Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

True North buys old Jets logo

But time running out for retro wear

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If you're feeling nostalgic for the old Jets, you better channel your inner Anders Hedberg and move fast.

True North Sports & Entertainment has bought the trademarks for the original team's logos from the 1970s, '80s and '90s and local retailers say once their current stock of retro T-shirts, hats and jerseys runs out, they won't be available for an indefinite time.

"It might be too late already," said Gerald Haasbeek, owner of Royal Sports. "We don't have any (retro jerseys) left. We're sold out. We do have some T-shirts, hats and hoodies left but if you want to get something with the old logo, you should get it now. If you want something for Christmas, we're not going to have it."

Scott Brown, director of communications for the Jets, confirmed the team obtained the trademarks for the old logos from the NHL this past summer. The league had owned them since the team moved to Phoenix in 1996 and became the Coyotes. He declined to speculate on how long the new logo might have the merchandising market to itself.

"We believe the focus in the market needs to be on the new logo for the next period of time," he said.

Any merchandise a producer wants to make featuring the old logo needs to be approved by the hockey club, Brown said.

Such a move isn't uncommon in the business world, according to Peter George, CEO of McKim Cringan George, a Winnipeg-based advertising company.

"It's about controlling your brand, driving revenue and driving consistency so there's a consistent image in the marketplace. (True North) has articulated what they want their brand to stand for so the move makes perfect sense," he said.

George said retro fans will hit the bootleg market if they really want to find merchandise with the old logo.

"It's a retired symbol. If you own the rights to the name and brand, it's your decision what to do with it," he said.

Zak Rubin, retail general manager at River City Sports, said the new logo has been outselling the old one "hands down" since it was launched two months ago. The old logo, of course, was one of the biggest sellers of vintage or any other kind of sportswear in Winnipeg during the NHL's 15-year hiatus from the Manitoba capital. It also flew off the shelves from May 31, the day True North announced it had purchased the Atlanta Thrashers, until late July.

"It's a new brand. (True North) wants to make sure people understand this is a new team. They want to look forward, not to the past," he said.

George said the public uprising in favour of the Jets name after the team was purchased showed Winnipeg's dedication to the brand and after some initial trepidation, they are learning to "love the new brand," he said.

"The new logo was the most prevalent symbol at the pre-season game I was at. You'll see lots and lots of the new merchandise. It will happen naturally," he said.

Haasbeek said he expects the popularity of the new logo to reach new heights this weekend when on-ice jerseys become widely available for the first time. Fandom doesn't come cheaply, however. He said the jerseys will retail for $299 before tax and before a number or a name is stitched on. Factor all that in and the total cost is north of $400.

So-called "premier" jerseys should be available by the end of the month and will retail for $129, Haasbeek said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2011 A8

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