The late 1970s were a time of bold — and regrettable — fashion choices.
In the world of sports, no fashion choice was as bold as the Canucks’ Flying V jerseys, which the NHL franchise debuted in 1978.
After years of mediocrity on the ice, the team decided to change its look, scrapping its blue-and-green jerseys in favour of a brash black-red-and-gold colour scheme.
At the time, designer Bill Boyd gave a series of pseudo-scientific reasons for the team’s new colour palette.
“Colours are read by rods and cones in the eyes and the input travels along different sets of nerves,” he told columnist Jim Taylor.
“With the Canuck uniforms, we are going from the coolest of colours, blue-green, to the hottest, red-orange. The cool colour is passive, the hot one aggressive. Plus the black. It’s the contrast of colours that creates emotion. White produces no response at all, so we went with yellow, which is warm, pleasant, happy. What we are attempting to create is an atmosphere that will help create the happy, upbeat, aggressive player.”
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The jerseys featured a large V across the front of the jersey. The sleeves were adorned with the team’s skate logo, which were later featured on the front of the team’s jerseys. In its time, the logo was considered anything but fashionable, with critics often joking that it looked like a plate of spaghetti.
Former Canuck Jack McIlhargey said the new look raised a few eyebrows in the locker room.
“I remember one of the guys said, ‘Well, last year we played like clowns, now they’re dressing us like them,'” he said.
“The V uniform was supposed to set a new trend, it was designed by a company out of California,” former Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths said.
“The V was powerful, it was Vancouver.”
But not everyone realized the giant V across the front of the jersey was supposed to stand for Vancouver.
Goaltender Richard Brodeur says when he walked into the Canucks dressing room for the first time, he thought the V uniforms had to belong to another team.
“Holy crap, what is this?” he said. “I said, ‘This has to be a junior team.’ I walked out.”
Former players note that there are plenty of positive memories associated with the jerseys. The team wore the Flying Vs during its run to the 1982 Stanley Cup finals.
“Nobody complained about that jersey that year in ’82,” Brodeur said. “Everybody thought it was pretty good. Everybody loved them. You win, you look good. You lose, you look pretty bad.”
Decades after being put out to pasture, some wonder if the V jerseys have enough retro charm to appeal to a new generation.
McIlhargey is skeptical, noting that when his daughters have jersey day at school, they wear a Canucks blue-and-white jersey over their dad’s Flying V.
Former Canuck Darcy Rota thinks the time may be right for a return to the V, saying the team should consider bringing the jerseys back from time to time.
“Many people like it, many people don’t,” he said. “I think it should come back one day a year. Maybe Halloween. That would be nice.”
— With files from Squire Barnes