The Winnipeg Jets are auctioning off their specialty jerseys worn during warm-up on April 24 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The jerseys aim to celebrate Indigenous culture in partnership with The Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC) as part of the NHL’s “This Is Hockey” initiative. The auction opened on April 29 and will close on May 9 at 8 p.m. CT. All of the proceeds go to WASAC.
The jerseys originally debuted on Feb. 16, 2020 in an effort to bring awareness to Indigenous communities and their significant place in Canadian culture. Kevin Chief, the co-founder of WASAC, explained the importance of the NHL holding WASAC night when initially revealing the design of the jerseys.
“One of the things that we wanted to do… is to remind people that you can’t talk about the history of Canada and the history of Manitoba without talking about the unique relationship with Indigenous people. So whether you are Indigenous or non-Indigenous, this is as much of your history and heritage as it is ours. It’s a collective history and it’s a collective heritage. But we can’t just tell people that, we have to show people that.”
Having NHL players promote the organization through a stunning jersey design is most definitely an effective way to get that message across.
The Jets’ Specialty Jersey Design
The designer of these jerseys makes them even more special. Leticia Spence, who belongs to Pimicikamak Cree Nation, created the design for True North Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Jets and their AHL affiliate the Manitoba Moose.
Spence ensured the design would not only look sharp for the athletes to sport in their home arena, but also be meaningful and representative of Indigenous culture. She designed logos for the Jets and Moose jerseys including symbols from Dakota, Cree, Dene, Ojibwe and Oji-cree culture.
When breaking down the Jets’ logo, the circular border is an ode to the Cree medicine wheel using the colours white, yellow, red, and blue. The Cree medicine wheel is composed of four sections representing a variety of principles and ideas. One of these being north, east, south, and west, and another being child, youth, adult and elder. While the wheel uses the colour black, Spence decided to use Jets blue instead to demonstrate the “continuity and dynamism of life and how our culture is reflective of that. It’s continuing to grow while also maintaining history.”
The inner ring is representative of Dene culture with the triangle shapes indicative of home and the jagged edges signifying the Earth. The small squares within the triangular shapes represent the hearth and the grey diamonds within this ring resemble feathers. The gradient pattern filling the numbers on the jersey and the captain or alternate captain symbol takes the shape of the morning star, which “serves as a guide or a means of finding direction.”
The jersey is composed of Spence’s meaningful designs to highlight the history and importance of Indigenous communities while still retaining enough of the original Jets’ logo and jersey design to be admired and adored by hockey fans.
About The Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC)
WASAC is a non-profit organization working to remove and break down barriers for Indigenous youth and children. The company’s goal is to “embrace the pride of Winnipeg’s Indigenous children, youth and families through sport, culture and recreation.” WASAC is Canada’s “largest employer for Indigenous children and youth.” The organization recognizes the importance of playing sports and providing Indigenous youth with the tools necessary for participation. WASAC works to break down the barriers that prevent Indigenous children and youth from participating in sport and allocates resources and support to those affected.
For the NHL’s “This Is Hockey” initiative, the Jets teamed up with WASAC for their third annual promotional game, which occurred on April 24. The “This Is Hockey” initiative emphasizes the importance of inclusivity and diversity in hockey and highlights the need for safety and inclusivity for everyone involved in the community to play and enjoy hockey.
The Hockey Fans and Their Support
The design of these vibrant, red jerseys were heavily praised by fans who caught a glimpse of them during the team’s warm-up against the Maple Leafs. Replies to the Jets’ tweets with images of the specialty jersey were overwhelmingly positive from Jets and non-Jets fans alike. Some even suggested the players wear Spence’s design as an alternative jersey, implying they deserve more than a warm-up cameo. One user exclaimed the team should “take the fine” and wear them for the entirety of the game. Maybe we will see these jerseys being worn by the Jets during regular season games, rather than solely in warm-up on WASAC night, in the future.
If you would like to bid in the WASAC jersey auction, visit auctions.nhl.com or click here. For hockey fans who want to support WASAC while representing the Jets, but do not want to bid in the current auction, official merchandise with the Jets’ specialty logo is available on truenorthshop.com. Proceeds are donated to WASAC programs and initiatives.
Courtney is a 22-year-old recent graduate from the University of Western Ontario, earning her Honors Bachelors of Arts degree in Media Information and Technoculture and will be completing her Master of Media in Journalism and Communication beginning in September 2021. She combines her longtime love for hockey, journalism, and sports media as she covers the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers.