Doug Bentz has heard all your criticism of the San Jose Sharks’ new all-teal home jerseys.
But the Sharks’ chief marketing officer hopes fans will give San Jose’s new home and road uniforms, officially debuted by Logan Couture and James Reimer last night at a Sharks365 season ticket holders event, another look live.
“I internalize all that feedback, unfortunately,” Bentz told San Jose Hockey Now in an exclusive interview. “But it’s hard seeing things on the internet, to really actually grasp the feeling of [the jerseys]. It just looks so much different on the ice, on the players.”
So when did the San Jose Sharks start the process of redesigning their jerseys? Where did the all-teal concept come from? The answers might surprise you.
Why not just bring back the Sharks’ always-popular original jerseys and call it a day? How did the CMO react to the recent leaks of the Sharks’ new jerseys? Bentz shares his philosophies.
Bentz also answers these pressing questions: When’s Reverse Retro 2.0 going to be announced? Orange has left the Sharks’ color palette, but is gray gone for good too? Will San Jose have a third jersey in 2023-24?
The CMO also takes on some fun ones: What other “crazy” ideas did the Sharks consider for their new uniforms? Teal skates, anybody?
Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at the San Jose Sharks’ new “Evolve” jerseys.
Sheng Peng: Well, the Sharks are known for teal, and not black, so why not lean into it?
Doug Bentz: I still get a ton of fans who just want to bring back the original jerseys. And we love that jersey, but it just feels like you don’t want to go back in time, especially when you have all these new people, new beginnings, you want to be moving forward. We try to take enough from there and then try to change things like the helmet and the pants, just to make it a new feeling of this really new beginning for the team.
Some of this was just happenstance, but it really feels like a total change of the guard between Mike [Grier], David [Quinn], between the players, between the uniforms. It starts off as marketing speak, but you get the feeling of hey, this is really a new chapter.
SP: Are the new jerseys the same shade of teal? Some of the mock-ups appeared to feature a different shade.
DB: It’s the same teal as the [most recent] jersey. I’ll say this, matching our teal on different materials is very difficult.
Lighting can actually change the shade. If you look at some photos that aren’t done with strobe, it looks blue. As much as we love teal, it actually creates a lot of challenges.
SP: Let’s get to the meaty stuff. When did you guys start the process of overhauling the San Jose Sharks’ uniforms?
DB: We started with the intent of changing roughly two years ago.
That’s like that two-year period where we actually submit to the NHL, we’re going to change our jersey, that kicks off the process.
It was a couple of things. We were going through a change on the core team. So it was about the next chapter. Now, we didn’t know how far this would go. But it was about hey, we’re gonna have a whole new face to the team. You’re gonna have young players, we want to work with that and have that be consistent.
Also, the current, now previous jersey, had basically been the same for nine years. There was a slight alteration in between because there’s a change in vendors. Prior to that, it was about seven years for each jersey, so it was kind of time, based on that cadence. So that was [when we] really start thinking about something different.
SP: And going back to 1991-92 wouldn’t be different?
DB: It came back to what could we do with the original but just not go backwards?
From my perspective, doing a throwback is much more than a jersey, you’re actually rebranding the organization. So we’d be changing the crest, we’d be changing [a lot], and so that’s a big undertaking that just didn’t feel right with where we’re trying to go as an organization, trying to be innovative, trying to be the next phase instead of going backwards.
So we worked with Adidas to look at several concepts where we took kind of the spirit of the original, we had some crazy looks that had waves on it, rainbow versions of all the shades of teal.
Like it was a band of dark teal to light teal [on the same jersey].
Imagine it was like a white jersey and you had striping like double the size of the normal stripe. It was almost like a gradient. We looked at some crazy stuff like that.
They came up with the concept of we take the striping, everyone loves the striping, especially the waist stripe, which I think people really missed with our overly-simplified [last] jersey.
On the Stealth [jersey], the striping, you had like the circuitry pattern. We’re like how can we take that to the next level? How do we integrate that into our brand? Then came the wave design.
Then putting that [waves in the ocean] within the stripe so you’re getting that kind of tweak where you’re not just going back to the gray [strip], it just all came together.
SP: And where did the all-teal look originate?
DB: Working with the equipment staff, I think we’ve always wanted to do something just different than we’ve always had. So the equipment staff is like, hey, I think we can make this happen with the teal helmets. So we kind of started with the teal helmets. Once we got momentum on that, we’re like let’s go all in. They came to me and said hey, let’s do the teal pants.
SP: That’s interesting! You wouldn’t think of the Sharks’ equipment staff as being an equitable part of the jersey design process.
DB: There’s a pretty tight working group. There’s me, there’s our director of production, our director of marketing, our head of equipment staff, and then our folks in merchandise. It’s this working group where we have different perspectives from every angle. But yeah, the equipment staff was like let’s try the teal pants. I think everyone saw it for the first time and was just like yes, yes, we love it.
It’s actually pretty rare when you have kind of everyone aligned, especially including the players. We’re trying to do different stuff in the marketing department and retail is thinking about selling it, and the players’ perspective is I’m wearing this on the ice. But this was really one of those projects where it felt it was totally aligned.
SP: The equipment staff, they kind of represent the players in this conceptualization process?
DB: The equipment guys, it’s one, one voice for the locker room, and two, it’s a voice for how are we actually gonna get this all together on the ice, make it work?
SP: It’s easy to think that it’s just Adidas designers coming at you with ideas, yea or nay, and that’s the entire design process.
It takes a long time to really come to these things. A lot of people’s input.
I leave the working group and then I go to our leadership, make sure that everyone’s aligned there. We talked to the leadership on the hockey side. So it’s definitely a long, arduous process to get to where we’re at.
