HOCKEY HISTORY

This Scrappy Team Inspired the Kraken's Reverse Retro Jersey

The "bad men of the Pacific Coast" imparted some serious grit (and penalty minutes) to Seattle hockey.

By Zoe Sayler October 24, 2022

Bold stripes and a central "S" feature prominently in Ironmen uniforms and the new Reverse Retro jersey.

How does a hockey team in its second season conjure up a Reverse Retro jersey? By hearkening back to the city’s storied past: Last week, the Kraken released their first throwback uniform, an ice-blue ode to Seattle’s steeliest hockey team, the invincible Ironmen of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.

“The team back then was pretty wild,” says Aaron Wiggan, the Kraken’s vice president of brand strategy. Many players for the aptly named Ironmen worked at Isaacson Steel, fabricating parts used in naval shipyards during World War II, and they “brought a level of grittiness that other teams grew to dislike.” Their tough playing style earned them some exorbitant penalty minutes, a 1945 championship, and the nickname “the bad men of the Pacific Coast.”

The Reverse Retro jersey emphasizes a fan-favorite Kraken color, ice blue.

If this history’s new to you, you’re not alone. Even those well aware of past local hockey teams like the Totems and Metropolitans may have been surprised by the Kraken’s deep-cut homage. That’s by design: “This was a unique chance to highlight a team people might not have heard about,” Wiggan says. (And there will be plenty of opportunities to honor those better-known teams in future years.)

Also by design: The bold, blocked colors and thick stripes of the Adidas Reverse Retro jersey call to mind the S-adorned uniforms worn in so many brawls back in the '40s and '50s—including some perpetrated by hockey hall of famer Fred Shero, who played for the Ironmen before coaching Philadelphia’s infamous Broad Street Bullies. "Undoubtedly the Ironmen’s hard-nosed style of play made an impression on him," Wiggan says.

Despite once being called “the Notre Dame of Western hockey,” our Ironmen didn’t last. Amid serious financial struggles in 1951, “licensed owner, manager, ticket-taker, strategist, chauffeur,” and onetime player Frank Dotten found his team so frequently losing that his insurance company “callously inserted a no-suicide clause in his policy,” per the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The following year Dotten offered season tickets to whomever could come up with a new-and-improved name for the squad. The P.I. criticized the contest—that sort of risky business is how we got the Seahawks, “which just goes to show what can happen when you only get one entry.” The Bombers were born, and the Ironmen were more or less lost to the annals of time.

Teams might be a little less scrappy these days, but Wiggan sees glimmers of the Ironmen in the Seattle Kraken. “When the Kraken are at their best, they play a hard, fast brand of hockey. Seattle is a city that loves people who show up and work hard…. We need to play like that to win. The Ironmen brought that intensity too.”

The $280 Reverse Retro jersey is now available for pre-order, and will be worn on the ice for our home games on November 13, December 3, December 30, and February 23.

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