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The Maple Leaf: It's Stupid

Oh, Canada...

As an American, I look down on you with the loving contempt of an older brother. No matter what you do, no matter how well you do it, I'll always consider myself far superior. And the worst part is, it's kinda your fault.

Canada tries so hard to make a name for itself and establish an identity independent from the US, but it does so in a way that always screams, "See? We're not America!" And that's never the right way to go about creating an identity.

One of the most ubiquitous and obnoxious ways Canadians try to establish this self-image in sports is to wantonly slap a red maple leaf onto any identity they can, regardless of color scheme, team name or club history.

And whether it's because Americans are too stupid to know what cities are in Canada or whether Canadians are too stupid to realize no one cares, the maple leaf logo trend is supremely stupid.


The maple leaf permeates every major sports league in the US and Canada.  Hell, even the NFL - a league without a Canadian team - is not immune to this trend. Thanks Bills, how could we tell you were at Rogers Centre (It's Center Canada, but don't get me started...) without that helpful little leaf?

The NBA has been mostly leaf-free except for the Raptors in the mid-2000s. Apparently NBA teams are too busy working a basketball into every logo to hop onto the maple leaf trend...

The NHL, a league which shouldn't feel the need to do this since Canada has seven teams (Oh, and they created the sport), is one of the worst offenders.

Note to Canadian NHL teams: Only one team should have a Maple Leaf in its logo.

Yet again, reason is ignored and the leaf is everywhere. At one point, this little gem was an alternate logo for the Ottawa Senators.

The newest NHL team, the Winnipeg Jets (a team that already had a leaf-free identity) went the full-leaf and slapped it on every... single... logo they could find. Sure, there identity is based on this, but doesn't this or this accomplish the same feat while evoking the leaf rather than haphazardly placing it in the logo?

And did I mention that there's no other red anywhere in Jet's color scheme or on their uniforms?

Even the Calgary Flames caved to the trend. After 27 years in Canada, not only did the Flames slap on an Alberta Flag on one shoulder, they threw the Canadian flag on the other - just in case you hadn't realized Calgary was in Alberta, Canada.

Even the measly MLS manages to throw in a maple leaf onto one of their two Canadian teams. That one may be the least egregious since the design is so poor, you can barely tell it's a maple leaf, but it is.

But the real offender, and probably the originator of the maple leaf trend, is the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Repeatedly and habitually, the Blue Jays (whom you would think would eschew any red for shades of... oh, I don't know... blue?) have forced this stupid symbol of, "WE'RE IN CANADA," into every iteration of their team identity since their founding in 1977.

Even during the brief period where this was their primary logo and when a variation of that was their cap logo, guess what graced the sleeve of every uniform they wore? That's right. The leaf.

So desperate, consistent and ubiquitous has the use of the leaf been in their identity that - I argue - they have corrupted the team identities of almost every sports team in Toronto.

Raptors? TR + Leaf alt logo. Toronto FC? Main Crest + Leaf. Even minor league teams have leaf logos.

The Maple Leafs get a pass as they existed decades before the Blue Jays, their identity contains no red and their leaf has maintained some design independence from the flag version of the leaf since their inception.

But still, Toronto has a leaf problem.

...Canada has a leaf problem, and it's a stupid problem to have.

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Reader Comments (41)

Terry here. The Sens logo you linked to reminds me of a logo for a Canadian University. I've seen backyards with piles on top of piles of Autumn leaves that have less of a leaf problem than Canadian athletics.
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimply Moono
As a Canadian, I'm proud of the leaf, but I too loathe how much it has spread. Team Canada and the Maple Leafs, fine. Any team beyond those two is completely unnecessary.

I hate how my Calgary Flames adopted those flags. In my 25 years of being a fan, those flag jerseys are the first ones I've passed on.

Also not impressed with the Jets 2.0 looking like the Leafs. This guy made a much better Jets logo (leaf-free!):
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip
What Philip said. And that, consequently, is the Alberta flag on their shoulder, not the B.C. flag.

***FIXED - Tim
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher
You make Americans look stupid. If you are going to write a column, make sure you know that Calgary is in Alberta, not BC. Again, way to make Americans look stupid. You did a really good job of that.

***FIXED - Tim
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
If, as an American, you're superior, why take the time to be concerned over how Canadians choose to show patriotism? Why do you give a beaver's tail?

