Today’s National Hockey League teams sport highly professional logos and uniforms. But you don’t need to look back very far to reveal a pair of defunct NHL teams whose branding efforts were so bad they just might make you nauseous.
From 1974 to 1978, two teams came and went from the National Hockey League, leaving behind dual legacies of losing records and pathetic attempts at pro sports branding.
In 1974, the NHL ended its burst of expansion teams (12 new franchises in 7 years) with the birth of the Washington Capitals and the Kansas City Scouts. The Capitals went on to become one of the league’s most notable teams, while the Scouts struggled through two forgettable seasons before relocating to Denver as the beloved Colorado Rockies.
One look at the Scouts’ logo and it’s not hard to understand why the team was never embraced by Kansas City fans. With an over-detailed illustration style, awkward use of typography, and a clumsy outer circle, the design is almost completely undecipherable, especially at a distance. The “KC” logotype is primitive and forced, while the outer red ring is horsey (pun intended) and overly dominant. Combined with a garish red, orange and blue color scheme, the Scouts players were a sight to behold on the ice.
In 1976, Cleveland welcomed the eccentric but failing California Golden Seals to play at the Richfield Coliseum, which at the time had the largest capacity in the NHL with over 18,000 seats. Unfortunately, the team never came close to filling the arena and endured serious financial struggles and poor fan support during two turbulent seasons.
Again, the branding was astonishingly bad. The logo incorporated a large letter “C” that was squashed on the left side like a sausage and included the full words Cleveland Barons within the awkward letterform. Framed in the center of the “C” was a graphic in the shape of the state of Ohio, and a horribly unreadable and graphically incompatible gothic letter “B”. The color palette was an uninspiring snooze-fest of black, red and white, and the team lived up to its sorry branding by winning fewer than 50 games in two seasons.
In 1978, the team merged with the Minnesota North Stars who eventually relocated to Dallas in 1993 as the Stars.
Looking back, the Kansas City Scouts and the Cleveland Barons totaled less than 75 wins in four seasons, while losing nearly 200 games. Do their pathetic branding executions have anything to do with the short tenure and losing records of the two teams? Maybe not. But it sure didn’t help. Ironically, after moving from Kansas City and Cleveland, both of the teams’ future franchises went on to become two of the most-loved vintage NHL brands (Colorado Rockies and Minnesota North Stars). But one thing is for sure. On the ash heap of NHL history, the Scouts and the Barons are two smoldering remnants of sports branding gone bad.