The idea was hatched 18 months ago and the end result debuted Oct. 2 when the Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Rebels wore their new third jerseys on that night and they were generally a hit with the paying customers, close to 50 of whom dug into their pockets to purchase a copy of their own.
“Sales were very good, extremely high, the first night of the new jerseys. We have to order more,” Rebels director of marketing services and events Merrick Sutter said Thursday.
Sutter and other members of the Rebels front office instigated the notion of a new third jersey, which would replace the club’s original throwback sweater which came out in 2001.
“We all decided that we liked the ‘R’ on the jersey, but we wanted a fresh look on the letter,” said Sutter, the son of team president and owner Brent. “We tossed around some colours and then really liked the idea of a black ‘R’. It’s a strong, bold colour and it mixes well with the black helmet and black pants. And of course it has that retro, western kind of look to it.”
Sutter served as the jersey designer, moving the striping to the middle of the sweater, adding a burgundy shoulder ‘yolk’ and placing the team’s primary logo — the cow skull — on the shoulders. The biggest change between the new jersey and the 2001-born version is the predominant colour, with beige replacing burgundy.
“The colour was decided upon as a group. We all kind of liked the look of the cream, retro colour,” said Sutter. “I tossed that colour out to the group and we all seemed to like it.”
Third jerseys have been prevalent in pro sports since major league baseball introduced the look during the early ‘70s. The NHL came on board in the mid ‘90s and the NFL adopted third jerseys on a full-time basis in 2002.
Western Hockey League teams followed suit, including the Rebels nine years ago.
“It’s just a fresh look and some teams do it for different reasons,” said Sutter. “For us the idea was to capture what the Rebels mean. We’re from Red Deer, it’s kind of a western town and the colours reflect that.
“Sometimes there’s a perception out there that teams just do it to make money, but that was never our goal. If it was about making money, we’d have a new third jersey every year and there are teams who do that.”
Until this year, the Rebels stuck with their original third jersey “because we just liked the look . . . people identify with the look,” said Sutter. “We had probably the longest running third jersey in the league with our first one.”
Western Hockey League clubs switched to Reebok Edge jerseys last year and weren’t able to come out with retro versions during the 2009-10 season.
“Reebok wanted to concentrate on just making the primary jerseys, they didn’t want to bother with a third,” Sutter explained.
This year, the number of WHL teams introducing third jerseys is in double figures and Sutter is confident the Rebels’ version is as attractive — and original — as any.
“The easy thing for us would be to take a template of an NHL jersey and stick our logo on and call it ours, but we wanted something that no one else has,” he said.
The Rebels will wear their third jerseys “two or three more times” prior to Christmas, Sutter noted.
“It will be a lot easier in the second half of the season when we’ll be wearing our white jerseys at home,” he said. “During the first half we’re wearing our black jerseys at home, so we have to coordinate with visiting teams for them to wear a different (dark) jersey if we plan to use our new retros.
“With the exception of Kootenay on Dec. 18, we don’t play a Central Division team at home until January. It’s easier to coordinate plans with Central teams, whereas a team like Swift Current would be on a road trip and would bring just road jerseys.”