The Vancouver Canucks continue to disappoint fans by sticking by the often-maligned Free Willy main jersey, but the NHL team has once again got things right with its warm-up uniforms.
With the Chinese Lunar New Year on the horizon, the Canucks have announced a new pre-game jersey inspired by the Year of the Tiger. Instead of an orca jumping out of the water, the red warm-up jersey will feature an elaborately rendered tiger in gold stitching.
Adding local flair, the design—by Vancouver artist and author Trevor Lai—includes shoulder patches that pay tribute to Chinatown’s iconic Millennium Gate. Also on the shoulders will be Chinese characters which spell out Canucks.
Watch for the team to debut the jerseys around the time of Lunar New Year on February 1. Partial proceeds from uniform sales at that time will be earmarked for Vancouver-based Elimin8Hate, a group which promotes inclusivity and racial justice for the Asian-Canadian community.
Last year the Canucks revealed a red Lunar New Year warm-up jersey for Year of the Ox. Included in that jersey was a Johnny Canuck secondary logo and golden ox shoulder patches.
Lai’s jersey is notable for actually reinventing the logo with the tiger motif. “The tiger leaping out of the water is a symbol of power, leadership and change,” Lai is quoted as saying on the Canucks Twitter feed. “By transforming the Canucks’ orca into the tiger, it’s to imagine that we can become anything we want to be, including a better ally as we celebrate the Chinese community.”
Last November the Canucks caused a major sensation in the Lower Mainland with a Diwali Festival-inspired warm-up jersey designed by Pitt Meadows artist and fan Jag Nagra. Working a vibrant yellow jersey colour scheme, the uniform had the classic Canucks stick and rink crest dressed up with Diwali lanterns and pinwheels, fireworks, lotus flowers, and mustard plants.
When not designing warm-up jerseys for the Canucks, the Vancouver-raised Lai is one of the creators of Super BOOMi, an animated cartoon about an animated bear and his dog Bibop and their adventures in a virtual reality world. The show has become a major hit in China with 2.6 million viewers on television and online.
The NHL has used Super BOOMi as a platform to raise the profile of the game in China, where hockey continues to grow. An average of 75 new ice rinks are constructed around the country each year. In 2019 an entire episode was devoted to BOOMi’s attempts to learn to play ice hockey.
BOOMi was named official family ambassador by the NHL in 2018, when the Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins faced off in a two-game exhibition series in Shenzhen and Beijing.
Watch for an official announcement on the warm-up uniform rollout in the coming weeks, with the Canucks hinting on Twitter it will be worn more than once. The team plays the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Wearing, sadly, its Free Willy jerseys.