Best/Worst NHL Uniforms of All Time

RE-POST FROM JANUARY 2012

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Jan. 17) – Frequent visitors to this corner – and, perhaps, infrequent ones – are likely aware of my rather substantial collection of vintage NHL jerseys. Interest in these items has developed into a fad in recent years, with the advent of throw-back uniforms and alternate (or third) jerseys – several of which appear to have evolved from the drug-induced mind.

Nowhere in the sporting universe is the history of big league hockey garb as spectacularly presented as on the website NHLUNIFORMS.COM – a product of Andrew M. Greenstein: broadcaster and host at NewsTalk Radio WOKV in Jacksonville FLA. Greenstein has assembled a database of virtually every jersey worn by NHL and pre-NHL teams in the 20th and 21st centuries – a ton of great viewing.

Just for fun, I spent a few hours going through Andrew’s massive compilation and selecting my favorite and least-favorite jerseys in three categories: pre-expansion (before 1967-68); post-expansion (1967-68 to today) and alternate (third jerseys that have been in vogue since the late-’90s).

Presented below are my choices of the top 10 in each category.

How might they compare to your’s?

PRE-EXPANSION ERA (1917 to 1967)

TEN BEST

THE CLASSIC NHL JERSEY OF ALL TIME IS THE RED CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS, WITH INDIAN-HEAD LOGO, PARTICULARLY THAT WORN BY BOBBY HULL IN 1961-62 (ABOVE), WITH BLACK NECK-RING AND LACES. ‘HAWKS WERE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS THAT SEASON.

YES, I AM PARTIAL TO THE JERSEY OF MY YOUTH – THIS DESIGN WORN BY DAVE KEON OF THE TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS BETWEEN 1963-64 AND THE END OF THE 1966-67 REGULAR SEASON. LEAFS WON THE 1964 STANLEY CUP WEARING THE ABOVE JERSEY, WITH CLASSIC, 35-POINT LEAF LOGO.

THE NEW YORK AMERICANS SHARED BROADWAY AND MADISON SQUARE GARDEN WITH THE RANGERS (ACTUALLY PRE-DATING THE RANGERS BY ONE SEASON) FROM 1925-26 TO 1941-42, AFTER WHICH THE CLUB WITHDREW FROM THE NHL, LEAVING THE SO-CALLED ORIGINAL SIX TEAMS TO PREVAIL UNTIL EXPANSION 25 YEARS LATER. AMERICANS WORE THEIR PATRIOTIC JERSEY (TOP IN ABOVE IMAGE) BETWEEN 1930-31 AND 1937-38. IT IS MY FAVORITE AMONG DEFUNCT, PRE-EXPANSION TEAMS.

SINCE 1936-37, THE BOSTON BRUINS HAVE WORN, EXCLUSIVELY, BLACK, GOLD AND WHITE ON THEIR UNIFORM, THOUGH IN MANY DIFFERENT DESIGNS. THE ABOVE JERSEYS WERE FEATURED IN THE 1966-67 SEASON – BOBBY ORR’S ROOKIE CAMPAIGN AND THE YEAR PRIOR TO EXPANSION. BOSTON CHOSE TO WEAR ITS PREDOMINANTLY WHITE JERSEY IN MOST HOME GAMES THAT SEASON; VISITING TEAMS CAME TO TOWN IN THE SOLID VERSION THEY NORMALLY WORN AT HOME. JOHN BUCYK WAS NO. 9.

IN 1934-35, THE ORIGINAL OTTAWA SENATORS MOVED SOUTH AND BECAME THE ST. LOUIS EAGLES. PLAYING IN THE CAVERNOUS BARN THAT WOULD HOUSE THE EXPANSION BLUES 33 YEARS LATER, THE EAGLES LASTED ONLY THAT SEASON BEFORE FOLDING – THE CLUB FINISHING DEAD-LAST IN THE NHL WITH A RECORD OF 11-31-6 IN 48 GAMES, WHILE WEARING THE SIMPLE YET SHARP UNIFORM PICTURED ABOVE.

IN 1931-32, LEGENDARY DEFENSEMAN EDDIE SHORE DONNED THIS UNIFORM WITH THE BOSTON BRUINS, WHO WORE UGLY, TAN-COLORED PANTS BENEATH A WONDERFUL BROWN AND GOLD JERSEY DESIGN.

FROM 1932-33 THROUGH 1936-37, THE MAPLE LEAFS WORE A WHITE JERSEY ON THE ROAD WITH TRIPLE-NAVY STRIPES ABOVE AND BENEATH THE LOGO, AND ON THE SLEEVES. THIS DESIGN IS AMONG THE SHARPEST IN FRANCHISE HISTORY.

