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Whalers Make Long-Awaited Return to New England

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Twenty-two years after they left, the Hartford Whalers finally returned to New England last night — sort of.

That wasn’t really the Whalers facing off against the Bruins last night in Boston, of course. It was the Hurricanes, wearing their much-discussed Whalers throwbacks. And since those throwbacks are green, the Bruins wore white at home, which as we all know is how every NHL game should be. (You can see a ton of additional photos from the game here.)

This wasn’t the first time this season that the ’Canes broke out the Whalers throwbacks. They previously wore them, also against the Bruins, for a game in December. But that game was in Raleigh, while this one was in Boston — close to the Whalers’ old home base. That had to be bittersweet for the old-guard Whalers fans, many of whom are still nursing a grudge about the team’s departure. I wonder if any Hartford folks made the trip up to Boston for the game.

MiLB’s Hartford Yard Goats, who in the past have run promotions featuring Whalers-themed uniforms, came to the Whalers fans’ defense yesterday by taking a uni-themed potshot at the ’Canes on Twitter:

You know it’s a good day when even the childish internet trolling is uni-related!

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And speaking of the NHL…: When an NHL team is retiring a player’s number, it’s now standard procedure for the entire roster to wear that player’s jersey during pregame warmups. But the Penguins did that last night for an active player, as the whole squad honored center Matt Cullen’s 1,500th career game (good for 20th on the all-time list) by wearing his sweater — a very nice gesture, especially considering that Cullen has only played three of his 21 seasons in Pittsburgh.

In addition:

• The pregame jerseys featured a commemorative patch:

• The Penguins also presented Cullen with a plaque, which among other things featured era-appropriate logos of every team he’s played for — another classy move:

• They also gave Cullen a silver-plated stick and had his family out on the ice for the presentation. Interestingly, Cullen’s three kids wore the Pens’ Stadium Series jersey design instead of the primary jersey:

(My thanks to Jerry Wolper for letting me know about this one.)

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ITEM! MLB Season Preview update: As you know, my annual Uni Watch MLB Season Preview usually runs shortly before Opening Day on ESPN. But due to the recent unpleasantness, I’ll be parting ways with ESPN about 10 days before the MLB preview would normally run. Since I haven’t yet struck a deal to move the Uni Watch column to a new media outlet, I’ve been figuring that the MLB preview would run here on the blog.

But now I’m happy to announce that this year’s MLB preview will appear on the Sports Illustrated website, with some related content possibly appearing in the printed magazine.

This is the part where I say that it’s a thrill to write for SI because I grew up reading it (I couldn’t afford a subscription when I was a little kid, so I’d read it at our local library) and have so much respect for its place in sports media history. All of which is true! I’m really excited to be writing for them.

You probably have some questions. Allow me to anticipate some of them:

When will the MLB preview be published?

That’s a tricky question, because there are two Opening Days this season. The A’s and Mariners are playing in Japan on March 20-21, and then the “normal” Opening Day for everyone else is on March 28. The SI editors and I have decided that the preview will run on March 25 or 26. Since the A’s/M’s games will already have taken place, I’ll include a quick recap of the uni-notable aspects of those games (i.e., the uni ads).

Will you be doing more for SI after this MLB preview?

I’m not sure yet. I hope so — and I think they hope so as well — but there are some complicating factors. We’ll see.

So SI isn’t hiring you like ESPN did?

No. Again, both sides are hoping to continue working together, but we’ll see.

Is there still a chance you could end up partnering with another media company besides SI?

Yes. I’ve had talks with most of the obvious places, and a few of the non-obvious ones. I was hoping to have a new deal in place by the time my ESPN contract runs out next week, but that now seems highly unlikely. Some places politely declined my overtures, others want to work with me but have their hands tied by hiring freezes, one told me to check back in April, another offered me a ridiculously low freelance rate, blah-blah-blah — it’s been quite a slog.

For now, I’m very happy about the MLB preview appearing on SI, where I’m hoping to reach a new batch of readers. The editors I’m working with definitely Get It™, and they’re committing some serious internal resources to this piece, so it should look great and get lots of promotion, whoop-whoop.

Thanks for listening. I’ll keep you posted on additional developments as they occur.

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White handkerchiefs and black armbands: Flagstaff Films continues to post sensational old MLB footage on Twitter. If you skip ahead to the 0:37 mark of the clip shown above, you’ll see Ted Williams pulling a handkerchief out of his uniform pants pocket and blowing his nose while walking through the outfield during a spring training game. Not sure I’ve ever see a player do that before!