SP: And now you’re here. There were rumors that this rebrand was intended for 2023-24. Was there any validity to that?
DB: It was always 2022-23.
There still continues to be a lot of supply chain issues that actually affect us from the retail side, but it was always going to be this year. And then when we started to see that there were going to be changes in the organization that can align with it all together, moving forward, then it was an absolute no-brainer.
[But on the retail side], we have Adidas jerseys for sale now, but our Fanatics brand of replica Breakaway jerseys, we’re not going to get those until closer to opening night.
SP: So we know where the all-teal came from – when did you guys commit to that concept?
DB: The actual design of the jersey is a much longer process.
But some of those equipment decisions are actually more so equipment decisions that may not go through the normal kind of design and approval process.
We started working on [the equipment] eight months ago, nine months ago. The most important thing there, really, is can all the manufacturers match our teal? That was kind of the biggest challenge. Can this look right?
It’s all different manufacturers [for different gear].
Even with the helmet manufacturers, there are multiple helmet manufacturers, so can you get all the helmet manufacturers to do this for you?
SP: There were also rumors that you guys were considering black gear and pants to the last minute. Any truth to that?
DB: No, once you’ve committed to this…Maybe some logistical things could have slowed us down, but I think we really believed in the concept.
One, I think it looks great. Two, we’re actually going with a little bit more of a traditional look, but how can we be more innovative and really change and make it feel like it really is different?
I love the [new] white jersey, which actually thinking back to our original, the white was our home [jersey] at the beginning. And having the white with the teal, I actually like that a little bit more than the home.
Because it does bring that [original look] back. Our whites, in my opinion, had been a little bit boring in our last version, so it’s nice to have that excitement for both home and away.
SP: So how about really going all-teal, teal skates?
DB: That’s gonna be a harder sell. (laughs) That’s gonna be a harder sell.
SP: But it can happen, right? It just takes one brave player, right?
DB: It’s possible.
SP: I mean, if Erik Karlsson wants to wear teal skates, he’s gonna wear teal skates, right?
DB: I do want to get them comfortable in the all teal and then we’ll work on it. (laughs)
SP: Okay, so why no more orange? It’s on the collar of the new jerseys and the logo, but it’s not part of the official color palette anymore.
DB: To me, orange isn’t representative of the team. In a lot of the marketing, we’ve removed orange.
The feeling of orange to me kind of conflicts with being a hockey team. And I think the way the new jerseys look, even in the all teal, it feels a little bit more aggressive. The combination is just teal, black, and white. Just that simple look feels more aligned with hockey nature than orange.
The orange in the stick [of the logo], that’s more complicated, right? That’s a brand, so it’s harder to [change] that, so you just had the accent in the neckline, just as a way to maybe hold on to that.
SP: I gotta ask: I speculated recently that orange could be part of the Sharks’ Reverse Retros. Might it live on there?
DB: Orange will not be part of anything here for at least the foreseeable future.
SP: There was a rumor, by the person who first leaked the Sharks’ new jerseys, that the Reverse Retros will debut on Oct. 20. Can you say anything about that?
DB: It’s somewhere around there.
SP: Okay, so we’ve talked orange and the Sharks’ color palette. How about gray?
DB: I think for the Evolve jerseys, we didn’t want to go with gray because it was more about simplifying the color palette.
You could potentially see gray down the road in a third. I don’t think we’re necessarily giving up on gray, the Barracuda “Steel” jerseys, they’re pretty good-looking.
SP: But orange is dead?
DB: Orange got cut out.
SP: You mentioned a third jersey. Obviously, this year’s third jersey is the Reverse Retro. Will the Sharks have their own alternate jersey in 2023-24?
DB: That’s a good assumption. I would say that we should expect that an alternate jersey comes back after this season.
SP: Thanks for your time, Doug. Just a couple more. Were you frustrated by the recent leaks? I’ll say, I was a part of that, but that’s my job. But I think you guys did a pretty good job of keeping a lid on it for a really long time. I didn’t know until recently, and it’s my job to know!
DB: We kept a tight circle for a long part of the process. But as you get closer to the release, these shipments [within] hockey and you start getting shipments elsewhere. It’s hard to actually control that sphere.
We would be in a shortlist of teams who actually didn’t get it leaked. So you expect the leak. It’s like when is it going to happen? How are you going to react now she’s leaked.
There were some contingencies if it was much earlier. But especially, we wanted our Sharks365 [season ticket holders] to be the first to see it. At that point, we didn’t want to deviate.
In today’s world, the leaks, to some degree, unless people just absolutely hate it, can work in your favor building conversation momentum. We don’t want them to be sold necessarily before we release it, but some of the other leaks can work in our favor.
I don’t like it, but we can use it to our advantage.
SP: Finally, what would you say to the San Jose Sharks fans who have completely dismissed the all-teal look from the get-go?
DB: The first thing I’d say, it’s a world of difference between seeing something on Twitter, and seeing the guys on the ice. Even seeing [Couture and Reimer] just in an empty arena, it’s just a different feel.
I think also the all-teal from a still, especially just a mock-up…when you wear it, it becomes different dimensions. So even like the stripe on this leg that you don’t necessarily see in the leaks, that breaks it up tremendously and kind of brings the striping pattern more to the forefront.
I’d say see it on the ice before you judge it too harshly.
The San Jose Sharks’ new “Evolve” jerseys are available now at sharksproshop.com and at Sharks Pro Shop locations at SAP Center, Sharks Ice at San Jose, Sharks Ice at Fremont, and Oakland Ice Center, as well as on NHLShop.com and NHLShop.ca.
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