ONLY TWO WORDS NEED BE MENTIONED HERE: GORDIE HOWE – MR. HOCKEY, WHO WORE THE ABOVE JERSEY WITH DETROIT FROM 1960 TO HIS FIRST RETIREMENT AFTER THE 1970-71 SEASON – RED AT HOME AND WHITE ON THE ROAD EXCEPT FOR ’70-71, WHEN THE NHL MANDATED A REVERSAL.

TO BE HONEST, I’M NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHY I LIKE THE ABOVE UNIFORM, WORN BY THE BLACKHAWKS FOR TWO SEASONS BEGINNING IN 1935. IT HAS THAT SILLY TAN COLOR, BUT IT STRIKES ME AS RATHER HANDSOME.

THIS JERSEY GOES WAY BACK TO THE FIRST SEASON OF THE NHL, 1917-18, AND WAS WORN BY A TEAM THAT COMPETED IN A GRAND TOTAL OF SIX GAMES. THE MONTREAL WANDERERS DISBANDED AFTER THEIR ARENA BURNT TO THE GROUND, CONSUMING ALL ASSETS, INCLUDING THE CLUB’S NIFTY UNIFORM (ABOVE).

TEN WORST

NOT SURPRISINGLY, SEVERAL OF THE MOST DRAB; LEAST-CREATIVE AND WILDLY BIZARRE JERSEYS COINCIDED WITH THE EARLY YEARS OF THE NHL, INCLUDING THE ABOVE DESIGN – BELONGING TO GROUP NO. 1 – AND WORN BY THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS IN THEIR FIRST SEASON, 1926-27.

AFTER LOSING OUT TO OTTAWA AND TAMPA IN THE EXPANSION OF 1990, HAMILTON HAS SOUGHT RE-LOCATION OF AN EXISTING TEAM FOR COPPS COLISEUM, AND SURFACED IN CONVERSATIONS INVOLVING NASHVILLE AND PHOENIX DURING THE PAST HALF-DECADE. FANS MAY NOT KNOW THAT HAMILTON WAS IN THE NHL FOR FOUR SEASONS BEGINNING IN 1920, WHEN THE QUEBEC BULLDOGS MOVED WEST. THOUGH THE JERSEY OF THE HAMILTON TIGERS (ABOVE) MADE SENSE FROM A COLOR AND LOGO PERSPECTIVE (BLACK AND GOLD MATCHING THAT WORN BY THE CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE TIGER-CATS), IT LOOKED LIKE A PRISON UNIFORM, AND WHITE PANTS DID NOTHING TO ABET THE APPEARANCE.

SORRY FOR BEING A TRADITIONALIST, BUT SPARE ME THE RED LETTERING IN THE MAPLE LEAFS BLUE JERSEY (ABOVE) BETWEEN 1945 AND 1948, THOUGH THE CLUB DID WIN THE STANLEY CUP IN THE LATTER TWO SEASONS WEARING SAID DESIGN.

UNTIL THE LATE-1970s, TEAMS IN THE NHL DID NOT HAVE PLAYER NAMES ON THE BACK OF JERSEYS, BUT A LOGO DISAPPEARED ONLY WITH THE BOSTON BRUINS BETWEEN 1936 AND 1940 – THE DESIGN (ABOVE) LOOKING AS IF IT BELONGED TO A FOOTBALL CLUB.

GOING ONE STEP FURTHER, THE QUEBEC BULLDOGS SIMPLY CHOSE NEVER TO PLACE A LOGO ON THE FRONT OF THEIR UNIFORM (ABOVE) DURING THE CLUB’S LONE NHL SEASON, 1919-20. THE BULLDOGS WERE TWICE STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS IN THE PRE-NHL ERA (1893-1917) AND MOVED TO HAMILTON FOR THE 1920-21 SEASON.

PITTSBURGH SHOULD HAVE BEEN PERMANENTLY BANNED FROM THE NHL AFTER FOISTING THIS UNIFORM ON THE PUBLIC IN 1929-30, THOUGH THERE COULDN’T HAVE BEEN MUCH PUBLIC AT THE OLD DUQUESNE GARDENS GIVEN THE CLUB’S TRANSFER TO PHILADELPHIA THE FOLLOWING YEAR. FOR SOME REASON, THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES – NAME SCALPED FROM THE CITY’S FAMED BASEBALL TEAM – SWITCHED FROM TRADITIONAL BLACK AND GOLD TO ORANGE AND BLACK IN THEIR FINAL NHL CAMPAIGN.

