Happy birthday, Flying V. You’ve got a look only your mother could love.
Forty years after they were born, the famous yellow, orange, and black Flying V jerseys the Canucks introduced to the world are still talked about by sports fans across North America.
The Canucks decided to do away with the now classic blue and green Stick-in-Rink jerseys before the start of the 1978-79 season.
Forget Mark Messier, the greatest heist in Canucks history came in the summer of 1978 when the team paid a San Francisco marketing firm $100,000 to come up with a new look.
“Marketing experts told us that our (Stick-in-Rink) logo was a good corporate symbol but that it was too uninspiring for a sports team,” said Canucks President Bill Hughes in 1978.
“And colour psychologists recommended the new colour combination, which arouses excitement and aggression.”
Bill Boyd, a San Francisco designer who helped craft the new uniforms, explained his rationale before the season began in an interview with longtime Vancouver sports writer Jim Taylor.
“The Canuck colours were all wrong,” Boyd said at the time. “Blue-green is the coolest colour of all. Slows the pulse, reduces aggression, promotes calmness… Psychiatric wards are painted blue-green… Encourages tranquility… White, being a passive colour, induces the least response of all. And green – did you know that in ancient times green – not black, but green – was the colour symbolizing death?”
Really diving into the psychology here…
“With the Canuck uniforms we are going from the coolest of colours – blue-green – to the hottest – red-orange.
“The cool colour is passive, the hot one aggressive. Plus the black. It’s the contrast of colours that creates emotion. White produces no response at all, so we went for yellow – which is warm, pleasant, happy. Upbeat. What we are attempting to create is an atmosphere that will help create the happy, upbeat, aggressive player – and, hopefully, the happy, upbeat fan.”
Happy, upbeat? Clearly this guy didn’t know much about Canucks fans.
After missing the playoffs in six of their first eight seasons, the Canucks made the postseason for the next six years in a row while rocking the Flying V.
Sure, it was relatively easy to make the playoffs in those days, but maybe that marketing firm was on to something, after all?
The Flying V is the only jersey in Canucks history that can lay claim to never missing the playoffs.
Led by Stan Smyl, Thomas Gradin, and Richard Brodeur, the team won its first-ever playoff series with the big V on their chest, en route to a miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1982. After ditching the Flying V, they missed the playoffs in three out of four years.
“V is for Vancouver,” Boyd added. “It’s fortunate, too… because it creates the ideal diagonal stripe. All teams have horizontal or vertical stripes. That’s static. Diagonal stripes get your attention.”
“The fans will love them.”
While the jerseys certainly got attention, fans most certainly did not love them.
“Last year we played like clowns, this year we look like clowns,” one player famously said at the time.
In place of a logo on the chest was a giant V that plunged over the shoulders to near the bottom of the front of the sweater. There were Vs on the sleeves and pants, also. The Canucks’ official logo changed, as the team did away with the Stick-in-Rink in favour of the Flying Skate, though it was only displayed on the sleeves.
You’d think with all that time spent thinking about the psychology of the new look that the skate would be pointed up, not down.
But I digress.
By 1984, the Flying Vs were gone.
“It became overwhelmingly obvious to us that the fans were not pleased with the uniforms, so we’re doing something about it,” said Norm Jewison, the Canucks’ Director of Public Relations, after ditching the uniforms.
The Flying V regularly makes ugliest jersey lists, even from publications that regularly ignore hockey.
The Canucks began selling the jerseys again in the last 15 years, though I imagine most people that bought it did so ironically.
Whatever you think of the Flying V, it’s certainly a colourful part of Canucks history.