Sunday, March 20, 2011
Today we are pleased to bring you an interview with John Maher of the Minnesota Wild, who was kind enough to take a few moments out of his busy schedule to talk to us at Third String Goalie.
TSG: John, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. What is your position with the Minnesota Wild?
JM: My current position is Vice President of Brand Marketing.
TSG: And who have you worked for previously?
JM: Before joining the Wild in 2000, I freelanced for a while during the 90's. I worked for the Minnesota Vikings doing their game and event presentation and I also did some event presentation for some other teams in town and then from 1985 to 1993 I worked for the North Stars at Met Center.
TSG: What I wanted to focus on today was the Wild's current alternate third jersey. Going back to the year 2007, the Wild needed to drop one of their three jerseys with the switch to the Reebok Edge jerseys, and since you needed to keep the white jersey, what was the thinking behind dropping the green jersey rather than the red jersey?
JM: It was a pretty easy call at that time as our red jersey was by far our most popular jersey with the fans. Since we could only keep one dark jersey, that was an easy one.
TSG: When did the process to create the current third jersey start?
JM: We actually started working on a third jersey with the intent of introducing it for the 2008-09 season and the process with the National Hockey League and with Reebok pretty much requires a full year prior to the introduction of the jersey that you have the design finished, so that puts us into the 07-08 season, when we were working on a design, and frankly when we did the first set of alternate jersey designs that first year, we never got to one that we really liked when we were working during the summer of 2007.
We had some designs we put in front of the fans. Another big part of the process is doing photography and video testing with the new jerseys to see what it will look like it will look like on television, what it will look like in photography. Once we had prototypes in 2007, and did the photo and video testing, we didn't like them, and so we just decided we're not going to do one yet because we're not ready yet, so that was another full year in front of when we did introduce our alternate jersey, so it really was a two year process of designing, putting paper designs in front of fans to get feedback, taking that feedback and turning it into a prototype that Reebok would make for us once we had agreed on that and doing photography and video testing with the prototypes. All that stuff happens before you can finalize it and say to the league and to Reebok "This is our new jersey."
TSG: Who designed the jersey?
JM: We work with a design and marketing firm SME out of New York City. They have actually designed all of our jerseys all the way back to the very first one that we started wearing in 2000, so they have been a partner of ours throughout, and they've also worked with many other clubs on jersey designs. There is some examples of that on their website. If you go to SME's website you can see a lot of work that they have done for other teams and other brands.
TSG: Did they also design the team's current 10th Anniversary patch?
JM: They did also work with us on our 10th Anniversary patch, yes.
TSG: What were the influences of the design for the current alternate jersey?
JM: When we started out we knew that we wanted to have a jersey that would reflect the throwback or vintage look. The Wild brand has evolved from initially being based on the wilderness. That's where the Wild name came from, that Minnesota wilderness aspect part of the primary logo, but it's evolved from that into a traditional hockey brand, I would say. Based on that we wanted to have a new design that would have more of a vintage or throwback feel to harken back to some of the well known jerseys that Minnesota hockey fans would connect to, all the way back to high school jerseys.
TSG: I seem to recall there were some influences in the logo, the cresting, from the old St. Paul Saints and Minneapolis Millers?
JM: It's a classic sports style of the script to be sure, and the letter "M" does have an influence from an old Minneapolis Millers logo.
The St. Paul Saints of 1961-62 with their classic script logo
1946-47 Minneapolis Millers jersey showing the
inspiration for the "M" on the Wild's third jersey
TSG: Why was there so little red used in the alternate jersey?
JM: We felt that a classic design meant a more solid color jersey. If you look at the Detroit Red Wings as an example, we felt that classic design and a solid color base went together. But we also wanted to have the red be in there because we felt that the combination was important for our brand, so there are little hints of red in there, but we definitely felt like it should be a one color jersey, and we felt like since we had taken our original green jersey out of the mix, that we felt the green should be the base color.