CHICAGO IMPROVED ITS UNIFORM BY PERMANENTLY ADDING RED TO ITS BLACK-AND-WHITE COLOR SCHEME IN 1935-36 (ABOVE), BUT THE DESIGN WAS STILL FAIRLY DRAB, PARTICULARLY BY THE CLUB’S LATER STANDARD.

IT IS DIFFICULT TO FATHOM HOURS OF INTENSE DEBATE LEADING TO DESIGN OF THE MONTREAL MAROONS AWFUL UNIFORM (ABOVE) IN 1924-25, THE CLUB’S FIRST OF 14 NHL SEASONS. AGAIN, THE RIDICULOUS TAN COLOR WAS PROMINENT AND THE JERSEY DIDN’T EXACTLY FLAUNT THE CITY NAME WITH ITS TINY LETTERING. MAROONS WON THE STANLEY CUP IN 1926 AND 1935, BUT FOLDED AFTER THE 1938-39 SEASON.

WHEN DETROIT JOINED THE NHL IN 1926, THE CLUB WAS KNOWN AS THE COUGARS AND IT SPORTED A FAIRLY NEAT UNIFORM (BELOW). EXACTLY WHY THE DESIGN WAS TEMPERED IN 1928 (ABOVE) REMAINS A MYSTERY, THOUGH THE RED PANTS WERE AN IMPROVEMENT. COUGARS BECAME THE DETROIT FALCONS FOR TWO SEASONS BEGINNING IN 1930 BEFORE ADOPTING THE NAME RED WINGS.

NEW YORK RANGERS WENT GOOFY FOR ONE SEASON, 1946-47, WITH THE ABOVE UNIFORM BEFORE RETURNING – LIKELY ON THE HEELS OF AN UPROAR – TO THE FAMILIAR DESIGN (STILL IN VOGUE) OF “RANGERS” POSITIONED DIAGONALLY ON THE JERSEY FRONT.

POST-EXPANSION ERA (1967 TO TODAY)

TEN BEST

CREDIT LOS ANGELES KINGS FOR INTRODUCING PURPLE TO THE NHL IN 1967-68 AND FOR BECOMING THE FIRST TEAM NOT TO WEAR WHITE AS A PRIMARY ROAD COLOR. THE GOLD JERSEY (ABOVE) WAS SIMILAR IN BASE-COLOR TO THAT WHICH BOSTON OCCASIONALLY WORE THE PREVIOUS YEAR, BUT KINGS WERE THE FIRST TO ADOPT IT ON A REGULAR BASIS. L.A. MAINTAINED PURPLE IN ITS DESIGN UNTIL 1988, WHEN BLACK AND SILVER BECAME TEAM COLORS UPON THE ARIIVAL OF WAYNE GRETZKY IN THE BLOCKBUSTER TRADE WITH EDMONTON. IT’S A MYSTERY WHY THE KINGS HAVE REMOVED COLOR FROM THEIR UNIFORM – THE TOP AND BOTTOM VERSIONS BELOW CURRENTLY WORN BY THE CLUB WITH A LOGO FAR-LESS CREATIVE THAN THE ORIGINAL (THOUGH FANS AREN’T COMPLAINING AFTER THE BLACK-AND-SILVER RAISED THE STANLEY CUP THIS SPRING).

GOD KNOWS THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS HAVE HAD A NUMBER OF JERSEY PERMUTATIONS – SEVERAL OF WHICH MAY HAVE BEEN SPAWNED BY AN LSD ADDICTION. NOTHING, HOWEVER, WAS AS SHARP AS THE CLUB’S ORIGINAL UNIFORM (ABOVE) IN 1970-71 – ITS COLOR SCHEME AND CLEVER “V” DESIGN ON THE SLEEVE EASILY THE BEST IN FRANCHISE HISTORY. AFTER DONNING A FULL SPECTRUM OF COLOR IN ENSUING YEARS, THE TEAM HAS RETURNED TO ITS ORIGINAL COMBINATION OF BLUE AND GREEN.

THE BLACK JERSEY, ABOVE, MAY BE THE GREATEST IN NHL HISTORY. THOUGH THE PHOENIX COYOTES INITIAL LOGO ALSO APPEARED TO COME FROM A DRUG PARTY, THE UNIFORM WAS ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR, REFLECTING THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST IN COLOR AND DESIGN. IT’S A JERSEY THE TEAM DID NOT HAVE TO CHANGE, BUT THE CURRENT DESIGN (BELOW) EARNS HONORABLE MENTION IN MY BEST OF THE POST-EXPANSION ERA.

