May 16, 2012
(Editor's Note: Longtime uniform industry expert at first Mitchell & Ness and now as president of Pro League Authentics, Ray Jannelli shares his personal, inside story on the creation of the nostalgia NHL and WHA jerseys, which eventually led to Ray developing the "Vintage Hockey" series honoring the Original Six NHL clubs.
In the two previous installments, Ray wrote about the successful re-creation of 1970s NHL jerseys, and today shares his tale of the long gone, but certainly not forgotten to hockey purists, World Hockey Association…)
By Ray Jannelli
After the Casey's shipment of 1970s era NHL jerseys sold out at the 129 Walnut St. (Center City Philadelphia) retail store, my attention turned to the World Hockey Association.
Good teams, great players, and very good games.
WHA jerseys in 1989 were almost as rare as vintage NHL jerseys. I say "almost" because there was one company manufacturing a limited selection of the WHA league sweaters, ProJoy Ltd.
ProJoy was owned by the DeForest brothers and their company was located in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. ProJoy specialized in International hockey team jerseys as well as the aforementioned WHA line.
The Deforest brothers were characters; they reminded me of SCTV's Bob and Doug McKenzie. I thought if I ever visited their jersey manufacturing facility, I imagined it would be strewn with jelly donuts and Canadian beer, with Rush (the band) blasting in the background.
Approximately 12 WHA team jerseys were made, and they were very nice quality sweaters constructed with a heavy polyester mesh, double elbows, and shoulders with cover stitching.
The ProJoy "cut" was more of a street cut as opposed to a pro cut (made for pads). Jerseys came blank but included the front jersey cresting. The actual WHA crests were tackle twill and/or embroidered. ProJoy offered tackle twill and screen-printed crests.
I purchased all 12 teams ProJoy made available. There were 26 teams in the WHA's existence. All 14 styles sold within two months. Again, it was instant market validation.
Do customers remember the league and teams? Or, are the jerseys so obscure and striking that they just sell themselves?
The teams I brought in were the Houston Aeros, Michigan Stags, Toronto Toros, Ottawa Nationals, Philadelphia Blazers, Chicago Cougars, Minnesota Fighting Saints, Phoenix Roadrunners, Denver Spurs, Cincinnati Stingers, New York Golden Blades and Raiders, and WHA All-Star jerseys for the eastern and western conferences.
As I look back, the WHA jerseys attracted and generated a base of hockey clientele that frequents Pro League Authentics to this day.
I thought that I could spec out and design a better quality WHA jersey at that time, complete with the proper cresting and with player’s names and numbers. I had researched that Pederson's in Minnesota used to manufacture WHA jerseys, and the company actually supplied teams directly including the near-by Fighting Saints.
Was Pederson's still operating in 1989-90? And, if they were, would they still have the original specs and patterns?
In the next installment: The conclusion of the WHA jersey development, and the beginning of The Lord Stanley Closet Collection. Look for Ray’s next piece in early June only on Authentically Speaking.
(Photo credit: Screen shot of Fox Sports Florida)
Hallelujah: And for the 36th game, the team shall wear orange caps. On a nondescript Tuesday night, mid May home game against the Pirates, the Miami Marlins finally wore their much- buzzed-about-when-they-were-introduced last November, orange on-field caps.
Regular readers know we’re been calling for orange caps almost daily for a couple of weeks now, so imagine our surprise when we went to check last evening and finally saw the team take the new field in orange accessories.
Thanks for listening, Marlins!
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