a “Tigers” wordmark in perfectly-kerned Arial, a font that wouldn’t be designed until 1982?

And then I thought I knew why.  And I was pretty sure I’d broken NHL logo history again.

Most NHL logo research and digitization has happened in the last twenty years or so.  The Hockey Hall of Fame did some surprisingly-sketchy work on it around the NHL’s 75th anniversary in 1992 and the Hockey News put out their “Inside Hockey” CD in 1995 that included a lot of incorrect graphics that were accepted as gospel for a number of years after that.  But by the early 2000s, Andrew Greenstein had started the NHL Uniform Database and Chris Creamer had started SportsLogos.net and I’d started my database and there was a focus on not just finding old logos but re-drawing them using modern computer graphics programs.

When you’re redrawing a logo from something like an old, low-resolution newspaper photo, sometimes all of the information you need isn’t there.  Maybe it’s a bad angle.  Maybe it’s in black and white.  Maybe there’s a shadow in the way.

And maybe you happen to be someone who’s rushing a little bit.  And maybe you happen to just be learning how to use Adobe Illustrator.  And maybe that leads to you taking shortcuts, like using a standard font to fill in for something that should have been much more custom.

Maybe you do these things because that’s what I used to do.

The date on my Hamilton Tigers logo file was August 5, 2003.  Why did all three sites all incorrectly use Arial?  Because in 2003, I re-drew the Hamilton Tigers’ logo for DetroitHockey.Net, and eventually that version got carried over (slightly modified) to SportsLogos.net, and SportsLogos.net became the source of truth for so many sports logos, from which NHL.com drew.

Thankfully, there is something we didn’t have in 2003 that we do now, which makes correcting this much easier.

The 1925 Hamilton Tigers sweater is something of a holy grail.  In 2005, Sports Illustrated listed it as one of 25 “lost treasures” of sports collectibles.  At that time, it was thought that none of the sweaters from that season were still in existence.  But in 2018, one was seemingly found before being immediately lost again.  During that brief moment in the sun, it was photographed.

Phil Pritchard of the Hockey Hall of Fame and collector Russ Boychuk pose with an apparent 1925 Hamilton Tigers sweater. (Credit: Hamilton Spectator via Reddit)

It’s at a bit of an angle and it’s not the primary focus of the photo but it’s more than anyone has had to work with in decades, so for the first time in twenty years I’ve started from scratch and re-drawn the logo.

I’m not certain I’ve gotten it right.  Maybe a better artist than me can do better.  Maybe someone else would account for the angles differently.  But this is good enough that I feel comfortable using it in my database and I’ve talked with Chris at SportsLogos.net about it and maybe it ends up over there and maybe the correction works its way out into the world the same way the mistake did.


Update, 10/1/2023: While the focus above was on the Tigers’ 1923-1925 logo, their 1921-1923 logo has a similar issue.  There are seemingly no surviving sweaters and all of the photos are low resolution, black and white, and plagued by shadows.

The other thing the 1921 and 1923 logos have in common is that I drew what has widely become the accepted rendition of the logo despite inaccuracies.  So I’ve drawn a new, hopefully-more-accurate version.

This one may not be entirely accurate but I think it’s closer than the blob with stripes I drew twenty years ago.  In particular, the tiger head feels too modern to me due to the level of detail.  That said, Hamilton’s 1920 logo had a ton of detail, so this shouldn’t be ruled out.

http://www.detroithockey.net

Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.

Comments

  • Fantastic work. The Hamilton Tigers have such a mishmash of logos that are inaccurate all over the place. There’s just so little concrete information to go off of. And the fact that the NHL and CCM used that insane tiger on sweaters in the 90’s that came from an illustration of their logo is crazy to me. I’ve thought something was off about their H logo as well so thanks for putting the record straight about the font (after accidentally causing the problem!)

    Kyle September 29, 2023 9:12 AM
  • Fantastic work as always! I’ve followed this site since 2002 and still love your content to this day!

    Jon October 4, 2023 5:48 AM
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