Pens to debut new, blue uniform
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A lot of scarves could be worn by fans attending the Winter Classic on New Year's Day, and Penguins players will join that crowd at Heinz Field - sort of.
A new blue-colored alternate uniform is soon to be unveiled by the team. It will debut at the outdoor game against Washington, and the Penguins plan to adopt it next season as a "third" uniform.
Also, the first day of 2011 will mark the first appearance of the Penguins' original logo on a uniform.
"Originally, the little guy had a scarf on him, but that guy never made it to the uniforms," said Bob Gessner, a freelance artist formerly of Pittsburgh who designed the "Skating Penguin" (scarf and sans scarf) in the 1960s.
Gessner, 78 and a longtime resident of St. Augustine, Fla., is not saddened the scarf-wearing "Skating Penguin" - "Is that what they really call him?" he asked - was never displayed on a club uniform. He doesn't expect to be thrilled with the new alternate design, which will resemble uniforms worn by majority co-owner Mario Lemieux's son Austin's local youth team.
"First I've heard of it, but I like the other one better," he said of the modern "Skating Penguin," which he also designed upon the founding ownership's request. "That guy looks more, uh, nasty. He's got an attitude. This one looks too docile."
The Penguins' new alternates figure to play popular if past precedent is any indication. A 1996 alternate became the road uniform the next season and until 2002. An alternate that debuted in 2000 became the road jersey two years later and along with a white version of it was part of the full-time uniforms from 2002-2007.
The predecessors to the new blue threads were among the NHL's highest selling alternate uniforms over the past three seasons, according to a league official. In fact, the Penguins briefly considered adopting them full time for the move to Consol Energy Center before choosing to stick with their version of Pittsburgh's black and gold.
The Penguins' gold is "Las Vegas Gold," a contrast to the deep yellow that appears on uniforms worn by the NFL's Steelers, MLB's Pirates and, of course, Pittsburgh's official crest and flag.
"We're a Pittsburgh team, and our colors are black and gold," Penguins CEO/president David Morehouse said in July. "But we're not getting rid of the blue. So many people like it. Just look at how many people wear those jerseys to games."
Gessner, who said he never was a fan of the Penguins' original color scheme - navy blue, powder blue and white - has left his mark on Pittsburgh. He designed logos for the Penguins, Pirates, Pitt, Duquesne, Robert Morris and Geneva.
His most famous creations are the "Skating Penguin," Pitt's adored script lettering and the map-background Pirate that the baseball team displayed for 1971 and 1979 World Series champions.
"I always say my designs have won two World Series, two Stanley Cups and a national championship," Gessner said.
"What I can't say is why I put a scarf on the Penguin originally. The owners were just concerned with getting a logo that included a Penguin. Right away I thought that scarf made him look like an ice skater rather than a hockey player. They asked me for something else, something more aggressive, and I went along with it because I agreed."
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