Also, Teddy Ballgame was wearing a black armband in that sequence. What was that about? According to Dressed to the Nines’ historical rundown of memorial patches and armbands, the 1951 Red Sox wore a black band during spring training for team vice president Eddie Collins, so there you go.

(My thanks to @NCSox for this one.)

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Sock update/reminder: In case you missed it on Tuesday, Harrison Hall, the NBA armband collector who I interviewed last month, got his employer, Rock ’Em Socks, to make me a pair of Uni Watch socks. I was surprised by how many of you expressed an interest in purchasing a pair of these yesterday, so let’s keep that channel open: If you want a pair, let me know and I’ll see about having a batch made. Thanks.

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Demand for Bryce Harper jerseys has been so high that the Phillies’ team store ran out of the letter “R.” … Harper himself was seen yesterday still sporting a No. 34 compression sleeve despite being issued No. 3 with Philadelphia (from Joseph Giordano). … Speaking of the Phillies: Subtle changes to the Phillies alternate blue hats for this year. White outline on the “P” looks thinner, and the shades of blue and red appear to be darker. New Era maker’s mark was white, now red (from Quin Patterson). … The Rays had spring training matchups against USF and the Twins yesterday, so equipment staff took some notes to keep track of the uni changes (from Marc Topkin). … The Phillies and Cardinals went red versus red yesterday (from multiple readers). … Also from that game: Cards P Dominic Leone wore some excellent stirrups, but apparently Keith Olbermann didn’t think so (from multiple readers). … The Reds have lined 2nd and 3rd Streets in downtown Cincinnati with light pole banners showing the 15 throwback uniforms they plan to wear this season (from our own Alex Hider). … The Indians and Reds, who share a spring training ballpark, placed a Frank Robinson memorial behind the fence in left field. Robinson, who died last month, played for both clubs during his career. … A dinner menu and business card from Yankees HOF CF Mickey Mantle’s Joplin, Mo., motel is up for grabs (from @JunkWaxTwins). … The Pawtucket Red Sox, Triple-A affiliate of the Red Sox, aren’t set to move to Worcester for another two years, but the club has already revealed their upcoming new uniforms (from our own Phil Hecken). … Color vs. color yesterday for UAB (green) versus Alabama (crimson) (from Griffin Smith). … Mississippi State will wear teal uniforms today against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in honor of late MSU softball student-athlete Alex Wilcox and in support of the fight against ovarian cancer (from Joel Mathwig). … LSU softball added green belts to their yellow and purple uniforms yesterday to create a Mardi Gras look (from Chris Mycoskie). … Preston Feiler saw a T-Mobile commercial yesterday and noticed something familiar: “The kids [in the commercial] are wearing hats with the old Savannah Sand Gnats Logo on them. The Sand Gnats were the Mets’ Single-A team here until four years ago when they moved to Columbia, S.C., and became the Fireflies.” … Men’s formalwear company Indochino and the Red Sox signed an advertising deal (from Tom Turner). … The starting pitchers for yesterday’s Yanks/Jays Grapefruit League game were Domingo German and Matt Shoemaker, which invited an amusing uni-related observation. … The Triple-A Rochester Red Wings will have a Deaf Culture Day promotion, with jerseys and caps featuring American Sign Language. “The significance of this for Rochester is that we have a large deaf population thanks to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, which is a partner in this event,” explains Joe Werner. … WVU is the latest college team to go with raised helmet logos.

NFL News: A couple of unique uni notes from this photo from a 1974 Saints/Rams matchup: Look at the clean and simple fleur-de-lis ringer tee the man in the background is wearing, and note Rams QB John Hadl wearing an unusually high No. 21 (from Pro Football Journal). … More Saints news: Russell, who didn’t give his last name, found this photo of a Saints helmet cart. Notice the fleur-de-lis, which looks like it’s from before the team updated their logo in 2000. … An NFL exec speaks on what the league is doing to make helmets safer (from our own Phil Hecken). … The major sportswear brands go all-out to get players’ attention at the NFL combine. According to that article, the Under Armour logo even appears on the players’ hotel key cards (from Jason Hillyer).

College/High School Football News: Oklahoma QB and NFL Draft prospect Kyler Murray has signed with Panini America Trading Cards (from Darren Evans). … North Carolina’s equipment staff has placed player names on the front of their helmets, in the team’s font, for spring practices (from James Gilbert). … Reader Gilbert Lee writes: “For my taste, [Cal football head coach] Justin Wilcox’s camp logo is too similar to [Oklahoma City Thunder G Russell] Westbrook’s logo.

