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The Kings' Purple Reign

SUNDAY BRUNCH | Design L.A.

June 21, 1998|JEANNINE STEIN | TIME STAFF WRITER

Nothing in fashion lasts forever. Not even NHL team jerseys.

Take the L.A. Kings. For a decade, the hockey team has won, lost and suffered fistfights in black-and-silver jerseys. But starting next season, that's all going to end. The Kings are going purple.

Purple and silver is the new color combo, and there are new logos as well. A shield and crest features a lion holding a staff. The lion, in true Hollywood style, is wearing sunglasses. The secondary logo is a bold crown, with vague deco influences.

"This is really a new era for this organization when you look at where we're going with the new Staples Center (the team's home beginning in 1999) and a newfound commitment to winning the Stanley Cup," said John Cimperman, the Kings' vice president of marketing and communications.

What the team didn't want was trendy, so "we dug into our past," according to Cimperman, and came up with purple, the team's original jersey color. They also took the crown logo and retrofitted it for a new look.

Lest you think this was all done capriciously--no way. This is a multimillion-dollar organization, so absolutely nada was left to chance. That means 20 months of development, a design team, and lots of focus groups and surveys. So what didn't the fans want? According to Cimperman, the cutesy and cartoonish logos adopted by some other teams, which shall remain nameless.

Also influencing this change was the fact that in recent years, black and silver had become associated with gangs, and some schools have banned students from wearing those colors.

Of course, the players had some input in all of this too--after all, they're wearing the things.

"We showed them the plans early enough that we could have changed it if we had to," Cimperman said. "They're our spokespeople, so they wanted something that they would be proud to wear. They also got involved in the construction, as in how much the jersey weighs."

The three official team jerseys have a white background with the shield crest for home games, a purple background with the shield crest for away games, and a purple jersey with the crown logo dubbed the "special occasion" model for such events as next season's first game.

Russ Courtnall, the Kings' right wing, gave the new look a thumbs-up.

"I like 'em a lot," he said. "We were ready for a change, and we were hoping the new jerseys would be nice. We were keeping our fingers crossed that they'd be good ones."

The Kings unveiled their new uniforms at a celebrity fashion show Saturday, which also featured related merchandise (caps, golf shirts, sweaters, leather jackets and T-shirts, retailing for $12 to $1,000, with shirts in the $30 range).

So is Cimperman holding his breath, waiting for the fans' verdict? Does he even dare think the words "New Coke"?

"We're not going to have to cross that bridge," he said. "That would be a cocky response if we hadn't done our homework. Is everyone going to love it? No. But the vast, vast majority of fans are going to like the change."

Courtnall's wife, actress Paris Vaughan, is sure their children, ages 2 and 4, will approve.

"Oh, sure. Well, for one thing, they love purple. You know--Barney."

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