Ticats new look a modern take on tradition

Growing up in Brampton, Hamilton Tiger-Cat defensive back Courtney Stephen had a closet full of sports jerseys, each one representing a favourite player or team.

“I had a Deion Sanders, I had a Steve Nash, I had a Vince Carter Raptors’ jersey,” Stephen said. “When you’re a kid and you wear your jersey to school, it’s like you’re a part of that team.”

Stephen was sporting new look on Thursday as the Ticats unveiled the latest version of their uniforms as part of a league-wide redesign.

The CFL has moved from Reebok to Adidas as their provider of official game day jerseys and apparel.

And while some teams have completely revamped their look, Hamilton has elected to stay the course with only minor changes. According to chief commercial officer Matt Afinec, that’s by design.

“We’ve had great success with our current jersey and the feedback from our fans was that it was hugely popular,” Afinec said. “In our redesign with Adidas, we wanted to keep many of the things we thought made it popular and just tweak it marginally.”

The only significant changes are a slight increase in the type size for “Tiger-Cats” on the black jersey and “Hamilton” on the white version, an elimination of the gold trim on the home sweater and slight alteration to the sleeves of the away one.

The pants will now be a solid colour — no more stripe down the side — though there will still be a black, white and gold version. The new CFL logo has also been added to the chest plate and the numbers on the back of the helmets are also larger.

It’s the first update to the Ticats’ look since May, 2012.

“Redesigning a jersey requires the input of multiple layers of the organization. Football operations from a performance perspective, business as it relates to the commercial appeal of the jersey and decisions like this go all the way up to (owner) Bob Young,” Afinec said. “Everyone has their insight.”

In addition to the new jerseys, there is also a new line of CFL-themed Adidas apparel that Stephen said is a major upgrade.

“I love wearing their stuff. They are an international brand that are known all over the world,” Stephen said. “When you get our gear this year, I know there’s going to be some stylish things I won’t mind wearing to the mall.”

From a football perspective, Stephen said he’s pleased with the fit and feel of the new uniforms. The new jerseys have more “give” in them than the previous incarnation and mesh incorporated into the pants makes them lighter and more flexible.

“I put it on with the shoulder pads and I love the way that they cut it. They fit well and they are tight in the right spots,” Stephen said. “When you’re playing, you want your gear to be a part of you without being restrictive.”

To coincide with the launch of the new jerseys, the Ticats also opened a new 2,000-square-feet flagship store at the southeast corner of Tim Hortons Field along with a revamped online version. While he declined to put a dollar figure on sales, Afinec says the team is “in the top half” of the CFL in terms of merchandise sales — with room for growth.

“Retail transcends the products you sell — it really is a marketing driver for us,” Afinec said.

“The more people you have around town, around the country, around the world demonstrating their pride in the Ticats — that’s a big benefit.”