We Want Fish Sticks by Nicholas Hirshon

The 1990s marked a period of change for the NHL, driven partially by a growing push for merchandising. This new revenue stream proved lucrative, and teams tripped over themselves attempting to push their wares. What’s more, they discovered something peculiar: people would actually buy merchandise outside their local market— it just had to be cool. The San Jose Sharks. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The Los Angeles Kings. Each of these teams tapped into the culture of the ‘90s, producing stylish and sleek designs by either completely rebranding or capitalizing on a Disney tie-in. For each, it proved a massive success.

Then the New York Islanders got into the game by slapping a fisherman mascot onto their jerseys.

Rarely are disasters so entertaining.

Author Nicholas Hirshon has painted a stunning portrait of perhaps the biggest misfire in sports branding. He delves into the minds of the owners, players, fans, and so many others in an attempt to piece together the backlash over a simple logo—beyond simply that it looked like the Gorton’s frozen fish sticks mascot. The personalities are huge, from the constantly attacked costumed mascot Nyisles to the many fans who balked at the switch from the classic design. Through countless interviews and deep research, Hirshon weaves their thoughts into a compelling narrative of the tumultuous couple of seasons in the mid-90s where everything seemed to go haywire for the Islanders.

But not everything can be blamed on a logo, and Hirshon taps further into the team’s problems. A losing season. A player who won’t play. A temperamental coach. A new owner who committed fraud to buy the team. These stories are detailed, providing a snippet of hockey’s inner-workings, while the design flaw lingers in the background—a fisherman standing over the chaos.

Remarkably, while this is a book about a very specific piece of hockey history, it remains completely accessible. Hirshon is specific enough to keep die-hard fans happy, but broad enough that most can follow. But then, anyone can appreciate a failure.


Title: We Want Fish Sticks
Author: Nicholas Hirshon
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Publication Date: December 01, 2018
Classification: Nonfiction, Sports

Hirshon’s Website | Publisher’s Page | Goodreads


Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

8 Comments

  1. I am an avid hockey fan and I almost requested this book. My husband used to refer to this logo as “Captain Highliner” which I am sure was a widespread nickname. I am glad you enjoyed this book. I might still pick it up. Happy New Year Christopher.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! The funniest thing about the logo for me is that, when I first saw it, I didn’t think it looked bad. And then I saw the comparison to the Gorton’s fisherman and now Highliner … Yikes. If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy it, Carla. It was a good read for me, but I’m really curious about opinions from someone who actually knows something about hockey.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am all left-feet when it comes to sports and I close my eyes when a ball heads my direction. The only exceptions are dance and fencing. So I really entered your review KNOWING that it would be boring to me. It wasn’t! It was fascinating as I am sure the book must be. I think you nailed it when you said it is both specific and broad. Thanks for sharing your review, with the unintentional reminder that broadening our horizons is usually a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely understand what you mean about being all left-feet when it comes to sports! Generally, I avoid playing or watching if I can, but I’m starting to find myself draw to sports stories. There’s something universal about heightened circumstances, the comedy of blunders, the tragedy of losses, and the absolute celebration of a win. There’s something almost theatrical about sports that I can appreciate … just don’t make me play them. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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