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Proposed TTC uniform colours draw negative response from sports fans

The TTC's new articulated 142 passenger low floor streetcar (LEFT) made by Bombardier, is photographed next to the commission's current streetcar (RIGHT) on Nov 15 2012.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

For a certain type of zealous sports fan, it's not clear if it'd be worse to resemble a serial killer or a supporter of an opposing team. Critics say a proposed new uniform for the TTC managed to do both.

The design provoked an "overwhelming" negative response from unhappy staff, according to union head Bob Kinnear, and prompted TTC CEO Andy Byford to stress Tuesday that no final decisions had been made.

At issue is an innocuous-seeming shirt, with a horizontal pattern of red and blue. It was proposed as part of the transit services push to modernize uniforms that dates back nearly two decades, but sparked push-back from staff.

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Mr. Kinnear explained by phone Tuesday that some people were saying that the design was reminiscent of the fictional serial killer Freddy Krueger. And he heard many concerns that the presentation would be too casual. "It just doesn't look professional," he said.

But the most heated response came over a perceived slight to the hometown Maple Leafs. It seems that if you take a couple of primary colours and add a long-running hockey rivalry you can generate one of the strangest controversies to hit the TTC in recent memory.

"Take it from a Leaf fan, [the new shirt] is a Montreal Canadiens' blue and a Montreal Canadiens' red," said Mr. Kinnear, president of ATU local 113.

That was enough to strike a nerve at Toronto's transit commission among hockey fans who have watched the Habs lift the Stanley Cup 10 times since the Leafs last won the NHL title. The controversy, which began after images of the proposed uniform were leaked to the National Post, had enough legs to prompt a lengthy statement Tuesday from TTC head Andy Byford.

"Let me set the record straight so that you know the facts rather than the speculation," he told employees. "What you may have seen and what is depicted in the media is nothing more than a proposal. A final design has not been agreed upon, and these images are not reflective of what will ultimately be issued."

Mr. Byford went on to note that red is being incorporated into the uniform to reflect the colour of Canada's flag and because it is a traditional colour for the TTC, whose original subways were nicknamed Red Rockets for their paint scheme. However, he added, he personally favours a predominantly blue uniform.

The CEO assured staff that there would be more consultation and that he wants them to be "happy and proud" to wear the uniform eventually chosen. But he conceded that it would be impossible to please everyone.

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Probably wise. If the colours that appear on numerous flags, sports uniforms and corporate branding can raise such a ruckus, it's hard to imagine any final choice that will be universally accepted.

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More


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