Hockey News: The Red Wings honored the late F Ted Lindsay with a No. 7 commemorative patch on their sweaters last night against the Avalanche. Here’s a closeup. Lindsay, who played for the Red Wings from 1944-1957, died on Monday (from multiple readers). … In what might seem as a no-brainer decision (pun fully intended), NHL owners are mulling over a rule change that would require any player who loses his helmet during play to immediately return to the bench. Currently, players who lose their helmets are allowed to continue playing until the next stoppage (from our own Phil Hecken). … The Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL will wear St. Paddy’s Day uniforms on March 17 (from Mike Lucia).

Basketball News: Cross-listed from the college football section: Reader Gilbert Lee writes: “For my taste, [Cal football head coach] Justin Wilcox’s camp logo is too similar to [Oklahoma City Thunder G Russell] Westbrook’s logo. … Both Wake Forest and Duke wore jerseys with a “ghost” wordmark on the front (from @ACCTracker). … Michigan State and Nebraska went color versus color last night (from multiple readers). … Three men who had been convicted of illegal pay-for-play schemes in the recent Adidas recruiting scandal were sentenced to short prison terms yesterday. … Here’s a breakdown of the Magic’s record this season by uniform (from @noslraCNevets).

Soccer News: Argentina’s kit for the 2019 Copa America has leaked (from Josh Hinton). … Also from Josh: Here are Austin Bold FC’s new shirts. … Borussia Dortmund released their starting XI against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday in a Harry Potter-themed tweet (from Kyle Dawson).

Grab Bag: First Moneyball, now curling: A data analytics revolution (WaPo) link is taking over curling (from Tom Turner). … Speaking of curling: Green vs. green yesterday in a Brier matchup between Northern Ontario and Saskatchewan (from @phigers). … Investment bank giant Goldman Sachs will now allow its bankers to wear khakis. … Ferrari’s Formula 1 team has dropped its Mission Winnow advertising (from @Nichola55372165). … Snack brand Hy-Vee has released green and yellow tortilla chips in honor of Uni Watch for St. Patrick’s Day (from Kyle Eilts).

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What Paul did last night: I had quite a day yesterday. Between noon and 5pm, I had two work meetings, an appointment with an eye doctor, “research” for that article about pepperoni (read: a square slice at Prince St. Pizza), and scoped out a potential venue for my birthday party. Then I went home, caught up on a few things, and went back out to see the very awesome Mike Krol, who is an absolute hoot. Fun capper to a fun day.

And in a nice uni-related development, Krol’s merch offerings included a T-shirt with some very nice radially arched lettering:

I have a lot of thoughts about Krol (short version: uses lots of emotional distancing effects — some technical, some theatrical — that somewhat undercut his chosen theme of suburban angst), but it’s late as I’m typing this and I want to go to bed, so instead I’ll just link to his excellent new album, Power Chords. Enjoy.

(Doubleplusthanks to readers Nelson Lopez and Jason Rezvan, whose advice and assistance helped me score a ticket for this show.)

Comments (58)

    Hey-Vee is a Midwestern grocery store chain, not a snack brand. (For Easterners, it’s a Midwest equivalent of Wegman’s.) The bag is a store-brand product. It’s nice that they’re green and gold, not green and orange, but the bigger questions are Why weren’t there any green and gold chips at Hy-Vee yesterday when I bought groceries? and Why aren’t green and gold chips a year-round product at Wisconsin Hy-Vee locations?

    I’m increasingly allergic to all things Red Sox, but boy howdy do I like those Worcester jerseys.

    As a former midwestern resident (and still have family out there), I was going to make the same correction. I have to take exception to your analogy, Hy-Vee is not even in the same league as Wegman’s! They’ve expanded into the Boston area and I can see why people like them so much.

    Wegman’s is the best. They came to my neck of the woods (Philadelphia suburbs) years ago.

    Is Hy-Vee exactly the same as Wegman’s? No. Is it as good as Wegman’s? No, but some Hy-Vee locations come close. When I was a boy in Iowa, Hy-Vee was more like a Midwestern Safeway. Now, most Hy-Vee stores are at least trying to position themselves up the market in terms of quality and amenities (and price). I used to live across the street from one of the Mid-Atlantic’s first Wegman’s locations, and here in Wisconsin our local Hy-Vee is the closest equivalent. If Wegman’s is the AL East of grocery, Hy-Vee is the International League, and my next-best option is Class A Short Season.

    An entire sub-lede about the Penguins that was supposed to be included in today’s post was somehow dropped. Now added/restored!

    congrats on running the MLB preview on SI. looking forward to it, whenever it runs

    Always love the MLB previews! Can you please look into the Dodgers script LA roads (my favs) and ask if they have been relegated to alts?

