Sunday, July 24, 2011
July by the Numbers stops in Northern Illinois for jersey #24.
A member of the United Hockey League, the Rockford IceHogs came into being when the Thunder Bay Thunder Cats were sold and relocated to Rockford for the 1999-00 season after eight years and three championships (as wellas three different names!) in Canada.
The name "IceHogs" was chosen after a "name the team" contest. Jason Firth led the team in scoring with 110 points and the club was a first round exit from the playoffs in year one. The IceHogs failed to make the playoffs in both 2000-01 and 2001-02 but a winning record in 2002-03 returned them to the playoffs but another first round exit awaited them.
A large step back in 2003-04 saw them drop 16 points in the standings and once again fail to qualify for the postseason. The IceHogs began to climb up the standings in 2004-05 when they were led in scoring by Jean-Francois Dufour's 79 points in 77 games. Rockford finished in second place in the Western Division with a 46-25-9 record for 101 points and followed that success by winning their first ever playoff series in Illinois with a 4 games to 2 win over the Kalamazoo Wings before falling to the Fort Wayne Komets in overtime of Game 7 in Round 2.
2005-06 saw the IceHogs improve to a 48-19-9 mark for 105 points and the Western Division title. Rockford bounced For Wayne in Round 1 in five games but were swept by Kalamazoo in the second round.
The IceHogs had another strong regular season in 2006-07, again reaching 48 wins on the way to 103 points and second place in the west. Rockford had an easy time ousting the Quad City Mallards in five games prior to doing the same to Fort Wayne in the second to advance to the finals.
The IceHogs opponents in the finals Kalamazoo required a full seven games in the previous round to advance, giving the IceHogs and additional four days rest, which may have paid off when Game 1 in Rockford required overtime before the IceHogs won 3-2. They cruised to an easy 6-1 win, also at home, in Game 2.
The Wings won games 3 and 4 on home ice 3-0 and 6-5 to send the series back to Rockford for Game 5, where Rockford again won by a score of 6-1 to reach the brink of a championship. Kalamazoo held serve at home in Game 6 with a 6-2 victory to set up a decisive Game 7 back in Rockford.
Rockford made it a clean sweep for the home teams when they captured the Colonial Cup with a 3-1 win in Game 7, which would prove to be the final game in franchise history.
Off the ice, the team's arena authority, who controls the Rockford MetroCentre, purchased both the dormant Cincinnati Mighty Ducks franchise of the American Hockey League, as well as the rights to the UHL's IceHogs identity as part of a 23 million dollar plan to extensively renovate the arena, brining to an end the seven year history of the UHL IceHogs.
The new version of the IceHogs would sign a 10 year agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL and compete in the AHL as Chicago's top minor league affiliate, two levels higher up the minor league ladder than the UHL was considered, and take to the ice with the same logo and colors as their predecessors.
Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 Rockford IceHogs Sean McEachran jersey from the IceHogs debut season in the UHL. Free of the pressures to create a jersey which must generate millions of dollars of income in merchandise sales at the NHL level, minor league jersey designers have the opportunity to take more risks when outfitting their teams.
While some may take the approach of simply putting their logo on the same template as their parent club, especially higher up in the minors when teams have an affiliation with specific NHL clubs, the IceHogs had the freedom to create an attractive new design with bold arm striping, bold numbers and an unusual choice of font for the names on the back, one seldom seen on a hockey jersey.
While the IceHogs logo is very cartoonish, as can often be the case in the low minors, the rest of the jersey is an effective and attractive package overall, and benefits from the solid black and red color combination, avoiding trendy colors which can quickly look dated as tastes change.
Today's video selection is the final two minutes of the UHL's IceHogs as they win the Colonial Cup on home ice.