When THN’s seven-person panel sat down to come up with our rankings of the 30 NHL logos, we were basically in full agreement which team would be No. 1.
We didn’t want history to influence our decisions. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens sit outside the top 10 for that reason. Ranking all the Original Six 1-6 is boring, predictable and doesn’t accomplish what we wanted to do here: reward the best logos, not the longest history.
Even still, the Chicago Blackhawks stood up to that measurement. The vibrant color combination and the respectful way it honors a WWI battalion and a Native American chief sets this logo apart from the rest. If we handed out the Three Stars of these logo rankings, the Blackhawks logo would be one, two and three.
As we’ve done with the rest of the logos, we’re opening it up to you the reader to redesign the Blackhawks look. It may be hard to do, but if you think you can design a better (or fresher) logo for the Blackhawks, now is your chance. Send your redesign to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll run our favorites next week.
All logos from Chris Creamer’s website.
HISTORY OF THE BLACKHAWKS LOGO
In 1926, coffee tycoon Frederic McLaughlin was awarded an NHL franchise for a $12,000 entry fee. To build a roster, McLaughlin purchased players from the Portland Rosebuds, a franchise from the disbanding Western League. But rather than take the name of the WHL team they had purchased – as the Red Wings initially did with the name Cougars – McLaughlin wanted his own nickname. Rosebuds simply wasn’t good enough for a hockey team.
In World War I, McLaughlin was a commander in the 333rd machine gun battalion of the 86th division in the U.S. Army, whose members called themselves “Black Hawks.” The name honored the Sauk Indian chief who sided with the British in the War of 1812. In the 1830s, Chief Black Hawk fought again against the Americans when he brought his tribe back across the Mississippi River and into Illinois to plant crops and reclaim their land. In 1832, he lost the brief war to the Americans, was captured and taken on “tour” of the East Coast. He would briefly be put in jail before he was released.
The original Chicago Black Hawks logo was a crudely drawn black and white Native American, inside a circle that spelled out the team’s name.
For a number of reasons, the Chicago Blackhawks logo doesn’t get, nor deserve, the same kind of contempt as Washington’s NFL Football club does, but if the team still used the logo they did for two years in the mid-1930s, perhaps the conversation would be different.
Color appeared in this logo for the first time in 1935. The black and white circle and background remained, but Black Hawk’s hair was turned light and his skin red. Thankfully, this logo was replaced with something much more respectful in 1937.
In 1937-38, the Black Hawks moved to an updated design that starts to resemble our No. 1 logo. More colors were added – green and blue – and the look was cleaned up quite a bit.
In the first year the team used this design, they won their second Stanley Cup with a team led by such players as Paul Thompson, Johnny Gottselig, “Mush” March, Carl Voss and Earl Seibert.
The Black Hawks may have won a Cup in the first year they used their third logo, but by the time they retouched their design again in 1955, they had become a franchise defined by its ineptitude. In the 17 years between their championship in 1938 and the redesign in 1955, Chicago missed the playoffs 11 times.
The circle and lettering around Black Hawk remained, but the face was altered. The drawing of the head was bigger, the feathers in his hair became multi-coloured and red and white war paint was added to his face. We’re now one step away from the final evolution of the Black Hawks logo.
The team would win its third Stanley Cup with this logo in 1961, but wouldn’t win another until Patrick Kane came along.
In 1964-65, three years before the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams, the Black Hawks introduced a logo they still use to this day. The circle and lettering was dropped from the logo, leaving plenty of room for a bigger Black Hawk head to dominate the team’s jersey. In the 1980s, the team put the two words in its nickname together, changing it from Black Hawks, to Blackhawks.
This logo saw plenty of miserable down years with the team, but it’s also witnessed the franchise’s awakening in the 21st century and the build up of a Stanley Cup contending powerhouse that has now won two of the past five championships.
What differentiates this logo from the Washington Football Club – and why there is no great controversy around it – is that it honors a great chief and does so with a sophisticated, artful design. It’s not a cartoon like Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians and the team’s nickname that it represents isn’t the outright slur Washington’s is. This name and logo honors the memory of a great Native American chief who stood up to the injustices inflicted upon his people.
Since we didn’t have any dissenting opinions in our office about this logo, one reader reached out via Twitter to do it for us:
Dissenting opinion: “From my experience, most people look at the Chicago Blackhawks logo and see one of the best logos in sports. I envy them. For me, this is like one of those vintage “Magic Eye” posters. I can never see it. The best logo in the NHL? It’s a team named after a military unit named after a Native American named after a bird. The logo is a man’s head. I just don’t see it.” - J.P. Hoornstra, sportswriter for the Los Angeles News Group.