    Technically speaking, the “Los Angeles” design is still the primary road uni and the “Dodgers” design is the alternate. But that isn’t reflected by how often they wear them.

    I am very pleased about the SI news. If it helps, tell them that “Jim will financially support any platform that hosts Uni-Watch content.” It might tip the balance. Have a good day.

    I find the idea of a “safer helmet” laughable.
    Think of a yolk inside of an egg, no matter how much you try to wrap it up, protect it, the internal momentum is inevitable.
    That is the same principle for your brain.

    The smarter idea would be to impose weight limits and reduce padding and possibly take away helmets so these players would not be machines.

    It would force them to learn how to tackle (like in rugby) and not “hit”.

    I made a comment a few months back making the same points about head injuries. I don’t recall too much in the way of feedback. It’s nice to see someone else that gets it.

    I apologize for being blunt, but your analysis is demonstrably false. The more padding/cushioning you put around the head, the more slowly the skull decelerates when it hits something. This slower deceleration, in turn, makes it ledd likely that the brain will make contact with the skull.

    Think of your brain as you driving a car and your skull as another car in front of you. In which scenario are you more likely to hit the car in front of you – if the front car stops immediately or gradually?

    The Uni-Watch socks remind me of the infamous “vomit” jersey The Socceroos (Australia’s national soccer team) wore in 1993

    If you look, the Phillies have made the outlines to “Phillies” alot thinner on their jerseys too for this season (look up their red alternate for the best example), in addition to their blue cap.

    Also good luck with the mlb preview being on SI! Hopefully they will use you more afterwards.

    Great news about SI.

    The Magic’s record by uniform should be in the Basketball section, not Soccer.

    What happens to all of those commemorative jerseys once the game starts? Do they pull the numbers off and reuse them? Just wondering.

    The most common thing that happens with special warmup jersey is accordingly:
    Those are special jerseys made for the warmups. (Sometimes, if it’s camouflage/cancer purple/rainbow logo for You Can Play/etc, it’s a batch of practice jerseys, but these looks like authentic jerseys.) Warm up in those, take the warmup jerseys off, maybe sign them, and take them away for a charity auction. Then back to the regular game jerseys.

    Interesting that North Carolina’s helmets are fully decorated for spring practice. Most teams don’t decorate them until the spring game.

    If I am not mistaken one of the parts of their severe NCAA penalties for rampant academic fraud in the athletic department is they are not allowed to use incentives for earning helmet stickers, etc.

    Definitely in the past, Carolina has used plain blue helmets for spring practice. Last year, they even had blue helmets with a large white Jumpman logo for practices.

    I have not heard Jim’s assertion about the team not being allowed to use incentives for helmet stickers or what not. Of course, he is also claiming that there were “severe NCAA penalties” for “rampant academic fraud” when in fact UNC was cleared of such charges by the NCAA, so he might not be a great source.

    Regarding a player having to leave the ice immediately upon losing his helmet:
    So, let’s say, during some jostling in front of the net on a penalty kill, a defenseman loses his helmet. He’s supposed to immediately head to the bench, mid-scrum, creating a de facto 5 on 3 for however long it takes to replace him?

    I’ve also always wondered how many people experiencing these seemingly endless pangs of Whalers nostalgia actually supported them when they played in Hartford. There’s never one reason for a team to move, but a big factor for the Whalers was they always drew very poorly. I realize they were in a tough location, wedged between the NY and Boston sports behemoths, but they’d still be playing there if anyone was around to support them back then.

    Yes. Lose your helmet, get off the ice or risk another penalty. Which in your example would be a real 5-on-3 instead of a temporary inconvenience. That’s exactly what would happen and would be expected.

    I seem to recall exactly that happening during a key moment in a recent Olympics game. They’ve been using that rule for some time now internationally.

    I believe play is immediately blown dead if a player loses his helmet during an international game, which makes a lot more sense than making the player leave the ice while play continues.

    It’s another example of the NHL and IIHF slowly but surely harmonizing their rule books. For the NHL, it’s been mostly procedural uniform and equipment rules from the IIHF, like this helmet rule, or requiring jerseys to be fully un-tucked so they don’t leave pads exposed (RIP the Gretzky Look) which the NHL started enforcing last season.

    I’m not much of a NHL fan, but is this true? I always thought the Whalers moved because of condition of arena or something like that. I assumed drawing was not an issue? Would anyone mind summarizing that situation for us that don’t know?

    Here’s the attendance history for Hartford, Boston, NYR, and NYI. It looks like the whole league struggled during the early to mid-90s, but the Whalers certainly definitely drew fewer fans than Boston and the Rangers and were more comparable to the Islanders.