TSG: Were there any public focus groups or feedback before finalizing the design?
JM: Yes. During the summer we have a lot of events with our fans, including our Road Tour, our Summer Bash, Select-A-Seat for our season ticket holders, so we put designs in front of those groups at events like that to get feedback on the "on paper" design before we went to the prototype stage.
TSG: Are they shown one design or a group to pick from?
JM: We always show multiple designs because we want to test them. We have our opinions about which we think is our favorite, but we have definitely been in situations in the past where we have put our favorite in front of fans and they have selected something different, so we always put multiple designs in front of the fans to make sure we are not just going with our own opinion. We want to hear from the fans and make sure they are influencing the design.
TSG: Now that's it been in use for a season, how has it sold compared to the other two jerseys, the white and the red?
JM: It was our best seller last year, but that was partially because it was a brand new one, obviously, and people didn't have one yet. We definitely feel we hit the mark and the fans would say that they agree that we hit the mark on the classic sports look, so I think it will continue to be a popular jersey for us.
TSG: How often is it scheduled to be worn this season and is there a minimum and maximum number of times the league will let you wear it?
JM: The league has a schedule for the alternate jerseys of up to 15 games per club, so we get to select those games in advance ad we base those on mixing them up throughout our schedule and mixing them up throughout our different opponents and also getting them seen by different audiences. For example, we have Montreal and Toronto at home and we haven't had them at home before since we've had the green, so we put both of those games on the green jersey schedule.
TSG: Are you going for the 15 game maximum this year?
JM: We did. We actually got an extra game this year just because of the way the schedule fell, but typically it's a 15 game maximum.
TSG: In the past, in 2003-04 and 2005-06, the team specifically chose to not put the All-Star Game and Year Five patches on the red alternate jersey, but the 10th Anniversary patch is being worn on the green alternate jersey this year. Where did the change in thinking come about leaving the patch off of the alternate jersey?
JM: We felt like we had so much of our season messaging this year was around our 10th anniversary we were going to wear our alternate jersey 15 times at home we felt like we should wear it on every jersey. The only nights we didn't have [the 10th anniversary patch] this year were the two games in Finland, and that was because we had the NHL Premiere logo as part of those games.
TSG: Do you have any thing else jersey related in the works, such as a possible jersey for use in a future Winter Classic?
JM: We would love to be part of the Winter Classic and have communicated that to the league. We think we are a great market for that based on the history of hockey here, so we are talking to the league about that as frequently as we can to express our interest. It's similar to other events like the NHL Draft, the NHL All-Star Game, etc. that many teams lobby for to get to their market, so we definitely hope to host a Winter Classic at some point.
TSG: But no jersey designs in the works for any reason right now?
JM: No. That would be something that would be initiated by the granting of that game to the market.
TSG: Why was the particular number font chosen to be used on the red and green jerseys? Was their any consideration for a more retro looking font to go with the retro theme of the red and green jerseys?
JM: We definitely did that. It was definitely part of the thinking for the red jerseys that we would use a more traditional looking "sports font", so that's the font that was chosen for the red jerseys back in 2003 and we decided to carry it over to the green jerseys.
TSG: Thank you very much for your time today.
JM: You bet.
Again, we cannot thank John enough for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with us today about the process of how an NHL team goes about the business of creating a new jersey.
As John mentioned during the interview, the Wild are scheduled to wear their green alternate jerseys this evening against the Montreal Canadiens and again on Tuesday night March 22nd versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. Additionally the Wild will wear their alternates one final time this season against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, April 2nd.
Here are photos taken from the official unveiling of the third jersey at the Minnesota State Fair back on August 30, 2009 being modeled by Derek Boogaard.
Here are a pair of videos from the unveiling, the first of which features today's interview guest John Maher explaining a little about the process, when they were going to debut and how to get one when they were first released.
The second video is Boogaard modeling the jersey for the public for the very first time.