3D Hockey Jerseys? Not Your Average Promotion

The Reading Royals made a splash last week with first-of-their-kind three-dimensional jerseys, garnering national attention in the sports world and throughout social media. From the casual fan’s perspective, it was a creative promotion, a way to stand out in a crowded minor league sports scene. But from the designer’s perspective, it was a considerable endeavor, going back years from concept to production—not just another Star Wars night or holiday jersey.

We spoke with designer Jeff Tasca, who has created numerous promotional jerseys with Toronto-based Athletic Knit.

“This has been an idea a few years in the making,” Tasca said. “It was an on-and-off-again project so it took a little while, but after a lot of trial and error, we eventually figured it out.”

As a designer, Tasca has been given a certain amount of leeway by Athletic Knit to push the envelope and explore creative possibilities. The idea for a 3D jersey was inspired by comics, a personal interest of Tasca’s, who is an aficionado of Batman, Wolverine, and Ironman in particular.

With the idea in hand, the firm went looking for the right team for the project.

“We had this idea and knowing that teams are always looking for something new and unique for their game promotions, we wanted to share this with a team we work with,” Tasca said. “We went to the Reading Royals with it, because we have always had a great working relationship with them and they are a team that has always been open to new and innovative ideas for their promo jerseys.”

The Royals decided that Veterans day would be the perfect time to trot (er, skate) out the innovative look.

“When designing this in 3D, we had to keep in mind that the design should have elements in ‘layers’ for the 3D effect,” Tasca said. “Since it was for Veterans Day, the team wanted to include some Stars and Stripes, along with the US flag.”

From a design perspective, there were questions of hierarchy to consider.

“There were some elements that we had to ensure were clearly visible, even without the 3D glasses,” Tasca said. “We needed to make sure that you could still make out the numbers on the jerseys for the play-by-play announcers.”

Predictably, the idea of putting a 3D effect on a hockey jersey for the first time was not without its challenges. For most designers, once the actual artwork is complete, you’re most of the way home, but in this case, the production technique was critical.

With the design itself was completed, Tasca embarked on the arduous task of getting the thing actually produced.

“The process to create the 3D design took a lot longer than normal since once you finish the jersey design you have to then apply the 3D effects properly,” Tasca said. “We started by trying different techniques and ways to make the 3D effect work on fabric.”

Of course, any groundbreaking project comes with a certain amount of subverting norms and sideways glances.

“I’ll admit, while working on this project and testing it out along the way, I did get some strange looks at work from my co-workers when I was sitting at my computer with the 3D glasses on,” he said. “The final jersey looks pretty funky up close, but when you have the 3D glasses on, it is pretty neat seeing the elements looking like they are coming off the jersey.”

The jerseys were a hit in the public eye, but the Royals ended up losing in their 3D look, dropping the game 5-2 to the Newfoundlad Growlers.