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