How and why the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs changed their logo


The Rockford IceHogs were prepared for the backlash to come when they decided to alter the team mascot, Hammy, from a large pig to a more athletic and slimmer version this season.

There was a justifiable reason for the change. This wasn’t about Hammy fitting into some sort of societal expectation of body image. No, the IceHogs just saw the change as an opportunity to make Hammy more interactive and theatrical. It would allow the person in the costume to be less confined to what they were able to do.

Still, some fans weren’t happy. There’s a petition with 3,650 signatures seeking the IceHogs to bring back the old Hammy. The IceHogs did do some research prior to the change and were told to expect some anger and frustration.

“Everyone we had spoken with about changing a mascot, introducing a mascot, whatever it might be, they gave us the playbook for it from the standpoint of right from the reaction, ‘This is probably how it’s gonna go down,’” said IceHogs vice president of marketing, content and operations Mike Peck, who has been with the organization since 2001. “And the reaction has followed that script, if you will, to an exact ‘T.’ So, we’re not surprised by that. We’re not having fun with it, and fans are warming up to the new-look Hammy.”

For the record, here’s a comparison of the old (top) and new (bottom):

How the Rockford IceHogs’ mascot and logo looked last season. (Todd Reicher / IceHogs)

The new-look Hammy. (Todd Reicher / IceHogs)

The IceHogs weren’t completely sure what the reception would be to changing the team logo. The IceHogs have had just one logo since the organization’s inception in 1999. The logo, which was originally outsourced to create, had been a growling Hammy clenching a hockey stick in its mouth. The entire logo with the caricature and wording wasn’t symmetrical.

The IceHogs had played around with variations of the logo at center ice of their home arena and team jerseys in the past, but their primary logo had remained the same. They decided last spring to fine-tune, update and simplify the logo leading into the season.

“I think the logo that we had was very reminiscent of the late ’90s, early 2000s, when a lot of minor-league logos in particular were developed. And they were very busy. It’s not that we didn’t like the logo. We just felt it was tempting to kind of modernize it a little bit.”

That job fell to Chris Toltzman, IceHogs manager of event presentation and creative services. He was excited about the opportunity, but he also knew he didn’t want to mess too much with what the IceHogs already had.

“My initial thought was, we have to keep the Hammy head because that is the instantly recognizable part of our logo,” said Toltzman, who has freelanced with the IceHogs dating back to their first game in October 1999 and has been in a full-time role for six seasons. “If that’s going to be our primary logo, we have to maintain what is instantly recognizable, and more importantly, 23 years of equity in that logo. We can’t throw that out the window and kind of start from scratch.”

The easy part was deciding to hang onto Hammy. The more difficult part was revising everything else. Toltzman decided he wanted to bring a more defined shape to the logo and opted for a circular shape because it was the most prevalent in hockey.

“The next step was trying to modernize the logo,” Toltzman said.

Toltzman removed the stick from Hammy’s mouth. He changed the font, which had previously been hand-drawn, to sans serif. He changed the color palette. He removed the blue, which had been taken out of the jersey long before, and stuck with red, black and white.

Finally, he wanted to give the logo some connection to the Chicago Blackhawks. The IceHogs have been the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate since 2007 and were purchased by the Blackhawks in 2021.

“I wanted it to be very minimal because I didn’t want it to overpower the IceHogs’ branding and overpower the Hammy head,” Toltzman said. “So in analyzing where I could have a minimal impact and minimal influence on the overall design, that glint in Hammy’s eye, I thought could be something that I could use as a callback to the Blackhawks. So that small glint in Hammy’s eye, I guess right eye as you’re looking at it, I experimented with a couple of the different Blackhawks colors, which you know their color palettes is pretty wide. But I really settled on Black Hawk’s skin tone, is something that I thought really looks good with the red and with the black. And since Black Hawk’s skin tone is really the predominant color you see in that logo, I thought it was a good fit as just sort of a subtle nod to the Blackhawks’ partnership and ownership.”

The new logo. (Courtesy of the IceHogs)

The IceHogs front office was optimistic fans would be fine with the minor alterations, but that wasn’t a guarantee. Fans can be very emotional about team traditions. So, has there been backlash with the logo, too?

“The strangest thing is, no,” Peck said. “Like, I thought, for sure, we’d have some fans that would have given us some feedback that they didn’t like the fact that we got rid of the old logo. But I think a lot of that focus has been on the mascot, with changing up of the mascot. So, yeah, there really hasn’t been any feedback one way or another. And, again, I think the main reason is because we’ve either used this logo, like on the ice last year, or a different variation of this logo that looks slightly different than what our primary logo looks like right now. So I don’t think it was too much of a shock value of, ‘Oh, wow, this logo looks a lot different.’

“Obviously the jersey crest is the biggest thing. And trust me, I’m not comparing ourselves to the Blackhawks or the Yankees or the Packers, but we had never changed our logo. And you look at those kinds of iconic logos and brands, you know if the Yankees, if they ever changed their logos, there’d be a mutiny. But, again, not comparing it to them, but we’ve never changed it. … The first time they’re seeing the jersey crest is different, and our fans have received it really well.”

The IceHogs had to get league approval to change the logo on the jerseys. They also have had to update their logo elsewhere throughout the organization. They sold off a lot of apparel with the old logo last season and are slowly getting around to updating everything else. There are spots, such as on rugs, within BMO Center that still have the old logo.

“Obviously fans have invested a lot, whether it’s jerseys or merchandise or hats or whatever it might be, so it is a test to make sure that all the logos get updated and it’s probably going to take us some time,” Peck said. “I know we’re not 100 percent there yet. … It’s definitely a challenge to do that. And again, I think where it’s been a little simpler for us is like, the logo didn’t fundamentally change.”

Toltzman could have gotten really creative, too.

“I’m glad that we didn’t go so overboard and come up with some completely new look,” Toltzman said. “And we think about, you know, pigs and hogs being used in other (logos) collegiately. Let’s just say, like the Arkansas Razorbacks, for example. You know, there are some really interesting designs you could do with pigs that could have really freshened up our logo. But I’m glad that we didn’t go that route and gladly stayed true to the original logo and the identifiable logo. … It was probably the least-talked-about change of all the changes that the IceHogs unveiled this season. … I think it’s because we didn’t really alter the core of what our logo and what our brand is.”

(Top photo: Brad Repplinger / Rockford IceHogs)


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