Friday, 17 January 2014

Original Toronto Maple Leafs' Logo: Versions 1-4

I am always fascinated by logo alterations and changes. It also fascinates me when some people within an organization don't recognize the importance of keeping one singular brand or look. This can sometimes happen with sports logos. The changes seem to occur when the logo in question is presented in a new way to the public. To explain what I am talking about lets take a look at the original Toronto Maple Leafs logo.

None of these version numbers are official. They are merely how I will refer to them for each of you. Version 1 is the original version as it appeared on a Maple Leafs' sweaters from 1927 to 1938. Only sweaters from those years can claim to sport a Version 1 logo. Heritage and throwback jerseys have different versions, which we'll cover later. The beauty of this original version is that there really is not a set standard for this logo. Back in this era, it was typically a player's wife, or a group of wives, who would stitch logos and numbers on to the sweaters.

It's very likely that they were given a hand drawn picture of the Leafs' logo and told to stitch that on to the front of the jersey. That hand drawn logo would then be interpreted in different ways by the wives. This can be seen in the photo below of the 1932 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Just look at the three players in the front row, on the left. Each has a different looking logo stitched on to their jersey. Also take a look at Conn Smythe next to those players. The logo on his vest is completely different than any of the players.

Back in these days there was no need to ensure consistency amongst the logo. A "close enough" would suffice. There were no t-shirt sales or jersey sales to worry about. To claim that there is a standard version of this logo is not reasonable. It wasn't important to have a standard logo for public consumption. The logo wasn't generating a lot of money for the team, the players were. Photos of all the players were what the fans desired not their jerseys or player tees.
Charlie Conacher
It is my opinion that the photo above, or something similar, was used within the last 20 years to create the "new standard" versions of the original Maple Leafs logo.

I will consider this next logo to be version 2. It was featured on the special throwback jersey used by the Leafs during the 1996-97 season. The 65th anniversary of Maple Leafs Gardens.
By the mid 90's, logos were being printed/stitched by instructions from a digital file. That means that someone had to attempt to recreate the original logo for that digital file. They likely had some reference material, but how do you create one FINAL version of a logo when the previous version had many different looks? Essentially what became the official version of the logo was one artist's interpretation of one wife's interpretation of said logo.

This version was also used on the wool Heritage jerseys made by CCM.

This is where it gets interesting...

During the same time that CCM was producing these Heritage sweaters, a new version of the logo began being used. It was still the same shape leaf, but now the font had been altered.
It looked less like the Version 1 logo with the hand cut and stitched letters of the 1930's, and more like a logo with a computer generated font which was trying to look like it was from the 30's. Up until this year (2014) Version 3 of the logo was likely the version that was presented when the team referred to their original logo. It was used on hats and shirts and other merchandise. It was used around the Air Canada Centre. However, it never appeared on a jersey...ever!
The example above shows that this logo was presented to the public as official merchandise. Molson would have obtained official digital files of these logos from the NHL and the Maple Leafs. Obviously at this time, this version of the logo was the "official" original Maple Leafs logo.

The 2014 Winter Classic may have changed the "official" version of this logo again. When it came time for the Leafs to create their outdoor game jersey they looked to their 1927 sweater.
Whoever was in charge of this throwback design process decided not to use what had been the official logo. Nor did he/she/they decide to use the more accurate Version 2 logo. They decided to once again go back to original photos and other reference material to create a Version 4 of the original Toronto Maple Leafs logo. For the purposes of making money, this logo was obviously placed on any shirt, hat, mug, jersey, or picture that came near it. Once the initial excitement of the 2014 Winter Classic fades away we will see what version of this logo is left standing as the "official" version...for the time being.

To me, Version 4 best represents the logo as it was meant to be seen in 1927. We now know that the original logo can never be produced exactly as it was. Now with digital files we can point to a logo and denote it as the "official logo". It's funny how one person in front of their computer can alter the history books for so many.

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