San Jose Sharks

Sharks debut Cali Fin third jersey, break from traditional iconic logo

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Editor's Note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California’s Sharks coverage. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.

The San Jose Sharks’ logo is iconic, but there’s a good reason why the franchise are going away from it with their new Cali Fin third jersey, which was announced during a season-ticket holder event at SAP Center on Thursday.

Instead, the jersey’s primary crest will be the Evolve Fin, which debuted last season, along with the Sharks’ new home and road ensemble. The Evolve Fin is a clean, modern take on the original alternate Fin logo, that like San Jose's iconic main logo, has been a part of the franchise from the beginning.

“The fin, like you said, it's something that it says Sharks hockey, but it's not a big, animated character," Sharks chief marketing officer Doug Bentz told San Jose Hockey Now. "People love the Shark, but it's a little cartoonish, it's like, ‘Hey, this is hockey,’ whereas I think the fin is just a little bit more modern and contemporary. That may appeal to a wider range of people.”

Sharks center Tomas Hertl poses in the team's new Cali Fin jerseys. (Photo by Kavin Mistry/San Jose Sharks)

So the Cali Fin is designed to break through beyond the Sharks’ hardcore fanbase, though the team also will wear the jersey on the ice, starting on Feb. 17 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, their first home game after the 2024 NHL All-Star Game.

San Jose will wear the Cali Fin jersey for all 11 February and March home games, and during the 2024-25 and 2025-26 seasons.

But that’s not all.

Bentz spoke with San Jose Hockey Now about how the Cali Fin connects with Northern California and its Hispanic community – i.e. why the stripes? The Sharks also are planning to introduce fashion jerseys – Sharks-related hockey jerseys that they will not use during games.

Bentz also explains the reasoning behind black as the base color for a Sharks jersey once again, why the Sharks are launching this jersey so late in the season and why Raffi Torres was chosen to tease the Cali Fin jerseys.

Doug Bentz, on genesis of the Cali Fin jersey:

"Like previous iterations of our jersey -- at least for the last three or four years -- a group of individuals from our brand side, from our production side, from the team, and the equipment staff, and media relations, formed really the group that vetted different ideas along with the league and Adidas.

"A few things were at the core of what we wanted this to be: One, we want it to be something that was going to really connect with Northern California. From our perspective, third jerseys are a way to make a bigger statement or say something more than just a traditional hockey jersey, which is coming out with the Evolve jerseys last year -- they were much more kind of your traditional jersey.

"We wanted it in some way to represent Northern California, the culture, the lifestyle. We actually looked at some collaborations that didn't work out with Bay Area institutions to make that connection.

"After really looking at a lot of concepts, this jersey kind of came to be for a few reasons. One, we thought there were some design elements that kind of harkened back to the to the culture, both current and past, of the Bay Area. That was a key to that.

"The second kind of aspect of the design brief was we wanted a jersey that was also going to be something that could be worn outside of the arena. You've probably seen we've put a lot of time, effort, energy and investment into merchandise and really having merchandise be something that represents the brand, that brings new audiences into the arena, touching and engaging with our organization. A jersey that was very wearable, not just something that you throw on when you're coming to a game, but that was kind of fashionable around town.

"One, the connection with the community and have it represent a little bit more than just a hockey jersey, and two, having to be something that could be both someone who's been here for 30 years and a fan will be just as proud and would like to wear it as someone who is brand new to the Sharks or even someone who's not yet a Sharks fan and just thought it was fashionable. Those were kind of the two design prompts, and that kind of got us here today with the Cali Fin jersey."

The patch that will appear on the Sharks' new Cali Fin jerseys. (Photo by Kavin Mistry/San Jose Sharks)

Bentz, on what’s Northern California about the jersey besides the return of the 2015 Stadium Series Northern California patch:

"If you see the striping pattern that's below the traditional stripes -- so, on the sleeve below the last white stripe, and on the bottom of the jersey below the white stripe. That striping is actually meant to represent -- there's a technique called "yarn dye," which if you've seen a lot of the old Hispanic textiles, that pattern and that style, we actually started with Adidas, wondering if we could actually use that technique on the jersey, but it was going to be hard in terms of wear and tear.

"So you see that in the past, you see that in like the Hispanic heritage of the Bay Area, which obviously with Los Tiburones, we're again trying to connect with not only the past, but with the future culture here.

