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Designer of Sabres ‘Goathead’ jerseys thrilled to see team bring back ‘badass’ logo


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When the Buffalo Sabres first announced that they would be bringing back their black and red jerseys this season for 12 games, starting Wednesday against the Blues, Steve Farrar’s phone lit up. Friends were sending him links to the news. Farrar had just one simple thought.

“It’s about damn time,” Farrar told his friends.

Farrar was part of the design firm Jager Di Paola Kemp, which was tasked with rebranding the Buffalo Sabres’ jerseys back in 1996. To that point, the Sabres had only ever worn blue and gold with the logo you see on the uniform now. Farrar and JDK had done work for Burton Snowboards and other action spots before linking up with the NHL. Farrar, who majored in illustration at Syracuse, was also doing some design work for New Era at the time, so he was spending a lot of time in Buffalo when the NHL tasked them with doing the Sabres logo.

At the time, Seymour Knox III was getting ready to move the Sabres into a new arena ahead of the 1996 season and wanted a new look for the occasion.

“They wanted to go bold definitely, as did the NHL,” Farrar said. “At the time as far as sports logo and marketing, the Sabres had a loyal fan base but outside of Buffalo had no pulling power at all. They really wanted at that time to energize the (brand) marks across the NHL to create a lot of fanfare even outside of the regions.”

While Farrar was in Buffalo, he spent a lot of time going around town to bars and talking directly to fans. He wanted to understand the region, its people and how the team tied into the city’s identity.

“It’s difficult,” Farrar said. “You don’t want to screw it up. You’re changing something that’s sacred to a lot of people. I took that very, very seriously. When you create change of something that they love, you really want to create enough of that story base there where you can bring them along in the dialogue. I think it achieved that.”

He knew he didn’t want to create a logo that was contained in a circle. He wanted something that could stand on its own and fit in with the fast-paced nature of hockey. In his research, Farrar learned about the importance of the white Buffalo in the Native American community.

“That became the driving force, the power that the albino Buffalo held with the Native Americans,” he said. “That was the source and spirit behind the whole team. Other than that it was just trying to create something that had all the power of hockey in a mark. We were trying to create as badass a uniform as we possibly could.”

When Farrar was trying to come up with the initial sketch for this logo, his kids were six and four. He was coloring with them at the table when the idea struck him. He sketched out the large white Buffalo on a napkin, and that became was is now referred to as the “Goathead” logo. Farrar never heard that nickname at the time, but he laughs at it now.

“I hope they mean greatest of all time,” Farrar said.

When the Sabres first launched the logo, they did so in an event at the Aud in front of a sold-out crowd. Players skated on the ice with the new look. Knox III called it, “truly one of the most significant days in the Buffalo Sabres franchise history.” He said the time was right for a change and that the franchise needed a new look for the new arena and a new era for the team.

 

 

“For me, personally, it’s always tough when you’re an original team that has stood the test of time,” Farrar said. “To make any change to it is a very difficult thing. But if you ground it in enough power and getting to know people in the Buffalo area, they’re a strong bunch, it seemed to fit.”

During the on-ice unveiling, Pat LaFontaine called it a “mean looking logo” and said, “it fit the style of team” the Sabres were. Matthew Barnaby quipped that the jersey made him feel tougher and he loved how big the players looked on the ice.

That was actually part of Farrar’s design idea. The red and black colors were meant to create a more menacing look. The piping on the sleeves was an extension of the logo and created an added pattern to the design.

In the first three years the Sabres wore the red and black jerseys, they went to the conference semifinals, the Conference Finals, and then to the Stanley Cup.

“When you see a game, I just loved the way it looked on ice,” Farrar said. “The players looked bigger and stronger and faster. I think that’s kind of the optics of the sport.”

The Sabres ended up ditching the black and red look prior to the 2006-07 season. They returned to the blue and gold color scheme with a version of the Buffalo logo that is now referred to as the “slug” logo.

“I don’t even know where it came from,” Farrar said. “We called it the little jumping mouse.”

Farrar was bummed when the team went away from jerseys he and his firm designed, but he’s used to the change that comes with new ownership in sports and business. JDK no longer exists as a design firm, but Farrar still resides in Vermont and now owns his own firm. He hasn’t been in touch with the Sabres for years and was surprised to see the team was bringing back the goathead as an alternate uniform.

“The biggest thing is their existing (blue and gold) identity works for Buffalo Sabres fans locally,” Farrar said. “But as far as a sports mark and someone grabbing it across the country, it’s not that effective. The other one, that was the goal to try and break that regional barrier. This one for me, design-wise, stands the test of time. I love the fact that they’re bringing the black jersey. That one is freaking powerful.”

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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5 hours ago, Herodotus said:

I don't mind the logo, but can we see it in blue and gold?

I'd like to to see the black and red jerseys with the classic logo on front and the Goathead on the shoulders

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

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1 hour ago, HipKat said:

I'd like to to see the black and red jerseys with the classic logo on front and the Goathead on the shoulders

I didn't hate the black and reds, except that they dated quickly and were so very generic.  Honestly, the only sabres uniforms I hated were the Trump slugs.

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