If you’ll recall, earlier this month Justin Bieber popped up on Martha Stewart’s Instagram feed rocking a never-before-seen Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, setting off a storm of side-eye emojis. Now, we finally know what that mystery tarp was.
The Leafs have linked up with Bieber and the Canadian pop star’s fashion line Drew House to reimagine the team’s uniform for their Next Gen game on March 23. The annual game is meant to celebrate the franchise’s younger fans and the future of hockey, both on and off the ice.
The new Leafs x Drew House jersey, designed in partnership with adidas and the NHL, is particularly notable for being the first reversible sweater ever in North American professional sports. The main side is rendered in black and navy blue, with the Maple Leaf crest coloured in a shibori-inspired pattern and the Toronto skyline subtly printed on the sweater’s arm bands and the uniform’s socks. Flip the jersey and you’ll get the Drew House version, replete with yellow trim and an amalgam of the brand’s signature smiley face and the Leafs logo in the centre. These bad boys will have players going tarps off for an entirely new reason.
“My love for the Maple Leafs has always been a big part of who I am, and my passion for the team, and the passion of millions of fans, is stitched into this Next Gen sweater,” said Justin Bieber in a statement. “I’m grateful to the Leafs for the chance to team up again to create something so authentic for the team and its fans.”
The idea for the joint effort came from Bieber and his team, confirmed MLSE’s chief marketing officer Shannon Hosford. Given Bieber’s well-documented Leafs superfandom, this should perhaps come as a surprise to no one. With Timbiebs already in the bag, this checks another childhood-dream collab off his bucket list.
“It all came together pretty naturally, to be honest,” said Ryan Good, creative director and co-founder of Drew House, of the Next Gen collab. “A lot of communication between us and Maple Leafs has been really organic. The thing for us is just what hockey is and what it represents and what the Maple Leafs represent. Drew House is a community, right? So we really do consider ourselves a community in what we’re trying to represent, in bringing people together. And a team can unify a city, a community; even now globally with reach, there’s Maple Leafs fans all over the world, and specifically a local community in Toronto.
“Also, just with our our history of Justin being a huge Maple Leafs his whole life growing up, it was obviously something that made a whole lot of sense to do and we really wanted to do something organic that felt right.”
It’s not the first time the Leafs and Drew House have teamed up—they previously collaborated on a limited-edition merch line last fall, consisting of hats, shirts, and socks. “There’s a respect that goes into absolutely everything Justin’s done with the Maple Leafs—first and foremost, this is his team, so he’s really invested so much care and concern in everything,” said Good.
The Leafs’ Next Gen uniform marks the 15th alternate uniform in club history. As with all current on-ice NHL sweaters, it’s made with adidas’ Primegreen innovation—a collection of high-performance materials containing at least 50 percent recycled content.
The Leafs began rolling out their Next Gen games in 2017 as way of celebrating youth in the community and uniting fans of all ages. The annual event features family-friendly programming and involves kids in almost every aspect of the game day experience, from player introductions to broadcast roles. It may also be a way to attract the players and spectators of tomorrow during an age when participation in hockey appears to be on the decline around the country. And if you’re trying to get the youth vote, then tapping one of the most streamed pop artists of all time is probably a safe bet.
“From a league perspective, any time you can do a collaboration with an international global star, we think that that brings a lot of positive attention to the sport,” said Brian Jennings, the NHL’s chief brand officer and senior executive vice president. “We think that this does allow us to reach even further and get younger. The whole purpose of the third jersey program since its inception has always been to allow the teams an opportunity to explore, whether that be new identities or colours. And in this particular instance, the Maple Leafs organization has has done just that.”