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Cornered Coach: Pride in the Uni

 

In my humble opinion, black and gold are the most gorgeous colours in the hockey rainbow.

My nine-year-old lad plays for a Minor Atom AA team in Toronto and, yes, black and gold happen to be the primary colour scheme of their jerseys. Everyone who loves sports loves jerseys, and there's something extra special about the unis worn during your youth. Back in the old days, jerseys had a much longer shelf life. The local minor hockey executive would pack away the uniforms at the end of every hockey season and when they tossed open the closet doors after a long and sweaty summer, you could count the moths as they swirled around the smelly old sweaters. Still, there was something magical about slapping on your jersey to start a new year and if you happened to land your favourite number, well, that was a true slice of hockey heaven.

My favourite uniform was the black and gold Boston Bruins-style beauties that were modelled by the Alberta Junior Hockey League Drumheller Falcons in the early 1980's. I was a lousy goaltender on that lousy team, but at least we looked good while taking a nightly pounding. In fact, the highlight of most of our games occurred during the pre-game warm-up when we'd sneak a peak at how cool we looked in the classy Falcons colours courtesy of the shiny plexiglass that served to reflect our images. Then, the puck would drop for real and the squad wearing the other jersey would proceed to grind us into the ice.

But if you're going to lose, you might as well look good doing it. Make no mistake about it; in the same manner that clothes make the man, a spiffy uniform goes a long way towards making an athlete feel more positive about themselves. In 1969, former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton suited up for the Major League expansion Seattle Pilots. Bouton kept a diary of the season that he turned into the best-selling book "Ball Four,” one of the most famous pieces of sports literature ever written. The Pilots were one of the worst franchises in baseball history and in "Ball Four,” Bouton writes about facing his former team for the first time.

"The first thing I felt when the Yankees showed up at the ball park today was embarrassment. That's because our uniforms look so silly with that technicolor gingerbread all over them. The Yankees uniforms, even their grey travelling uniforms, are beautiful in their simplicity."

Like the Yankees, a number of National Hockey League squads also sport uniforms that are simple, striking and absolutely gorgeous.

The blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The red and white winged wheel of the Detroit Red Wings.

The famous "blue, blanc et rouge" of the Montreal Canadiens.

But I'm proud to say that my little lad and I both have a hankering for black and gold.

Come to think of it, being a father of a young hockey player has something in common with putting on your favourite jersey.

They're both classic cases of love at first sight.

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