MINNESOTA NORTH STARS JOINED THE NHL AS PART OF THE GREAT EXPANSION OF 1967, WHEN THE LEAGUE DOUBLED FROM SIX TO 12 TEAMS, AND WORE GREEN, GOLD AND WHITE UNTIL THEIR FINAL TWO SEASONS IN BLOOMINGTON, WHEN BLACK BECAME PRIMARY COLOR. THE CLUB’S BEST JERSEY DESIGN (ABOVE) WAS WORN BETWEEN 1979 AND 1981; IT APPEARED IN THE ’81 STANLEY CUP FINAL AGAINST THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS, WHEN MINNESOTA HAD SUCH FINE PLAYERS AS DINO CICCARELLI, BOBBY SMITH AND CRAIG HARTSBURG. THE CLUB MOVED TO DALLAS FOR THE 1993-94 SEASON.

ANOTHER TERRIFIC UNIFORM THAT REQUIRED NO ALTERATION WAS THE INITIAL DESIGN (ABOVE) WORN BY THE MIGHTY DUCKS OF ANAHEIM FROM 1993 TO 2006. THE CONCORD-GRAPE COLOR WAS UNIQUE TO THE NHL, AND THE LARGE DIAGONAL STRIPE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE JERSEY WAS ALSO ORIGINAL (LATER COPIED FOR A TIME BY ST. LOUIS). WHEN “MIGHTY” WAS DROPPED FROM THE TEAM NAME IN 2006, THE UNFORM WAS COMPLETELY REDESIGNED, WITH BLACK, GOLD AND ORANGE AS A COLOR-SCHEME.

PHILADELPHIA’S ORIGINAL NHL TEAM, THE QUAKERS, WORE ORANGE AND BLACK (BELOW) IN ITS LONE NHL SEASON – 1930-31 – AFTER RE-LOCATING FROM PITTSBURGH. WHEN THE FLYERS CAME AROUND 37 YEARS LATER, THE COLOR SCHEME RETURNED WITH SEVERAL ENHANCEMENTS IN THE CLUB’S INFANCY. FLYERS’ BEST DESIGN WAS THE ONE (ABOVE) WORN IN THE MID-’70s, WHEN THE TEAM (A.K.A. THE BROAD STREET BULLIES) WON CONSECUTIVE STANLEY CUP TITLES, LED BY FUTURE HALL-OF-FAMER BOBBY CLARKE.

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PARTIAL TO THE ORIGINAL UNIFORM OF THE CALIFORNIA SEALS (ABOVE), MAINLY BECAUSE I RECALL BEING FLOORED BY THE KELLY-GREEN COLOR OF THEIR PANTS WHEN MY DAD TOOK ME TO THE SEALS FIRST GAME HERE IN TORONTO ON OCT. 28, 1967. AS AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD, THE CONCEPT OF EXPANSION DIDN’T QUITE REGISTER AND IT WAS SUCH A THRILL TO ATTEND ANY LEAFS GAME THAT I RARELY INQUIRED ABOUT THE OPPOSITION. I DID, HOWEVER, KNOW THE COLORS OF THE OTHER FIVE PRE-EXPANSION TEAMS AND WAS CAUGHT COMPLETELY OFF-GUARD WHEN WE ARRIVED AT OUR SEATS A FEW MINUTES INTO THE FIRST PERIOD AGAINST CALIFORNIA. I REMEMBER EX-LEAF BOB BAUN WEARING NO. 21 IN THE WHITE AND GREEN SEALS JERSEY.

THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS WERE THOROUGHLY ABYSMAL IN THEIR EARLY YEARS AS THE FORMER COLORADO ROCKIES, COMPILING ONE WINNING SEASON IN THEIR FIRST SEVEN AT THE MEADOWLANDS (THEY RE-LOCATED FROM DENVER IN 1982-83). BUT, THE DEVILS PRODUCED A DANDY UNIFORM (ABOVE), BECOMING THE FIRST NHL CLUB TO COMBINE SCARLET-RED AND PINE-GREEN (MINNESOTA WILD WOULD FOLLOW NEARLY TWO DECADES LATER). TAKING THE LEAD OF SO MANY OTHER TEAMS, NEW JERSEY DITCHED THE GREEN IN FAVOR OF BLACK AFTER THE 1991-92 SEASON.