    Congrats, Paul, on the opportunity with SI! Everyone here is rooting for you moving forward with whatever path presents itself.

    Diggin’ the Krol. I had not heard of him. It doesn’t look like he’s coming through KC on his tour (unless he already has). Bummer.

    At the end of the Ted Williams video, what is the other guy putting on Ted’s chest? Almost looks like a giant letter “B.” Regardless, Ted starts cracking up as the guy’s doing it. Maybe a “scarlet letter” to indicate that Ted was sick?

    I was wondering the same. At first I thought he may have worn the wrong uni combo and they were razzing him?

    Matt Cullen was also gifted a black and yellow Polaris off-road ATV by the Penguins organization.

    Congratulations on the SI opportunity. Hope it leads to more.
    Seems like the Whalers name is pretty offensive, celebrating a time when people there killed these incredibly smart mammals. It’s terrible that some countries still do this barbaric killing.

    A certain fast-food corporation once sold a fish sandwich under the name “Whaler”:


    I’ve read that the name was changed due to objections from at least one animal-rights group, but it may have been re-branded simply as a result of an alteration in marketing strategy and product reformulation.


    Congrats on placing the MLB preview with SI. Hoping that can be something bigger, if that’s best for you. Seems that uniform watching is bigger than ever. Someone out there should want to publish the work of the original and still best in that line of work.


    I’ve never seen that “Minnesota Wild” wordmark above the logo on Cullen’s plaque before.

    The first 53 years of the NHL the home team wore dark jerseys, the switch to white home jerseys didn’t happen until the 1970-71 season.

    It was my understanding when the NHL announced that dark jerseys would be worn at home in 2003-04 that they plan on going back to white jerseys at home in 2036-37 season.
    White at home is for baseball and basketball, they can keep it.

    The first 53 years of the NHL the home team wore dark jerseys, the switch to white home jerseys didn’t happen until the 1970-71 season.

    Yes, I know. Nobody’s claiming that white at home is traditional; we’re just claiming that it looks better.

    Actually, the first 34 years were a lot of color-on-color, unless a team’s only sweater was white. Teams gradually started carrying two sets until the NHL made it mandatory in 1951, which was the year the Rangers finally added their white jersey with the striped shoulders. And, at that time, it was white at home, before the league decided to switch to white on the road in 1955.

    So, it was only officially white on the road for fifteen years until the NHL switched to white (or yellow in place of white, in the cases of the Kings and Golden Seals) at home, a state of affairs that lasted for 33 seasons until they decided to switch back to white on the road.

    We all seem to forget the 1991-92 season when the NHL had teams were white at home prior to the All-Star break and then had teams wear dark at home for the rest of that regular season. The playoffs reverted back to WAH.

    Actually, most teams just didn’t have white jerseys. One jersey sufficed in most cases. New York Rangers didn’t introduce their white sweater until 1951.

    Have you thought of taking this page to YouTube?

    I think it would translate well.

    To start, you could just narrate a slideshow…. I’m no expert, but I wouldn’t think it would be too difficult to do. Especially if you had a couple people who knew what they were doing working with you.

    You could run the visuals, and bigger stories on youtube, and link to this page for the smaller stuff, and so people can look at the pics and stuff up close.

    Paul, huge congrats on the partnership with SI, however long it ends up going! It will be a thrill seeing your work featured in that issue. Also, glad to see you scored a ticket to the Mike Krol show. I’ve had been a couple recent heartbreaks missing out on sold-out shows.

    The Worcester jersey in the ticker made me irrationally upset. The font used doesn’t match any of the jerseys worn by the Red Sox or Paw Sox. It is a similar font, but would it have really been that difficult to use the SAME font?

    Congrats on the project/piece with Sports Illustrated! I’m now that much happier that I subscribed to the magazine last year. It brought back many happy memories of reading it as a kid in the 80s and I found it to still be an excellent magazine jam packed with great topics and quality writing. I won’t be letting the subscription expire any time soon.

    And in an ironic twist, I recently let my ESPN The Magazine subscription expire. I found it to be extremely fluffy and lightweight and it quickly went from mailbox to my hands to the recycle bin without much reading time. It seems fitting that I traded ESPN for S.I. and, to some degree, so have you, albeit not necessarily by your choosing. But I hope it will work out well for you, Paul.

    Congrats on SI. Unfortunately, I stopped my subscription a couple years ago as I wanted a magazine about sports, not something talking about the intersection of sports and politics. Very unlikely I’d renew a subscription with them, as much as I like what you do here, Paul.

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