SUN Hockey Pool

Flames fire up unis

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

They dimmed the lights, turned on the spotlight and started the spiel.

Before unveiling the Calgary Flames new Edge uniforms, they spoke dramatically about how two years of testing resulted in technologically advanced materials offering greater range of movement, more breathability and even something called a temperature management system.

By way of a video and an Rbk techie, they introduced fancy trademarked words like Playdry, Bead Away and X-trafit to the hundreds of sponsors, media types and fans who lined up outside Flames Central for the lunch-hour event.

But the truth of it all is the new jerseys are all about one thing: Marketing.

Selling more jerseys, making more money.

And that's not a criticism.

It's all part of a league-wide streamlining of jerseys by a sponsor who did it's damnedest to make the togs so performance enhancing, one broadcaster saw it as a chance to ask uniform model Dion Phaneuf if he thought they could help improve the team's road record.

That's a low blow, even from this vantage point.

"You're grilling us already about the road, and we haven't even started camp," scowled Phaneuf as fans stormed the stage for autographs and photo ops.

Funny, the same reporter didn't budge earlier when Ken King tried to demonstrate how water-resistant the jerseys were by inviting a member of the media to "come up and throw a glass of water on Dion Phaneuf ... good luck with that."

With the guidance of the Flames, who just so happen to be designers of the NHL's top-selling jersey of all time (see Sea of Red for proof), the tweaks made to the new jerseys are subtle. The basic look is the same -- home reds with the flaming black 'C' and road whites.

While horizontal striping at the bottom and piping under the arms are nice touches, the first thing most fans will notice is the addition of a blue patch on the players' right shoulder -- an Alberta flag. A Canadian flag sits on the left side.

"We're very fortunate to play in this country and this province, so to wear those flags around North America is an honour," said Phaneuf who wore the uniform on stage with Matthew Lombardi, while 12 students, the mayor and two owners stood by.

"It's good they didn't change it much from what the fans wanted -- they're a big part of this game. As players, we like the new look, and

I hope the fans do, too."

As the league revamped its look, rumours circulated the NHL would go back to white home jerseys as it did before the 2003-04 launch of the famed red sweater. King was pleased that never came to pass.

"Those who want to still wear their old jersey can still do so and fit right in, and

I think that's fantastic," said King who added his club will resist the option to add a third jersey for two or three years.

"Our fans told us, 'We love what you did in '04. Please don't change that,' and I think we've responded to that. We're traditionalists, and we're proud of that."

The font of players' names and numbers hasn't changed. The lace-up collar is a classic touch, and the double stripes on the black pants are unique.

Never mind the fact the white socks look like they belong to the German national team -- the overall look is sharp.

Throughout the unveiling, the tote board at Flames Central counted down 30 days until the season opener. The countdown until the jerseys are available for $150 a pop is at nine days, after which cash registers will officially ring in the new season.


Photos