Jump to content

VHL Reverse Retro, Part 2: North American Conference


Recommended Posts




It’s back!  After an extended hiatus from point tasks thanks to the TPE from the 2020 Holiday Bonanza, I’ve returned for part two of my VHL Reverse Retro series.  If you’d like a full breakdown of the concept, or if you’d like a chance to look at the previous designs for the European Conference, check out part one here.  




Calgary, for my money, is one of the most iconic franchises in the VHL’s history.  They’re one of just two teams to have stayed in the same location with the same name ever since Season 1.  They started with an iconic dynasty at the very start of the league, winning cups in Season 2, 3, and 8, playing host to legendary players such as Brett Slobodzian, Sterling Labatte, and Scott Boulet, and having what is likely the best ever regular season performance in S1.  Over the first three decades, the Wranglers won more Continental Cups than any other team with seven. But unfortunately, things haven’t been quite as great for them in the following 45 seasons - not only did they give up their lead in total championships, they’ve also only won two Continental Cups over that period (in Season 44 and Season 62).  There’s an interesting parallel to be made to Davos in the European Conference, who’ve had a similar trajectory in that they were at one point the most successful team in league history but have since slowed significantly.  Hopefully both teams can find some more success soon.


The choice of logo here is a mixture of eras for Calgary - the design itself is the “derp horse” adopted by the team during the league’s original logo initiative of the S20s.  But the colors harken back to a different, earlier era.  Rather than red and black, the logo has been recolored to the red and blue of the team’s original design that was worn for the first twenty seasons (that logo, taken from the Austin Wranglers of the Arena Football League, is on the shoulders of this jersey).  The jersey itself is a mixture of a couple elements.  I knew I’d wanted to have at least one team with a stripe across the chest, and considering how often Montreal Canadiens players were used to represent the Wranglers in the media spots and graphics of the early years I just had to indulge myself a bit here.  Of course, there’s a different striping pattern here with white as the dominant color rather than blue.  I’ve also put the sleeve numbers on the stripes themselves, rather than higher up towards the shoulder as you would usually see on a hockey jersey.  Overall, my goal here was to create a jersey design that seems a bit more old school than most of the other designs due to Calgary’s history and early success in the VHL.  The twist, of course, is the more modern logo being used.


The name and number are in reference to Mikka Virkkunen (Matt), a hall of famer whose name was associated with the now-discontinued trophy for Most Sportsmanlike Player (originally named the Francis Trophy).  Virkkunen isn’t necessarily a player you would consider to be near the very top (like Slobodzian, Boulet, or Labatte from the team’s original dynasty), but I’ve chosen him in order to recognize the Calgary teams of the late 10s and early 20s - in particular the back-to-back champions of S18 and S19.  Virkkunen, represented by GM Matt Bentz, was possibly the crown jewel of a team that would include five other hall of fame players.  That’s right, this team had SIX players that would make the hall of fame in the future: Virkkunen, Jardy Bunclewirth, J.D. Stormwall, Alexander Sauve, Matt Bailey, and a young Lars Berger.  Virkkunen was the main man for the team’s first cup run in Season 18, putting up an astonishing 147 points en route to winning the Campbell, Slobodzian, Lemieux, and Malone trophies (the Lemieux and Malone would later be renamed to Szatkowski and Brooks).  He’d also score the cup-winning goal in Game 6 of the finals against the Madrid Thunder.  The Finn took a bit of a backseat in the next season, as it would be third-round steal Bunclewirth who took over the reins as the team’s (and the league’s) top scorer in Season 19 (only his sophomore season), but Virkkunen would still secure his legacy by winning a third Francis Trophy.  He was the first ever player to do so, and the only player other than Scotty Campbell to win it more than once at the time.  The Wranglers would enter a rebuild after their second cup as Bentz stepped down as general manager, paving the way for Virkkunen to be traded to the Riga Reign for his final two seasons.  He didn’t bring home any individual hardware, but he’d break the 100-point mark in both years.  This included a 134-point performance in Season 20 that was perhaps overshadowed by the insane scoring around the rest of the league.  All in all, Virkkunen was a fantastic player who is perhaps unfairly forgotten (he’s tenth all time in career points!) and an iconic Wrangler.




Some more recent members might not think of the Americans as a particularly noteworthy franchise.  The team hasn’t won the Continental Cup since Season 53, which makes for the longest active cup drought of any team, and also hasn’t made the finals since Season 60.  But before that drought, New York was quite possibly among the most successful teams in the league.  In the 20s and 30s, the Americans were a force, making the playoffs for 11 straight seasons between Season 24 and 34 - during which they made the finals seven times.  Their playoff streak would be unmatched until Riga’s recently-ended 13-season streak, and they also became the first team to make the finals in four consecutive seasons.  Three different GMs would be in charge during this streak - most notably Sam Helberg who led the team to no cups but still assembled a legendary team that would earn him two David Knight trophies.  During this period, the Americans would use two different roundel logos - the second of which is used for this uniform.  Said logo would last into the 50s before being replaced by the current one.  It would represent the team for many of the most important moments in their history, including the eventual cup win in Season 32 under Helberg’s successor Ryan Power, as well as the legendary 14-season tenure of Chris Miller.  It only makes sense that a Reverse Retro jersey for the Americans would feature this logo.


Now for the jersey.  New York is always a team I’ve personally imagined wearing blue, so in this case I’ve flipped the blue and red to match the reverse retro theme.  I tried to lean into a sort of old-school Americana style design without going too hard on it, which I think was helped by cream being part of the color scheme.  The drop shadow on the numbers is meant to evoke that old-school style as well.  The stripes on the sleeves and hem are meant to both mimic the stripes on the outside of the logo and are also meant to evoke what I imagine a blue jersey for New York would look like - if red and blue were swapped it would make the sleeves look like the stripes on the American flag.


The name and number are in reference to Daniel Braxton @Jericho, a hall-of-famer who stands among the best defensemen in the history of the VHL.  Braxton spent seven of his eight seasons with the Americans, becoming a franchise icon alongside goaltender Benjamin Glover, and was a part of the infamous four straight finals losses (which you can learn more about here).  He’d win four straight Labatte trophies, three of which were in New York, as well as two Slobodzian trophies with the Americans in Season 27 and Season 29 (back when the award was given to MVP as voted by the players).  The defenseman was shockingly traded to Davos at the beginning of new GM Ryan Power’s tenure in order to help his quest for a cup, but he would return in free agency for his eighth and final season shortly after. Ironically, it would be one season before the Americans finally reached the promised land, winning the Continental Cup in Season 32.  While Braxton would never win a cup, he still stands as one of the best players to ever play in the VHL and he’ll likely always be remembered as a New York American.




Seattle is an interesting team to focus on here.  Unlike New York or Calgary, they’re a team that’s surely on the forefront of many members’ minds as a present-day VHL powerhouse.  The stats back this up, too: the Bears’ franchise total of 11 Continental Cups makes them tied for the all-time lead with the Helsinki Titans.  But unlike the previously-mentioned Wranglers, this total comes in large part thanks to recent victories.  Sure, they won back-to-back cups in S4 and S5 with a team led by Scotty Campbell, but the team mostly had single, isolated cup wins (like their shocking underdog victory in Season 43) rather than powerhouse dynasties for the first half of their existence.  The tide shifts, however, with the now 27-season, ongoing management of Blake Campbell.  The early days of Campbell’s leadership were marked by aggressive moves that mostly didn’t pay off, but things have quickly picked up in recent seasons.  Not only did Seattle win it all in Season 59, they also embarked on a legendary six-season, four-cup dynasty from S68 to S73 that has redefined the franchise in VHL history books.  This is fantastic for them, but for the purposes of this article it isn’t what I’ll be focusing on.  Instead, I’m focusing on the successes of the Bears’ earlier years.


Seattle originally entered the league as the Seattle Everblades, a team name that might stand as the worst in league history when you really think about it.  Thankfully, the team became the Bears in Season 2, using a logo cribbed from the AHL’s Hershey Bears.  This logo does not feature on the jersey - instead, I’ve chosen the current logo, which stands unchanged for the last 50+ seasons, as the main logo.  The striping on the sleeves and hem, though, is influenced by the design on the text of the old logo.  I’ve also chosen tan as the main color in order to differentiate it from the home, away, and alternate established in Sonnet’s designs - where black is established as the secondary color.  For this reverse retro jersey, however, tan and maroon take precedence as black only appears on the name, number, and manufacturer logo.


