3. The helmet. There's no denying that hockey was more fun to watch when you could see what the players actually looked like. But helmets don't have to make a sport boring. Just look at the NFL, where the helmet is the signature component of each team's visual identity – and the basis for lots of silly but lucrative merchandising. Can you imagine trying to sell something based on a hockey helmet? You'd have an easier time selling steak at a PETA rally. So here's a modest proposal: Smooth out all the hockey helmet's ridges and uneven surfaces and have each team put a logo or design up there. That way the helmet will be part of the uniform, instead of just a generic piece of equipment.

The trick is to make these changes while preserving the hockey uni's dignity. Can that be done? Probably not by Reebok (oops, there goes Uni Watch's PR career), so the task, dear readers, falls to you. Uni Watch hereby announces an NHL uniform design contest. Fine print is as follows:

The objective here is to provide a modern look while respecting the game's heritage, so all contest submissions must feature an updated version of one of the Original Six NHL teams (Rangers, Canadiens, Black Hawks, Red Wings, Bruins or Maple Leafs). You don't necessarily have to address the three problem areas outlined above, but those would be good places to start. Since we're creating a whole new silhouette, all submissions must show how the new uniform would look on a player – simple clothing templates will not be considered. Bonus points if your player mannequin looks like Peter Parker. In keeping with longstanding Uni Watch policy, purple-inclusive entries will be terminated with extreme prejudice.

Each submission should be accompanied by the designer's full name, town of residence and e-mail address (smart contestants will include this info as part of the image file, not just in their cover notes). As was the case with our "DC Expos" contest last fall, winning entries will be featured in a future Uni Watch column. They'll also be forwarded to our friends at the NHL, who will undoubtedly delete them after a cursory glance. If that sounds like your idea of fame and glory, send your entries here by April 3.

Maybe the NHL wouldn't need new uniforms if its logo characters were as consistently entertaining as the one used by the minor-league Danbury Trashers, now completing their inaugural season. Their jersey features an ingenious anthropomorphized garbage can (either that or else Oscar the Grouch has been moonlighting down at the Danbury rink), which is the single coolest thing to emerge from this misbegotten hockey season. Not only is he a great mascot – his official name is Scrappy – but as reader Jesse Swanko points out, he effectively turns any trash can in the arena into a potential promotional device: "Just paint a stick and some gloves on that thing, take some pictures with the kids, and you're golden."

But there's a reason Scrappy is stuck in the minor leagues: Look closely and you'll see he has five fingers on each hand – a major faux pas, since everyone knows cartoon characters only have four fingers, from Bugs Bunny and the Simpsons to the Hamburger Helper Helping Hand and hockey's own Peter Puck. If Scrappy wants to make it to the NHL, he might have to sacrifice the body, as the saying goes, in more than just a metaphorical sense.



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