On Tuesday, either Lulea Hockey or Frolunda Gothenburg will be the first team to claim the Champions Hockey League's new prize – the European Trophy – but the road to Sweden started in the USA via Italy. Read the story of its design by Wesley Wernimont and assembly by the staff of Franco Bosi.
by Derek O'Brien
Back in the autumn, you the hockey fans were given a choice as to what the winners' trophy for the Champions Hockey League should look like – and you made it quite decisively.
More than half of the 32 000 votes cast were in favour of the design by Wesley Wernimont. The trophy has since been built by Franco Bos and, next Tuesday, will be presented on the ice for the first time in Lulea.
Wernimont, an American graphic designer based near Minneapolis, Minnesota – “the State of Hockey” – spent 12 years in Switzerland where he worked on projects for UEFA, the Victoria Cup, the previous incarnation of the CHL and worked closely with its champion, current CHL member ZSC Lions Zurich.
“I design pretty much everything,” Wernimont said as he went into his portfolio, which includes far more than just trophies. “I design logos, event designs, media backdrops, some of the stuff you see on TV, rink boards, what you see on the video monitors inside the arenas, posters. I'm not your typical designer.”
With that kind of background, and with knowledge of hockey culture on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, he was inspired by the sport's most iconic North American symbol and wanted to create something that would have equal resonance with fans in Europe.
“I'm partial to silver, like the Stanley Cup,” he mused. “It's not some small trophy, it's massive. So I wanted to make something with presence.”
At 85 centimetres tall and 20 kilograms of silver-plated brass, presence is something the European Trophy definitely has. It also has the look of a traditional trophy, and yet tailored specifically to the CHL and its recognizable hexagon logo.
“If you look at the trophy from the top, it's the exact same shape,” he said of the six-sided cup. “And at the base at the bottom, where they will eventually start engraving the names of the winners, mirrors that.”
Another distinctive feature of the European Trophy is the large handles on each side.
“I tried to imagine the players after they win it and hoisting it up,” said Wernimont. “They can carry it around even if they've got their gloves on, and even if two guys wanted to hold it from each side and skate around with it, there's enough room.”
But it's one thing to envision a trophy. It's quite another to make it a reality. That's where Franco Bosi, a Milan, Italy-based trophy-making company, came in. Wernimont's ambitious design was a challenge for the company's staff, but it was well worth it in the end.
“It was very difficult because the dimensions are very large,” Enzo Bosi, the company's CEO and sales manager, marvelled.
“We started in this factory 35 years ago and we've made many, many trophies and this trophy is the most difficult. But I'm very happy with the result. It's exactly the same as the design that came to us. It is a very good design – very original.”
That's quite a statement coming from a company that's made as many trophies as Franco Bosi. They're quite active in the Italian market, making trophies and medals for golf, skiing, swimming and amateur football tournaments and leagues. In the past they've even made trophies for MotoGP and for the Formula One Italian Grand Prix.
The European Trophy's unique shape posed a challenge for Bosi and his staff.
“At first we made a small prototype,” he said, explaining the process. “Once we found out the correct dimensions and angles to join, we produced a full-scale iron sample. Then, after making sure all the dimensions were correct, we made the pieces from brass with the correct dimensions and thickness.”
The pieces were then welded together to form the hexigonal bowl and base. But that wasn't the end.
“The handles were difficult because they're not solid brass, they're hollow. This trophy is 20 kilograms. If I made the handle solid, it would be 30 and it would be very hard to lift,” Bosi started to laugh. “You'd need two people to pick it up and carry it.”
Despite the extra work it created for him and his staff, though, Bosi praised the handle design. “I know that the players will be happy when they lift up the trophy and if the handle is bigger, it's easier.”
And as for the final product, “We were very happy when we saw the finished trophy. Our whole staff is very satisfied.”
The Champions Hockey League is also very happy and satisfied with the trophy they've received, and with the work of both the designer and builder.
“We are very pleased that the CHL fans have chosen the trophy designed by Wesley Wernimont,” said Marketing and Events Director Patrick Jost. “The design reflects the hexagonal shape of our logo, which in turn represents the six founding leagues of the CHL. We are positive that the European Trophy will, in the future, be recognized by sports fans across the globe.”
The hard part is now done for Wernimont and for the staff of Franco Bosi, and now they're both anticipating the day coming up in the near future when all of their hard work will be realized – when they watch their creation get presented to the European club hockey champion.
“I'm looking forward to seeing how people react to it and how the players handle it,” said Werimont. “The next day, in every newspaper and website you'll see that image (of the winners being presented the trophy). So it's interesting to see how players handle it.”
“It will be very emotional,” said Bosi. “For the players and for me. For the players when they win, and for me when I see how happy they are when they receive it.”
Due to the time difference, Werimont has only watched highlights of CHL games up until now, but for the Final, which will begin at 4:15 AM in Minnesota, “I'll try to get up and watch it, yeah.”
Bosi will be watching for sure, and summed everything up by saying, “This was a beautiful experience for us and an honour to make the trophy for the Champions Hockey League.”