The name and number are in reference to Markus Strauss @gregreg, a hall of famer who spent six of his seven seasons with the Bears.  Strauss would be a part of the Bears’ S17 cup-winning team in his rookie season, and then would put together a career as a prolific scorer until hanging up the skates after Season 23 with Malone, Lemieux, and Francis trophies in his resume along with six all-star appearances.  Strauss was represented by Greg Harbinson, the team’s longest serving GM pre-Campbell with thirteen seasons split between two reigns.  Harbinson’s only tangible success as GM remains a cup victory in Season 28 after Strauss’ retirement (the S17 cup came under Sandro Desaulniers), but this is perhaps a bit unfair to a member who was likely the first person one would associate with Seattle in the 20s and 30s.  




Toronto, in my opinion, has possibly the most unique legacy of any VHL franchise.  They stand alongside Calgary as having never relocated or changed their name despite being in the league since the very beginning.  In the early years, they hold the unique distinction of being the only team that Scotty Campbell played for but didn’t win a cup with - despite the fact that he stayed there for two seasons and won MVP in one of them.   In fact, the franchise’s first cup would come in S9, the season directly after Campbell’s retirement, with a team featuring five future hall of famers (Kevin Brooks, Mike Szatkowski, Branden Snelheid, Jochen Walser, and Alex Gegeny).  Shortly after, Toronto would reach another unique achievement: the greatest drop in performance between seasons.  They’d put up 61 wins and 122 points in a Victory Cup winning S10 campaign (they fell to Riga in the finals that year), only to follow it up with quite possibly the worst-ever VHL season in S11: 69 losses, the most ever, and just 10 points.  In fact, the Legion went from having the highest goal differential of any team in VHL history (+237) to the all-time lowest (-306), with no in-between.  Both of these records still stand.  This dramatic beginning to a rebuild was spurred by the retirements of Szatkowski and Snelheid.  Gegeny and Brooks were dealt to Vasteras, and Walser was sent to Davos for his final season where he would win the Continental Cup a second time.  This rebuild proved unsuccessful.  Toronto ended up trading down from the first overall pick in S12 in order to acquire Helsinki’s first rounders in S12 and S13 along with young defenseman Noah Lefevre.  That first overall pick ended up being hall of famer Matt Bailey (whose agent was taking over as Helsinki GM), while none of the assets received in return would prove to be as valuable for the Legion.  The GM responsible for this turnover, Mike Szatkowski, would turn over the reins to David Knight.  Knight would have his fair share of misfortune - S14 first overall pick Malcolm Kelly went from a possible generational talent to an early retirement thanks to another Helsinki GM change.  But Knight would find success with Toronto in time, as he brought home a cup in S21 and back-to-back Top GM trophies (more on these teams later).  This wasn’t the last of Toronto’s unique happenings, however, as they most famously made history with the first-ever VHL threepeat in S48, S49, and S50 featuring a legendary team GMed by Mike Molholt and featuring VHL greats Hans Wingate, Black Velvet, Max Molholt, and Zach Parechkin.  The Legion would again be repeat champions in S64 and S65 thanks to GM Ryan Power’s “trade all draft picks” strategy, but not before history repeated itself once again.  Toronto once again put up a legendarily bad season in S60 (4-67-1, a record low of 9 points), and once again were not in ownership of their first overall pick in the subsequent draft as Matt Thompson became a Seattle Bear.  Toronto seems to be the ultimate roller-coaster franchise - the highs are high, but the lows are low, and it's never a steady ride.


This jersey design is, once again, a mixture of eras.  The logo is the current one, but the twist comes in the form of the colors.  Rather than the two shades of blue that are part of the team’s current identity and have been since their rebrand in the 40s, this jersey is only blue and white, dropping the lighter shade.  The reasoning for this is to match the franchise’s earlier history.  The team has always had some form of two-tone blue as its color scheme, from their original logo which was a modified version of the Washington Capitals’ shoulder logo and their second logo, an original created by Koradek.  The difference in those, however, was that the color scheme was much darker, and the usual imagination of the team’s jerseys was based on the Maple Leafs.  So in this case, I’ve decided to focus purely on blue and white as the team’s colors.  Obviously I don’t want to make the jerseys look exactly like the Leafs, though, so I tried to imagine what the team’s modern jerseys might be, except in just two colors.  This was one of the more difficult jerseys to come up with, but overall I’m satisfied with the result.