Where we come from -- the land of ice and snow -- when we don't have anything good to say about someone, we keep it to ourselves. An interesting concept, yes?

Do feel free to bring your skis next time you visit in July, and say hello to my good friend Dave in Manitoba -- he's the one who lives in the second igloo on your right.

And finally, It is very unfortunate that your basic lack of geographic knowledge skewered whatever merit the rest of your post may have conveyed. Sad.

***FIXED - Tim
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike
There are reasons we're proud to be Canadians, not the least of which is WE AREN'T AMERICANS. Americans should be the last people to complain of another country's patriotism. And if you're going to write a column, get your facts straight before you start.
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDon
I think many of you are missing the point of my "loving contempt"/"far superior" remark. First, That's VERY tongue in cheek. It's a joke people, calm down. I would be quite the narcissist if I literally thought I was better than every Canadian.

Second, All I'm trying to get across is that, just like an older brother, the little brother can do things even better, but the older brother will still feel superior because he's older - an irrational and probably wrong reason.

As long as Canadian teams try to define themselves as "Not American" - or "Not ______", whatever that may be - they make themselves look silly. If you define yourself by one thing that you aren't, that's a pretty loose and poor identity. If you Identify yourself by your attributes, your characteristics, etc. then you are on a path to a quality sports identity.
December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterTim E. O'Brien
That's pretty good, coming from someone who lives in a country where all their MLB teams have to wear red caps (despite individual team colours) with stars and stripes on them. What a joke that is. And don't criticize Canadians and not expect to hear about it. We may not wave flags and sing God Bless America in the middle of our sporting events, but we're as proud of our country as you are of yours. Maybe moreso. I was going to say we don't set our cities on fire after championship games but unfortunately sometimes we do. Just not as often. And we only definine ourselves as NOT AMERICANS lest other people think we are.

I do agree with how stupid both the flags look on the Flames' shoulders.
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Tim, I'm a huge Toronto fan. I've followed the Leafs since 1958 when they were the parent team for the Rochester Americans. I've been a Blue Jays fan since Day One. I saw the third game they ever played on April 9, 1977 at old Exhibition Stadium. I first visited Canada in 1952 as a five-year-old with my parents. We have relatives in Canada.

All that being said people from Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta along with the rest of Canada have no problem saying, "We're from Canada, the Great White North, eh?" These folks are proud of the Leaf. If they want to include it on the uniforms, logo, etc. so be it. Who are we as Americans to tell our Canadian cousins how to garb their teams? It's their choice to promote the Leaf, not ours.

As to their spelling, well they use the real Queen's English. A bank check is spelled "checque." Words like "color" and "honor" have a "u" in there as "colour" and "honour."

Living only three hours from T.O. I've been to Canada many times. It's a great country that I respect tremendously. If their sports teams want to honor their country by using a Leaf as part of the logo so be it. Let them do their own thing.
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Proctor
Tom -
Isn't it sad, though, that you feel the need to constantly define yourself in comparison to the US? If you truly are a proud nation, and Canada is, then your sports identities shouldn't show clear signs of an inferiority complex and slap those F***ing leafs all over everything. haha

And the stars and stripes caps a hideous monstrosities. They should be illegal. But this wasn't a post on stars and stripes caps.

haha, I know it's "the Queen's" I just choose to make fun of it. As for the designs, I just feel - like I said above - that is screams of an inferiority complex. Canada - and it's great sports history - deserves better design than cookie cutter, copy paste design. The Canucks are a perfect example of this. Unfortunately I hate them, as I am a Blackhawks fan. haha
December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterTim E. O'Brien
I don't think having a maple leaf on a uniform is a sign of an inferiority complex. Quite the opposite. It's not nearly as self-promoting as the stars and stripes caps.
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Tom -
"It's not nearly as self-promoting as the stars and stripes caps."

Agreed but those caps only exist to sell more baseball caps and are forced upon teams - though I'm not saying they do or don't like them. They are not a part of any team identity, they are just trying to sell products.

And let's not forget that the Blue Jays do the exact same thing with the Canadian flag every year -

Both are stupid, ugly and the worst kind of marketing. But neither have anything to do with the MLB's individual team identities.
December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterTim E. O'Brien

This is insulting to Canadians, and ignores the fact that American teams are even more gaudy with patriotic symbols. A poster above mentioned the "stars and stripes" cap every MLB team wears over the course of the season. And when was the last time a Texas-based team didn't go with some kind of 'lone star' identity? Or Washington teams not going with an eagle / White House / red, white and blue theme? Generally, sports teams pay tribute to their region one way or another. The maple leaf doesn't speak to an inferiority complex. It's more about a vast, sparsely populated country, where symbols of national identity serve as a unifying force.