"There’s these hoodies called Baja Hoodies that a lot of surfers were in California -- and again, it has that same "yarn dye" technique and pattern. That striping is really inspired by that style and that technique of textiles that have been in the Bay Area for many, many years. That's really a stick tap to, our Hispanic heritage in the Bay Area.

"We liked that because it felt impactful enough that it was really a nod to the past, but it wasn't something that took over the jersey, and it's something that's blended well and actually was more of a stylish element that we could add.

"And then we have the shark teeth within the neck of the jersey, which obviously is the Sharks, but obviously it's also a nod to the fans and the chomp that you're clearly aware of.

"I think those are the elements that we thought really connected with the people. Between Northern California and really having this be about the whole region and hockey players, hockey fans, supporters all over the region, our fans and their traditions, and then really just the culture of the area both past and present and future were kind of three elements."

Bentz, on designing a jersey that appeals to more than hockey fans:

"We wanted this to be something that -- even the striping that I just talked about, the teeth in the neckline, these are subtle elements, that it's not going to be something that if you wear it, it's like, "Oh, my God, that's, that's a hockey jersey." Even if you look at those photos I sent over, Raffi Torres came back and helped us do the launch video. When he's walking around in that at the photo shoot, he's kind of looking like he's hanging out, he's not necessarily ready for a hockey game.

"We wanted the look to be very clean, very modern, and very wearable. The fin, like you said, it's something that it says Sharks hockey, but it's not a big animated character. People love the Shark, but it's a little cartoonish, it's like, "Hey, this is hockey," whereas I think the fin is just a little bit more modern and contemporary, and just a little bit of a cooler mark that may appeal to a wider range of people."

The Sharks' new Cali Fin jersey. (Photo by Kavin Mistry/San Jose Sharks)

Bentz, on if the Sharks always planned to design a game jersey around the Evolve Fin, introduced last year, as the primary crest logo:

"No, it was not. The design process for this jersey started in summer of 2022 while the Evolve jerseys design process was completed almost a year earlier. We looked at several design concepts that didn’t use the fin as the crest. That said, the popularity of the fin logo did play into the decision to go this direction."

Bentz, on the Cali Fin being, in some ways, the San Jose Sharks’ first fashion jersey:

"That's our goal -- our goal is to actually be expanding the game and bringing new people into the game.

"I think fashion, I think art, you've probably seen these are things that we're trying to invest in to make hockey much more welcoming and inclusive. This is certainly our farthest attempt.

"With Reverse Retro, it was certainly tied to the Seals, but even in that way, I think we were trying to take advantage of the retro trend and make it something that was kind of cool and not just hockey.

"To your point, I think moreso trying to attract people who want to have something that feels good, looks cool, can represent, but not have it be like 'Hey, I'm a person who wears a jersey.'

"This is just the next iteration, taking that a step further. Our attempt is really to continue to go this way -- we're even working on actually creating some quote unquote 'fashion jerseys' that will be full jerseys, but won't be worn on ice, to again, take advantage of people who want to have that look, have a connection to the Sharks, but maybe not have it be one of the jerseys that you see all the time."

The Sharks' new Cali Fin jersey. (Photo by Kavin Mistry/San Jose Sharks)

Bentz, on if the San Jose Sharks are working with Fanatics on these fashion jerseys:

"We're actually working closer with Aramark to do the ones right now. Working with Fanatics could be a possibility into the future as we kind of [lean into] that agreement with the NHL. Working through Aramark, we have a little bit more flexibility to explore things that may be not Sharks-related at all.

"Kind of going back to where I started, this third jersey, some of our first ideas were doing collaborations with people or institutions in the Bay Area that resonated well beyond hockey. That's where we want to go, because I think in the fashion industry, collaborations are where you can really expand your audience, try new things, go outside of what you do in the norm that are considered maybe a little bit safer because they're in a collaborative nature.

"Ultimately, that's where we're going to want to get on things like that, because in a lot of ways, that doesn't work on the ice, but it could work off the ice."

Bentz, on if the NHL’s collaboration with Justin Bieber’s drew house for the 2024 All-Star jerseys is an example of the kind of direction that the Sharks want to try with these fashion jerseys:

"That's definitely the direction that we see -- again, it allows us to reach our objectives of really trying to grow the game in the Bay Area. Considering we're a non-traditional market, we have a lot of people who are coming in and out of the Bay Area who may not have hockey ties, so we need to make sure we find those cultural intersections where we can meet people and show what we're all about as an organization, and then introduce them to hockey versus the other way around."