THEIR WAS NOTHING AT ALL CREATIVE ABOUT THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INITIAL UNIFORM IN 1967 (ABOVE) – THE CLUB DEBATING UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE WHETHER TO MAINTAIN THE RED AND WHITE COLOR SCHEME OF THE DEFENDING AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE-CHAMPION PITTSBURGH HORNETS. ULTIMATELY, THE PENGUINS SETTLED ON LIGHT-BLUE AND DARK-BLUE AND THREW TOGETHER THE ABOVE JERSEYS TO BE READY FOR THE PUCK DROP IN OCTOBER ’67. IT TURNED OUT TO BE A GREAT ACCIDENT, THOUGH PENGUINS ELIMINATED THEIR THE INAUGURAL DESIGN IN YEAR TWO AND PLACED THE CLUB LOGO ON THE FRONT OF AN ENTIRELY NEW UNIFORM, (BELOW) WHILE MAINTAINING THE ORIGINAL COLOR SCHEME.

WHEN THE CALIFORNIA GOLDEN SEALS FINALLY GAVE UP ON DRAWING 3,000 AND 4,000 FANS TO HOME GAMES IN OAKLAND, THEY MOVED CROSS-CONTINENT TO RICHFIELD, OHIO – A VILLAGE BETWEEN CLEVELAND AND AKRON – FOR THE 1976-77 SEASON. THERE, IN THE 20,000-SEAT RICHFIELD COLISEUM, THEY DREW 3,000 AND 4,000 FANS. AFTER TWO SEASONS OF BARELY GENERATING AN ECHO IN THE MAMMOTH BUILDING, THE CLUB DISOLVED AND MERGED WITH THE MINNESOTA NORTH STARS. BUT, DURING THEIR BRIEF TENURE IN OHIO, THE CLEVELAND BARONS WORE A TERRIFIC JERSEY (ABOVE) AT HOME AND ON THE ROAD. THIS IS ONE OF THE FEW NHL UNIFORMS YET TO BE RE-PRODUCED IN THE THROWBACK CRAZE OF THE EARLY CENTURY.

TEN WORST

OY VEY, WHAT THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS DID IN 1996! MORE THAN A DECADE REMOVED FROM THEIR STANLEY CUP GLORY YEARS OF THE EARLY-’80s, THE ISLANDERS EVIDENTLY COMMISSIONED AN ALCOHOLIC TO RE-DESIGN THEIR UNIFORM, AND THE RESULTS (ABOVE) WERE PREDICTABLE. FANS THAT WERE PRONE TO MOTION-SICKNESS BECAME NAUSEATED WHEN LOOKING AT THE STRIPE DESIGN ON THE JERSEY. THEY WERE UNCLEAR WHETHER THE NEW LOGO (ENLARGED BELOW) DEPICTED THE MARINER ON THE HIGH LINER BRAND OF FROZEN SEAFOOD PRODUCTS OR VETERAN NEW YORK HOCKEY AUTHOR AND TV HOST STAN FISCHLER. FUTURE LEAF DEFENSEMAN BRYAN McCABE HAD THE HONOUR OF WEARING THE ‘C’ FOR THE ISLANDERS THAT YEAR. THE UNIFORM MERCIFULLY LASTED FOR ONLY ONE SEASON, AND WAS MODIFIED FOR 1997-98 WHEN THE CLUB’S ORIGINAL AND FAMILIAR LOGO REPLACED THE ANGRY, BEARDED MAN. 

 

A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST SUGGESTED – IN 1978 – THAT A COLOR COMBINATION OF BLACK, ORANGE AND GOLD WOULD CREATE A MENACING AURA FOR THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS AND THE ABOVE ABERRATION RESULTED. THE TEAM SHOULD HAVE MOVED TO SAN FRANCISCO, WHERE ONLY THE FLOWER CHILDREN OF HAIGHT-ASHBURY – TRIPPING OUT ON ALL MANNER OF SUBSTANCE – COULD HAVE COME UP WITH A SIMILAR ATROCITY. INSTEAD OF GENERATING FEAR, THE NEW UNIFORM PROMPTED HOWLS OF LAUGHTER, THOUGH IT DID APPEAR IN THE 1982 STANLEY CUP FINAL AGAINST THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS, AND NO ONE WOULD HAVE DARED TO SNICKER AT CANUCKS’ HOT-HEAD DAVE (TIGER) WILLIAMS. THE DESIGN MIRACULOUSLY ENDURED UNTIL 1985, WHEN THE GIANT “V” ON THE UNIFORM FRONT WAS REPLACED BY THE CANUCKS’ LOGO.