The name and number are in reference to hall of fame goaltender Aidan Shaw (Ree_21), an all-time great whose name will certainly be recognizable thanks to the VHL’s award for top goalie.  Toronto, in fact, has quite possibly the greatest goaltending legacy of any VHL franchise. Seven hall of famers have played between the pipes for the Legion - Gegeny, Shaw, Alexander Labatte, Remy LeBeau, Hans Wingate, Greg Clegane, and Norris Stropko.  Every one of these hall of famers has won a Shaw/Tretiak while playing for the team, and all but one (Clegane) won a cup in Toronto.  Each of these goalies has a unique legacy that could make up an entire separate article - so why Aidan Shaw?  Essentially, he is not only one of the all time greats of the position, but a player who spent his entire career with the Legion.  Shaw joined the team as the 10th overall pick in the legendary Season 18 draft.  This set up what would become a legendary rivalry with Daisuke Kanou of Davos.  This rivalry, in fact, would extend to the two teams themselves: Toronto and Davos would meet three times in the finals during the goalies’ careers, and would combine to win the Continental Cup four times.  In fact, in the entire history of the league, Davos vs Toronto stands as the most common intercontinental matchup of all time.  The peak of Shaw’s career for the Legion would be the Season 21 cup win where they dispatched the Dynamo 4-1 in the finals - a rebound from their bitter seven-game defeat the season before.  But on an individual level, Shaw would achieve even more. Where Kanou was the playoff performer of the two, Shaw was the ace of the regular season.  Over seven VHL seasons, Shaw won the award that would come to be named after him four times - a feat that has still not been matched to this day.  Even if you consider the threepeat team that would came later, it’s entirely likely that Aidan Shaw is Toronto’s greatest-ever player.




Vancouver is a particularly interesting team to focus on for the purposes of this series.  Of all the teams not included in the expansions of the past 15 seasons or so, they’re the only one to have never changed their logo, which has been in place since they joined the VHL in Season 31.  But at the same time, they’re also the most recent team to have both moved and changed their name, becoming the Vancouver Wolves after having spent the first 34 seasons of their existence as the Quebec City Meute.  So this jersey is meant to recognize their history in Quebec.


The jersey fits the bill for what I imagine any alternate jersey for the Wolves would probably look like: the colors are the same, the design is relatively simple and straightforward, and the jersey is gray (or silver, or whatever you want to call it).  I tried to go with a relatively traditional design to counteract the nontraditional concept of a gray hockey jersey.  Plus I imagine Quebec/Vancouver as always having a more straightforward and minimalistic aesthetic to emphasize what was a unique color scheme in the league until LA joined as an expansion team.  But at the same time, I had to emphasize that this was not just a Vancouver jersey, but a Quebec City one as well.  On the shoulders are two fleur-de-lis that are taken directly from the flag of Quebec.  The jersey font is also a more modern sans-serif that I think is similar to something that would be used by Koradek, a well-known graphics maker, the designer of the Meute/Wolves logo and the inaugural GM of the franchise.


The name and number are in reference to Alexander Valiq @Koradek.  Valiq is probably a name that many are familiar with, as it’s the name that adorns the trophy given to the league’s top offensive defenseman every year.  It’s a fitting name, considering Valiq to this day still holds the record for most career goals scored by a defenseman, as well as the single-season record for most powerplay goals (he’s also only one goal behind Scotty Campbell on the all-time PPG list).  Valiq ironically never won a single individual award in his career, as the award that bears his name would be created many seasons after his retirement.  He would still reach the hall of fame, however, on the back of his impressive statistical output.  As the player of the member Koradek, Alexander originally came to the league as one third of the Valiq brothers with Tomas and Niklas, and was drafted third overall by Riga in the Season 30 draft before Koradek’s new position as GM of Quebec forced a trade ahead of Season 31.  As GM, Koradek would adopt a more aggressive strategy by making big moves pretty early on in his tenure - most notoriously the unexpected signing of young goaltender Skylar Rift in free agency (read more about that here).  The team quickly became the impromptu villains of the VHL, which culminated in a Season 35 cup victory.  While the team would have many other iconic moments before the relocation, Alexander Valiq and the Quebec City teams of the early 30s will likely last as the largest legacy of the franchise’s tenure in Quebec.

Thanks for checking out this article!  I’m glad to finish the series and hopefully you enjoy this one as much as (if not more than) the first.  In case you can’t notice, I went a bit more heavy on the history aspect of this article, in part just because that’s what I enjoy writing about, so I hope this worked out well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Commissioner
24 minutes ago, solas said:


Seattle originally entered the league as the Seattle Everblades, a team name that might stand as the worst in league history

Tijgers have entered the chat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...