Saskatoon Blades hold “design the jersey” contest

Help! What to do when you're off to a 5-9 start and looking unlikely to contend in your own league even as Memorial Cup hosts? Well, the Saskatoon Blades have found a creative way to engage their fans and promote interactivity, offering one of the coolest mid-season giveaways I've seen yet:

On February 2 in a game against Swift Current, the Blades will skate out in a jersey designed by their fans. Announcing the contest on their website Tuesday, the Blades also gave five jersey design templates for fans to mock up and mail to the team for consideration.

All they ask is entrants follow a few simple rules:

- Please stick to the Saskatoon Blades colour scheme. Blue, silver, white, gold are all acceptable colors. Please avoid going with black jerseys or any other color that has never been previously used in a Blades sweater.

- You can design your very own Saskatoon Blades logo or use any version of the Blades current logos or shoulder patches.

- The team name must remain as the Saskatoon Blades.

We've seen some minor league teams hold some fun promotions with creative jersey designs before (who can forget the American Hockey League's Milwaukee Admirals' "Bob Uecker Night" when the team wore plaid jerseys) but giving the freedom for fans to do similar things is pretty fun. Newspapers have run contests like this, but winners only get to see their name in print and don't get to see their favourite team skate out onto the ice sporting a design they created.

Plus, it's a good opportunity for the Blades. As a jersey aficionado, I can tell you that Saskatoon has had a jersey history that runs on par with their winless record in WHL championship series'. Their best jerseys they ever had they wore just a single game back in 2009 for Telemiracle Night, a good, retro showing with a more traditional design yet still bold colours. They had a bulldozer as their logo, and they've also had a crisis of identity, with the "Blades" in their name referring to both stick blades and skate blades (pictured right).

The current home jerseys is just too "safe". It uses two dark shades of blue and had a silver trim, and leaves out gold, one of the two dominant colours from the teams' history. It's functional, but you can't really get excited about such a modern jersey for such an old franchise. The eventual contest winner may not come up with a revolutionary design that will become the teams' standard for years to come (we can hope) but injecting a little bit of new flavour into a fairly stale jersey can only be a good thing.

The Blades don't struggle at the gate (have drawn over 4,000 or more fans in each of their home games) so this isn't a promotion designed to attract fans in the dead of winter. This is a genuine attempt to interact with creative members of the fanbase, so kudos to the team for that.

And, of course, if fans of rival teams want to troll the contest and mock the bulldozer design, well, the Blades seem to have given them an open invitation to do that as well.

Update - Seems a few other teams have done this as well. The Sarnia Sting did last spring, unveiling a fairly traditional design. The Grand Rapids Griffins have done it on occasion as well. The Peoria Rivermen will also wear these jerseys in December. This is a new angle of hockey marketing I haven't been exposed to, apparently, and I'm 100% behind it. (h/t Victor and Sarah)

(s/t Chris Creamer)