Bentz, on why Sharks didn’t just make the Cali Fin jersey a fashion jersey:

"The NHL does not allow teams to have a third jersey in years that new primary home and away jerseys are introduced. So last year was a natural time to retire the Stealth third after the required three years.

"That made this year a natural to re-introduce a third jersey. So the intent was to launch a third.

"The Cali Fin design was universally liked by the business/brand, retail, and the team so it made sense to be the third. That said, a few of the other concepts we considered will be candidates for a fashion jersey given they skewed more towards an off-ice look."

Former Sharks player Raffi Torres dons San Jose's new Cali Fin jerseys. (Photo by Kavin Mistry/San Jose Sharks)

Bentz, on how often the Sharks will wear the Cali Fin jerseys this season:

"We're gonna wear them for 11 games [this season]. We're gonna start on February 17. and wear them for 11 consecutive [home] games until the end of March. As opposed to in previous years where we kind of picked like a day of the week, we're going to wear these in one big block."

Bentz, on why the Sharks chose to wear the Cali Fin jerseys for two straight months:

"Well, a couple of reasons. One, I think we really liked the idea of launching this at this point in the season, because it gives us kind of a fun talking point, a big activation to kind of rally around at a time of year when there's maybe not as much going on, and kind of have the ability to have a block of games where we could wear this as a way to attract attention.

"[Have] a little bit more of a fun vibe at this point in the season. It just becomes a little bit of a bigger deal if we compress this into that time period. The 17th, just in particular, we're coming off a long break from the All-Star and then our off week. The ability to come back to something that's exciting and new, kind of gives us a way to relaunch the season after that long break of home games."

Bentz, on launching these jerseys late in the season as opposed to the traditional summer or preseason launch:

"We put so much energy in the season launch with different things we do, whether it's in the community or whether it's marketing. To be honest, even sometimes we saw in the past, the jerseys launches in the early season sometimes just become part of all that big -- all of those events kind of just become one big activity for the season launch, whereas this gives the jersey its own time period, an ability to stand on its own and really have [it] be the focus.

"This is the jersey, but it's also the full uniform, we're going to have a full [merchandise] collection that plays off the style and the look, and then we're going to have content that rolls around this. It kind of elevates it to its own platform, which sometimes, when you do the traditional route, it just gets lumped in with other activities."

Bentz, on choosing black as the Cali Fin jersey’s base color, instead of gray:

"There are a few reasons. One, we actually went gray [with] the first Reverse Retro jersey. Of course, people have their opinions, but when it comes to sales, we continually see that our black jerseys sell well -- and much better than other colors. In some regards, the proof is where people are spending versus maybe what they say.

"I think the players like black, it's much more intimidating on the ice, and again, coming back to this more fashionable, wearable, for someone who not necessarily knows the whole history of Sharks jerseys and already has a teal jersey and already has a black, this to them, is a little bit more attractive than a gray jersey. It's more representative of the Sharks in our brand versus gray in our mind."

The Sharks' new Cali Fin jersey. (Photo by Kavin Mistry/San Jose Sharks)

Bentz, on if these Cali Fin jerseys will carry over with the Fanatics’ takeover of NHL game jerseys next year:

"For next year, we've obviously worked with them on like proofs of our jersey that will be on ice next year.

"When we introduce a jersey—a primary or third jersey that's worn on the ice—the NHL has a rule where we need to wear it for at least three years. Our intention is that this is definitely multiple years, and at minimum, three years.

"We will be wearing the Cali Fin jersey on-ice next season and through at least 2025-26.

"With respect to us working with them to actually develop something new, we're still a little ways from working with them. In general, we're definitely working with them with the new relationship, but in terms of developing new products for on the ice, we're not there yet."

Bentz, on choosing Raffi Torres to model these Cali Fin jerseys:

"This kind of connection to the Hispanic heritage and the Spanish culture, that really inspired the yarn dye striping.

"We actually thought about people in the community and people who really represented the culture and Hispanic area to really be involved in the project.

"In doing so, we're kind of looking outside of hockey, and then we thought, 'Well, who kind of represents that, and who actually really worked well in the community and who actually played for our team?'

"That’s kind of how Raffi's name came up, because he was very involved within the Hispanic community, and really connected that to hockey when he played here. When we talked to him about it, he was very excited to do it and really wanted to be involved. To connect our community to hockey and to authentically connect someone of Hispanic heritage who had that connection in San Jose was just a no-brainer."

Former Sharks player Raffi Torres dons San Jose's new Cali Fin jerseys. (Photo by Kavin Mistry/San Jose Sharks)

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