Recently, I decided to purge the box full of old computer disks in my closet. Methodically, I went through each and every disk, copied the data over to my hard drive, and then discarded the disks.
This was no small task. I had about 50 old 3 1/2″ floppy disks, that held 1.44 megabytes of data each, and about another 50 Zip disks, which held a whopping-for-the-time 100 megabytes of data. Some of these disks had files dating back to 1994! And copying the data took a long time, because I used external floppy and Zip drives that connected via a USB port.
Unfortunately, not all of the disks worked — so some files were lost forever — but most of the disks were fine. Among the old school projects and ancient term papers were some pieces of hockey digital art that I would like to share.
These images not only depict hockey, but they illustrate my path from computer novice to a digital designer. Let’s see what digital hockey goodness lurked on these obsolete computer disks.
This is the first digital graphic that I ever created, using a program called Paintbrush — the precursor to MS Paint — way back in early 1994. Are you surprised that my first digital image is of a hockey player? I am so glad that the disk that stored this file still worked after two-plus decades.
This image was simply called “Hockey1.BMP,” as file names were limited to around 11 characters back then. “BMP” stands for “Bitmap,” which is an old image file type that got phased out.
During my first semester in college, I painstakingly drew this, spending hours on end in the school’s computer lab. Most of the time, it was using a computer that had a trackball — not a mouse — attached to the keyboard. Imagine drawing something by hand on-screen…and using a trackball. But I was determined to draw this hockey guy and use it on my cover page for any school papers that I wrote.
You may laugh at how archaic this looks by today’s standards, but in 1994 this was all I had access to. Since Paintbrush didn’t have tan pixels, I resorted to dithering — using two different colors that would blend together and create the illusion of a third color. The old Blackhawks scoreboard at Chicago Stadium would use red and green bulbs to create the illusion of brown for the face of the Indian-head logo when viewed at a distance. Here, I used red, yellow and white to create the illusion of tan.
I also used dithering to create the dark brown of the hockey stick (maroon and a puke-green color) and the dark red of the hockey gloves (bright red and black).
I’m also proud of the detail I put into the skates. NHL players don’t loop their laces around their ankles before tying them; that’s something I did as a kid to make my skates tighter.
Additionally, I created a black-and-white version of this image — Hockey2.BMP — so that it would print out nicely on a black and white printer. Unfortunately, that file was corrupted, so Hockey2.BMP is lost forever. Fortunately, if I really want a black-and-white version of this illustration, it would take two seconds to do so today in Photoshop.
Hockey3A (Work in Progress – 1995)
Back in 1994, my sister’s boyfriend (at the time) gave her his old computer, a 386 running Windows 3.1. — which of course had Windows Paint. I begged her to give it to me, because I was in college and was spending hours in the school’s computer lab, working on homework, as well as personal projects like “Hockey1.BMP.”
But the computer sat unused in a corner of her room for over a year; she never even hooked it up. Finally, one day in the summer of 1995, she wanted to clear space for something else, so she dropped the old computer off at my place. I was pissed that she gave me the computer over a year later, after doing nothing with it — how many hockey pictures could I have drawn in a year?– but was ecstatic that it came with a scanner!
Now, scanners of the 1990s were very different than the flatbed scanners we have today. This scanner was kind of like a small paint roller that you would push across whatever you wanted to scan. It also scanned just in black and white. The only thing I had the chance to scan was a hockey card. The reason why the image is flipped is because I made the mistake of pushing the scanner from right to left — instead of left to right — over the hockey card, causing the image to reverse. (But this too would be easy to fix today, if I really wanted to.)
I messed around with it in Windows Paint a bit, trying to colorize the image, but the motherboard on the computer broke not long after my sister gave the computer to me. So, this masterpiece-in-progress was never completed.
However, before the computer broke, I was able to make a psychedelic version of the scanned image. I cleverly named the file “Psycho,” so that is what I will call it today. As you can see, the colors that I used here are not much worse than the colors that the Anaheim Mighty Ducks actually used in the 1990s.
Custom Hockey Cards (1997-98)
When I transferred from a junior college to a four-year art and design school, I had access to better technology and superior software. No more Paintbrush or Microsoft Paint for me; now I had Photoshop!
I got hired by the computer lab (“Working on the night staff / In the computer lab!”), so I spent many hours making digital graphics — and got paid while doing it.
While not most original creative endeavor, one of the first things I “Photoshopped” were custom hockey cards that used the 1989-90 Topps and O-Pee-Chee design. I always wished for an “Update Series” for this set, so I decided to try and make one. I made cards of players who were either rookies in 1989-90, were traded prior to or during the 1989-90 season, or were omitted altogether from the 1989-90 O-Pee-Chee set. My goal was to make an entire 66-card set, with full backs and a custom box. But I only made 21 different cards. I never bothered to make the card backs, either.
Perhaps in the future, I will share all of these custom cards in their own blog post. (Though the typography on these cards suck.) Heck, maybe one day I’ll actually get around to making an entire 66-card 1989-90 Update Set…just maybe not the card backs.
Stick Fries (1998)
It is now early 1998, and despite being a film student, I decide to take an Advertising Art class “for fun.” Like I didn’t already have my hands full with two film classes and an animation class? Of course, I ended up dropping the animation class AND eventually switched majors from Film & Video to Interactive Multimedia.
