CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - When Charlotte's minor league hockey team, the Checkers, takes the ice Thursday against the Hershey Bears, they'll be wearing jerseys designed by one of the last people you'd expect: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
It could be a first in the nation, as far as a cross promotion between a top NFL athlete and a minor league hockey team, according to Charlotte Checkers officials.
The jerseys also represent one of rarest bits of sports memorabilia to be had in the NFL.
They will be worn only one night, then put up for auction to the highest bidder in attendance. At least one jersey signed by Newton will be auctioned off. The money raised will go to the Cam Newton Foundation's programs for children. Newton is expected to attend the game with a handful of guests of his foundation. (Each Checkers player will autograph the jersey that player wore in the game.)
It was the Checkers' idea.
"Like everyone else, we noticed Cam's unique fashion sense and the general public's interest in it," said Checkers Chief Operating Officer Tera Black.
"We were already looking to do a Carolina Football Night … and thought he might be interested in the chance to design his own hockey jersey. We'd never heard of an athlete designing a jersey before, so that and the crossing of the two sports should make it a very unique promotion."
Newton's affinity for flashy clothing is well known, including unusual hats, garments with unusual patterns and one-of-a-kind shoes, such as his infamous purple velvet cleats with white ruffles. (The cleats, worn to a pregame practice, were in honor of Prince.)
The Checkers say they took Newton's fashion reputation into account and were ready for anything.
"We were definitely prepared for the possibility that his design would turn some heads," Black said. "In the end, we think the result is a one-of-a kind jersey that both his fans and our fans will enjoy."
Kimberly Beal, director of the Cam Newton Foundation, said Newton loved the idea from the start. He worked with a creative design agency, Go Uncharted, to design the jerseys, offering broad direction and ideas for emblems and language he wanted to include. Multiple options were considered, Beal said.