VANCOUVER - Was it a marketing effort or subterfuge?
A bit of both, it seems.
The B.C. Lions made a last-minute uniform change Saturday night before their CFL game against the Calgary Stampeders. The new "gun-metal" grey duds effectively camouflaged jersey numbers from a distance.
According to Lions president Dennis Skulsky, only a handful of club executives knew of the change in advance.
"It’s been a closely guarded secret for months and our equipment manager Ken Kasuya deserves a lot of credit for pulling this off without a single player having any idea what was going to happen tonight," said Skulsky in a news release.
The change came as the Lions were looking to avenge losses to Calgary in their season opener and the 2012 Western Final. A share of first place in the West Division was also on the line.
The Lions came out of their dressing room through a covered "runway" and the usual large inflatable helmet in a bid to hide the grey jerseys, pants and helmets coloured like auto primer. The attire included orange paws on the helmets and jersey shoulders. Black numbers bore orange borders while the pants had orange piping down the legs.
The jersey colour, made it difficult for fans in the stadium and TV viewers to see numbers from a distance.
The club's news release said the "futuristic" alternate jersey was almost a year in the making. Skulsky, equipment manager Ken (Kato) Kasuya, general manager Wally Buono and coach Mike Benevides offered input.
Jerseys, pants and helmets were tailored to each player’s specifications based on the existing home uniform. Kasuya worked in secrecy with suppliers to ensure the same fit and feel without any break-in period.
After B.C.'s 42 players left the dressing room in their usual home orange jerseys, white pants and white helmets, Kasuya and his crew in stalled the new fashion statements in their lockers. When players came back following the warmup, they discovered saw the new fashion gear and changed into it.
"It was a lot of work and I'm grateful for the help of everyone involved, but the look on the players' faces tonight made it all worthwhile," Kasuya was quoted in the news release. "I’ve been here for more than 30 years and I’ll never forget the reaction of the players and the excitement in the room."
Replica jerseys went on sale in B.C. Place Stadium during the game and will continue to be sold.
"We’ve talked a lot about what an amazing six decades it's been for the B.C. Lions, but this incredible jersey design and launch is about the next 60 years,” said Skulsky. "We’ve established our orange colour as one of the strongest brand correlations in Canada, and we're not departing from that any time soon."
Except, perhaps, when the Lions host their arch rivals from Calgary again.