Anyway, for one assignment we were tasked with creating six different images that combined two disparate objects. This one, which I call “Stick Fries” may seem a little Salvador Dali, but today it makes me think of how we used to store our street hockey sticks in a plastic trash can in my Aunt’s basement. The sticks didn’t stand upright, but kind of flopped all around. I distinctly remember going to Burger King to buy a box of fries (and probably a few burgers) so as to have the box to photograph. I’m fairly certain that the sticks were all mine, too.
My teacher liked “Stick Fries” enough to put a print of it on display with other good student work.
Jeremy Roenick Wielding a Lightsaber (1998)
However, my teacher did not like this particular image of Jeremy Roenick wielding a lightsaber. He didn’t think it was too imaginative to put a weapon in a person’s hand — even if that weapon was a fictional laser sword in the hand of NHL ’94‘s most dangerous player. My only regret is that I made this image four years before George Lucas introduced purple lightsabers in the Star Wars films. Looking back, I now know that if Jeremy Roenick did wield a lightsaber, it would be purple.
The Chicago Wolves Player Database (1998-99)
The biggest perk of being an employee in the school’s computer lab is that you could work on your own stuff so long as no one needed help. I used this time to learn new things.
The Chicago Wolves won the 1998 Turner Cup Finals in a close, seven-game series. I was at Game Seven, and it was probably the best hockey game I ever saw live. At the time, I don’t think the Wolves even had their own website. The lack of information about the Wolves on the interwebz, along with the Wolves winning the Turner Cup, inspired me to build a Wolves website.
During the fall 1998 semester, I taught myself enough HTML to build “The Chicago Wolves Player Database,” a website that, ironically, was not database-driven.
I attempted to include stats and a picture of every player who ever skated for the Wolves. I had the site up on GeoCities (remember them?) and sporadically updated it until I took the site down sometime in 2003.
Mario Lemieux Collage (1999)
One assignment I was given in a Multimedia class was to create an image and pack as much information into it as possible. I came up with this collage, which was intended to be a splash screen for a Mario Lemieux website that I wanted to build (but never did) for my class.
I also animated this image in a program called Macromedia Director, but that file seems to be lost for good…and I wouldn’t know how to play it today, anyway. But I recall the film strip rolling in from the left, and the stats scrolling up from the bottom, while the three main images faded in, and then finally the bars at the bottom slid in from the right. Note that the years in the lower-right corner reads 1984-1997, as this graphic was made during Lemieux’s first retirement.
Goaltender Equipment poster (2000)
By the time 2000 rolled around, I was pretty good with Photoshop, Illustrator and PageMaker. I had taken numerous computer graphics classes, design classes and a color theory class. I then enrolled in a Graphic Design class that was probably too easy for me; I was one of the top three students (maybe even the best) in the class. So the teacher always tried to challenge me by giving me extra work.
For one assignment, my teacher tasked me with creating two posters, each using a design motif drawn at random. The first motif I drew was a central dominant image surrounded by subordinate elements. For some reason, a goalie with an explanation of all his equipment came to mind as a fun way to meet this design challenge.
The “Other” Great Ones poster (2000)
The second design challenge I had to finish that week was to create a poster with a columnar design. Constantly having hockey on my mind, I decided to make a second hockey-related poster. This one gives biographies of five great forwards from the 1980s not named Gretzky.
The Coolest Game on Earth poster (2000)
The last hockey graphic I made in college was this poster, which had to have a feeling of tension. Did I do that here? I thought so back in 2000. My way of creating tension was to break this image into three different zones, with each having its own scale and perspective, and use lots of diagonal lines. We have a giant Wayne Gretzky with an even more gigantic puck looming behind him; Steve Yzerman IN SPACE!; and an overhead view of the Habs vs. the Flames, from the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals — probably scanned from O-Pee-Chee stickers. This mix of perspective and sizes was intended to be jarring to the viewer.
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the NHL’s tag line was “The Coolest Game on Earth,” so I imagined this as a promotional poster for the NHL, even though Gretzky was retired by then and the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals was 11 years ago.
And that’s where the digital hockey art ended, right at the close of the 1999-2000 school year. The next year, I was in my final year in college. I was in a senior capstone class for multimedia students, working on building a website for a charity with my classmates. I was also hired as the webmaster for our college’s newspaper. I took programming, history, foreign language and portfolio design classes. I couldn’t use hockey as the subject matter for the assignments in these classes, and I had very little time for any side projects. Play time was over.
After I graduated, I got hired full-time as a web designer. I was pretty heavily into collecting action figures, had a popular fan site about The Matrix film trilogy and was studying martial arts four or five nights a week. I even stopped watching hockey on a regular basis for a while; the Blackhawks were just so terrible back then.
But eventually, hockey came back into the spotlight for me. A coworker told me about some rookie named Crosby. I watched the 2006 Winter Olympics, as forgettable as they were. I picked up a few boxes of 2005-06 Parkhurst and started collecting hockey cards again. I quit my full-time job, gradually stopped collecting toys and started a new hockey project — a website called Puck Junk. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.