There’s a conundrum for sports fans who love their countries and who genuinely want to honour the military personnel who sacrifice so much for us, but who realize that most military appreciation sports uniforms—the ones of the camouflage variety—are terrible. If you point out that camo-print sports uniforms intended to honour the military are inaccurate, out of date, and unattractive, you risk being labeled as unpatriotic. But if you buy and wear one of those hats or jerseys, well, then you’re wearing one of those hats or jerseys.
So it was something of a breath of fresh air when the Utah Grizzlies, ECHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks (NHL) and Norfolk Admirals (AHL), announced that they will take to the ice Saturday, March 28, in military appreciation uniforms that are not just camouflage templates with logos slapped on them.
— Utah Grizzlies (@UtahGrizzlies) March 18, 2015
Jeff Tasca of the Toronto-based sportswear company AthleticKnit, who designed the uniforms, said that the idea to make hockey uniforms that look like Army Service Uniforms (ASU) came from the Grizzlies’ head equipment manager Jon Laughner. “It was a little challenging to find as much information as I could about the dress blue ASU and then make it fit to one of our hockey jersey patterns without having to alter the look of it,” Tasca said. “Looking up medals, where things go, and the general size of the elements took a bit of time.”
— Jon Laughner (@JonLaughnerEM) March 17, 2015
The team discussed making different versions of the uniform based on rank, but decided to use the rank of staff sergeant for all of the players, Tasca said.
One design detail of note that fans may not be able to make out from afar is that the front of the jerseys will feature the names of season ticket holders who have served or are serving in the military. The ribbons and medals on the jersey are all real, Tasca said, except for the ECHL logo and a generic star with the Grizzlies logo. The real ones include, according to Tasca, the Presidential Unit Citation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Superior Unit Award, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Superior Service Medal, Silver Star, Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and the Army Distinguished Service Medal.
Another detail of note is that the uniform pants and socks will combine to form side stripes appropriate to the uniforms they represent.
For Tasca, this project had a personal element to it. “I have family in the Canadian military, so any chance to do something to salute the military, Canadian or American, I am all for it and I enjoy doing it,” he said.