When the Detroit Red Wings take to the ice at Little Caesars Arena tonight, hosting the New York Rangers, it won’t just be a matchup between two classic Original Six rivals. It will be Detroit’s first home game since the death of Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay.
Lindsay’s career and life will be honoured, as even teams for whom he didn’t play have included pre-game moments of silence this week and every arena in the league will include a memorial on the dasher boards through the weekend.
The Red Wings played on the road on Tuesday night, visiting the Colorado Avalanche. Despite being away from home, with under 40 hours of notice, the team’s equipment staff prepared a jersey patch commemorating Lindsay: a simple red number seven inside a white rectangle with a red outline on the left front chest.
If that sounds familiar, it could be because it’s the same design as the team used to honour Gordie Howe two seasons ago. Based on that similarity, it’s safe to assume that tonight the team will debut a version of the patch with the colours reversed to match their red home sweaters. Especially given that it’s also virtually the same as what the Red Wings wore for a year and a half to honour former owner Mike Ilitch, with “Mr. I” as the text rather than the player’s number (and the patch wider to accommodate that).
As with Howe before him, Lindsay deserves to be recognized. And also as with Howe, Lindsay deserves a better patch than this.
If you’re a DetroitHockey.Net reader, you’ve heard me make this argument before.
With the constraints the Red Wings faced on Tuesday, one could understand how such an unimaginative patch could be used. While the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to create an appropriate patch in about the same timeframe last fall, they were at least at home, near their usual vendor. If it weren’t for the fact that this design was used for Gordie Howe when the team had several months to pull something together, it would be easy to assume it was a rush job.
NHL memorial patches tend to fall into two groups. One features a black and white circle featuring the honoree’s initials or number, sometimes with the number in a team colour. This is what the Chicago Blackhawks are currently wearing for Stan Mikita, and the New York Islanders wore for Al Arbour. The other style is based around a visual representation of the honoree or the team. This could be the Toronto Maple Leafs’ crowned shamrock for King Clancy or Roger Nielson’s signature (and signature ties) for the Ottawa Senators.
The Red Wings combine the worst of both of these trends by going with a simple design but sacrificing the traditional black for team colours.
The patch memorializing Lindsay (and Howe before him) could just as easily be one for a sweater number retirement. Compared side-by-side, it’s just a simplified version of those used when the numbers of Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Red Kelly were raised to the rafters.
The result is that what’s meant to be a memorial comes across with muddled meaning. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The team could have gone with a black version of the patch, probably as a circle instead of a rectangle. It’s a visual that we as a society are familiar with, where the intent would be clear.
If the organization wanted to add something that represented the Red Wings, they could easily make Lindsay’s number red with a white outline on the black background.
Another option would be to change the shape of the patch. As seen in so many photos of Lindsay from his playing days, the Red Wings formerly bounded their captains’ letters with a diamond. A black patch in this shape with Lindsay’s number seven instead of the C would bring this to mind while retaining the traditional symbolism.
The Red Wings’ organization has plenty of options for a simple, respectful patch design to honour their legends. For some reason, they choose not to use them.
Clark Rasmussen is a longtime contributor right here at SportsLogos.Net but Red Wings (and all hockey fans in general) should check out his very comprehensive DetroitHockey.Net as well as FantasyHockeySim.com. Twitter: @detroithockey96