At the end of the day, your point comes across as weak. You cite two logos that aren't used anymore (Raptors and Sens), plus the Jays and TFC. For the Jays, the maple leaf has been on their jerseys since the start, and they're now Canada's only MLB team. For TFC, the logo was designed when they were Canada's only team. I can't defend the Calgary Flames - you usually only see designs that lazy (a flag sewn on the jersey) on American college teams.

If the United States had only one team in a particular sport, don't you think they'd go for a stars and stripes theme? National identity is important. How many American teams wear stripes, or red/white/blue?

I've certainly enjoyed some of your insight on Uni Watch, but this article is a slapdash effort and makes you look like a troll. You go beyond the topic (criticizing uniform/logo design) and insult Canada in ways that aren't witty, clever, or even accurate. And for the record, it IS 'Centre', not 'Center'. American English is a dialect, an offshoot, of British English.

Having lived in both countries (have you?), I'll take our fresh water reserves, healthcare, relative economic stability and safety any day.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan
Dan -

Clearly I'm hitting a nerve.

Now you say that I ignore, "the fact that American teams are even more gaudy with patriotic symbols." Absolutely. and I do so because they have nothing to do with the topic of the use of the Maple Leaf in Canadian identities.

I have done concepts that remove American equivalents from designs and I have written entire articles with designs based on the idea of removing some red, white and blue teams from professional sports. But you either do not know about those, and/or choose to ignore them.

Texas teams with Texas themed logos and uniforms are many times just as trite and desperate feeling. However, those are at least provincially inspired, not nationally - and that distinction is one of great import.

You also ask, "If the United States had only one team in a particular sport, don't you think they'd go for a stars and stripes theme?" They probably would. Just like the CFL Baltimore Stallions had a horse made up of Stars and Stripes.

Oh, and it was fucking stupid. The American flag has nothing to do with horses.

And don't bring up the stars and stripes caps, the Blue Jays do the exact same thing with the Canadian flag every year - and it's just as stupid as the S&S ones.

Finally, centre/center is a joke. Calm down.
December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterTim E. O'Brien
A little angry there Timmy boy?
Posts about these sort of topics are better served as tongue-in-cheek, not spitting mad.

Just sayin'.

December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee
Lee -
I would hope this didn't come off as mad, I certainly didn't write it that way nor do I read it that way. But tone is quite difficult to convey here in the series of tubes.
December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterTim E. O'Brien

I know you didn't bring up any U.S. teams in your original posting. I brought them up to show that patriotic imagery is something that affects all North American sports - not just the Canadian teams. Your posting seems to indicate that there is something aberrant about Canadian teams wearing maple leaf designs. If you're fully aware that many American teams wear boring stars and stripes designs, why not bring that into your posting? It's the same kind of lazy design you're railing against in Canadian teams. As it is, it looks like you're just trying to bash Canada.

And you're damn right you struck a nerve. Nobody likes being condescended to. Yes, I know your Canada bashing is tongue-in-cheek, but it isn't witty, or clever, or funny. You just come off as a xenophobe who's trying too hard.
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan
...and as for the S&S caps - those are part of an MLB-wide initiative. Where are MLB's offices located? The only reason the Jays have a maple leaf one is that it would be somewhat awkward for a Canadian team to go all "America - fuck yeah!".
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan
look at all the american teams with stars
then stop being a douchebag
Americans rag on us for not being patriotic and proud
make up your mind
December 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCanadian
Canadian -

This isn't about American teams, so to bring them up in the post would be off topic. I have never heard anyone say Canadians aren't patriotic. Doesn't mean people haven't said it, I've just never heard that, and I do A LOT of - playful - ragging on Canadians.

But while you bring it up, teams with bad America/State (which is provincial not national, so it's quite different) themed identities:

Blue Jackets - logo is dreadful and sucks donkey D
Natinals (SIC) - should've been the Senators again
NE Revolution - ick

And just so we're clear, S&S MLB caps are crap and their existence is based solely on making money off of merchandise under the guise of patriotism.
December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterTim E. O'Brien

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