The story behind the Ducks' new 30th anniversary jersey

ByRyan S. Clark ESPN logo
Thursday, June 29, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- NHL draft watch parties are a chance for fans to get together and celebrate the player their team just chose with the hopes that the player can be part of a brighter future.

And for the fans who attended the Anaheim Ducks watch party at Honda Center, they got a chance to watch rebro HK star center Leo Carlsson be both a part of their past and their future.

Carlsson, whom the Ducks selected with the No. 2 pick of the NHL draft on Wednesday, had his holographic image projected to the fans at Honda Center while wearing the sweater of his new team

But he wasn't just wearing any sweater. The Ducks chose this moment to unveil their 30th anniversary sweater. The Ducks will wear the third sweater at their home-opening game, home games against division rivals and select road games.

"We have such a unique history with our team. It is important to take a look back and dig deep to the origins of our history and how that ladders up to the present day," Ducks vice president of marketing Merit Tully told ESPN. "We have popular marks throughout our history. We've tried to use a number of them and with this jersey, it's a new and unique way to incorporate what has been a popular mark over time."

Like the team's first road sweater, the 30th anniversary sweater will be plum with jade, silver, plum and white stripes at the elbow. The center of the sweater features a large circle that has "ANAHEIM DUCKS" in block white lettering, with a slightly more aggressive version of the face of Wild Wing, the famed Ducks mascot in a white hockey mask whose visage is one of the most familiar in team history.

Underneath Wild Wing's face lies one of the subtle details of the sweater, with the Ducks electing to use their "D" logo as a way to tie together their past as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to their current name, the Anaheim Ducks. Those same jade, plum, silver and white rings are also at the bottom of the sweater.

The sweater Carlsson wore had two debossings on the silver ring of each elbow that read "ANAHEIM DUCKS EST. 2006" to mark when they changed their name. Tully said the actual sweater that the players will wear -- and that will be sold to fans -- will have "MIGHTY DUCKS OF ANAHEIM" on one sleeve with "ANAHEIM DUCKS" on the other.

"It's a nice little token or metaphorical timeline as we like to describe it," Tully explained. "From a color standpoint, we wanted to hit the nail on the head. We're always understanding that our fans do love that old and original color scheme with the plum and the jade. As we've looked at the third jerseys in recent history along with our 25th anniversary jersey and the third jerseys we have worn, while historical in nature, this is a fresh new look."

Tully, who interned with the Ducks in 1998 and returned to the team 10 years ago, said a group of 12 longtime Ducks employees came together around 14 months ago to discuss the idea of a 30th anniversary sweater. They took their idea to the Ducks ownership, who greenlighted the project.

From there, the Ducks worked with the NHL and their apparel supplier, Adidas, to come up with a design that was historic, unique and could serve as a thread for where the team has been and where they want to go next.

Keeping the sweater a secret took some doing. Tully said that between the Ducks, the NHL and Adidas, there were fewer than 30 people who knew about the design or had seen what it looked like.

Word started to get out Tuesday that the Ducks had something planned. Social media was ablaze when people saw the team's digital flier for the watch party. There was a Ducks hat with the team's current color scheme and logo on top of a sweater that was darker in color.

Although the Ducks gave fans a hint about the sweater, they gave no warning that Carlsson would be greeting fans in the sweater via hologram from Nashville while everyone else was in Anaheim.

"It's something that has never been done at a draft with a sports team in this context," Tully said. "There are higher-profile opportunities when it has been used. Ellen [DeGeneres] used it once on her show and did some really neat things with it. We thought, 'How do we be creative? How do we be a bit futuristic and how do we apply that in the sports world?'"

Tully said the team ran tests Wednesday morning to work through any potential problems. There was a team employee who traveled to Nashville to set up one end of the hologram projection in a part of Bridgestone Arena, while there were others who handled everything from Honda Center.

Even the way the Ducks' setup at Bridgestone Arena was a secret. The NHL placed the Ducks in a separate room appropriately called "Catfish" away from everyone else. Carlson walked into the room where he was placed in front of a white backdrop while Steve Brown, who is the Ducks media and communications manager, explained what was about to happen.

Brown told Carlsson he was going to be the first player to ever wear the sweater and that he's one of a handful of people who've actually seen what it looked like.

"OOH! OOH! OOH!" Carlsson said in amazement. "So is this going to be live or is it delayed?"

Brown responded with, "It's very live!"

Carlsson, still wearing the Ducks' current sweater, was charismatic when speaking with fans while he answered questions. He said he was "super blessed" to join the Ducks while sharing that he thought he was funny.

"I am a funny guy!" he said. "Maybe not as funny as Trevor Zegras!"

After taking a few more questions, Carlson told fans that he would be right back because he had a special surprise for them. He stepped out of the frame, took off the Ducks' current jersey and put on the 30th anniversary jersey before stepping back into the frame.

Carlsson popped the logo of the sweater a few times while spinning around so fans could see every angle.

"I hadn't really let it sink in yet, but, of course it's an awesome jersey for sure," Carlsson told ESPN about being part of the jersey reveal. "It's so cool. They told me that this was the first time they did something like this, so, it was amazing."

Having such a unique sweater reveal is something Tully said he hopes Ducks fans and fans of the sport as a whole could enjoy.

"I hope they see the depth of thought and the unique take on our history," he said. "We recognize the popularity of our original mark and we're super open-minded about future plans with that mark. But I hope [fans] are as excited as we are to take in the dozen or so games in this anniversary season and give the Anaheim Ducks this new and exciting fresh look."