- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 23, 2007

The hockey stick “T” is back.

The Washington Capitals last night formally unveiled new uniforms, eschewing the black and blue in favor of a more patriotic and classic design that team owner Ted Leonsis called “a reawakening of our brand.”

The uniforms feature a patriotic scheme reminiscent of teams from the 1970s and 1980s, and a number of small details that pay homage to the team’s home in the Washington area. It is the first significant change to the team’s uniform in 12 years, and the second in the team’s 33-year history.

The letter “T” in “Capitals” is spelled out on the jerseys with a depiction of a hockey stick, just as in the uniforms worn from 1974 to 1995. Three bold stars across the front are shown to represent Maryland, Virginia and the District, which make up the team’s fan base.

A bald eagle will remain the team logo and a significant part of the uniform but has moved from the front of the jersey to the shoulders. The red, white and blue eagle, designed to resemble the eagle seen on the dollar bill, is shown with its wings spread like a “W” to represent the city of Washington. Horizontal stripes from years past have been replaced by vertical ones. The team will wear red uniforms at home and white ones on the road.

More than 900 fans e-mailed the team to support a switch to the red, white and blue color scheme. Nearly 2,100 fans attended a party at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to see the uniform unveiled and to follow the NHL Entry Draft.

“So many people had e-mailed me … it’s just so D.C.,” Leonsis said. “Fans liked it, and I really like it.”

The Capitals began to consider a uniform switch after the lockout two seasons ago but held off until Reebok finished work on new uniform materials designed to be lighter and remain more dry during play. The result is a less bulky, cleaner-looking uniform.

Leonsis and some Capitals players admitted that the team’s previous uniforms might live in infamy. While many fans liked the black, blue and gold scheme, others complained of a lack of association with Washington. Some complained that the design made it hard to see player numbers, and even the team’s laundry staff found them difficult to wash and maintain.

The return to a more classic look was clearly a move toward simplicity,

“I like the white ones,” said Capitals defenseman Ben Clymer, who helped model the uniform. “It looks clean, sharp and classy.”

Most fans last night appeared to appreciate the move back to red, white and blue, but some said the uniforms lacked pizzazz.

“I like the fact they went back to the old colors, but it’s not really in your face,” said Alan Russo, a customer care manager from Sterling who wore an old black Capitals jersey. “It’s safe. I’m keeping this one for a while.”

Eight teams in the NHL have changed logos and uniforms since the Capitals last made a switch before the 1995-96 season, and some have changed more than once. The Buffalo Sabres unveiled a new logo prior to this past season and now have one of the top selling jerseys in the league.

Leonsis said switching uniforms and logos was an arduous process; more than 1,000 items will be updated, from team stationery to signage.

“If you want to go and make a new brand identity, you have to do every piece,” he said. “If you’re going to do it, you have to do it everywhere.”

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