IN 1976-77, THE RANGERS BEGAN A NEW ERA WITH FORMER HABS’ TOUGH GUY JOHN FERGUSON MOVING IN AS GENERAL MANAGER AND EX-MONTREAL TEAMMATE JEAN-GUY TALBOT AS COACH. MORE THAN A DECADE UNDER THE STEWARDSHIP OF EMILE FRANCIS WAS COMPLETELY WASHED AWAY WITH A UNIFORM RE-DESIGN, AND A FAIRLY AWFUL ONE AT THAT (ABOVE). GONE WAS THE FAMILIAR TEAM NAME DISPLAYED DIAGONALLY ACROSS THE JERSEY-FRONT; REPLACED BY THE CLUB’S LOGO. SHOULDER-PIPING THAT EXTENDED THE LENGTH OF THE SLEEVE – A ’70s TREND – CAME INTO VOGUE AND THE RED PANT WAS REPLACED BY A BLUE VERSION AT HOME AND ON THE ROAD. THE NEW UNIFORM ESSENTIALLY LOOKED CHEAP WHEN COMPARED TO ITS PREDECESSOR AND THE CLUB RETURNED TO ITS FAMILIAR DESIGN TWO YEARS LATER.

THE ONLY CURRENT UNIFORM TO MAKE MY LIST OF THE 10 WORST DESIGNS IS THAT OF THE DALLAS STARS (ABOVE). WHOEVER SUGGESTED THIS MUST HAVE BEEN DEVOID OF IMAGINATION; INSANELY BORED, OR JUST DEAD-TIRED – PERHAPS ALL THREE. STARS COULDN’T POSSIBLY HAVE COMMISSIONED A REPUTABLE AGENCY; THE GRADE-SCHOOL CHILD OF ANY DALLAS PLAYER COULD HAVE SCRIBBLED THIS ON A SHEET OF CONSTRUCTION PAPER. THE CLUB HAD BEEN CREATIVE IN THE PAST, AS EVIDENCED BY THE PRIMARY AND ALTERNATE JERSEYS (BELOW) WORN BETWEEN 2003 AND 2006. WHY THE STARS ARE CONTENT WITH DRAB TODAY IS A MYSTERY.

 

LIKE THEIR SOUTHERN-CALIFORNIA NEIGHBORS IN ANAHEIM, THE SAN JOSE SHARKS BROUGHT AN ORIGINAL PRIMARY COLOR – TEAL – TO THE NHL IN 1991; CREATED A TERRIFIC LOGO, AND EMBLAZONED IT ON A SHARP, UNCOMPLICATED JERSEY (BELOW). WHY THE CLUB CHOSE TO GO UGLY IN 1998 (ABOVE) IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE. TO ITS CREDIT, THE TEAM CRAFTED A WONDERFUL JERSEY IN CONNECTION WITH THE NHL – REEBOK ARRANGEMENT THREE YEARS AGO, WHICH IT CURRENTLY WEARS.

SADLY, A GENERATION OF LEAF FANS GREW UP WITH THE ABOVE JERSEY – INTRODUCED BY HAROLD BALLARD IN 1970 AND SYNONYMOUS WITH FAILURE FOR MUCH OF ITS 23-YEAR EXISTENCE. ONLY FOR A BRIEF TIME (1975-78) DID THE CLUB DO IT HONOUR: THE LEAFS OF DARRYL SITTLER, LANNY McDONALD AND BORJE SALMING PLAYING WELL AND ADVANCING TO THE STANLEY CUP SEMIFINALS IN ’78 AFTER McDONALD DISPATCHED THE FAVOURED NEW YORK ISLANDERS WITH A GAME 7 OVERTIME GOAL AT NASSAU COLISEUM. THOUGH IT REMAINS PRIMARY TODAY, THIS LOGO IS EASILY THE HOMLIEST OF ANY IN FRANCHISE HISTORY; IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RETIRED LONG AGO IN FAVOUR OF THE 35-POINT DESIGN (BELOW) THAT PREVAILED THROUGH MUCH OF THE 1960s AND ADORNED THE LEAFS’ ALTERNATE JERSEY FOR MORE THAN A DECADE.

THIS WAS ANOTHER MISTAKE. THOUGH THE BUFFALO TEAM OF DOMINIK HASEK, MICHAEL PECA AND ALEXEI ZHITNIK MADE IT TO THE 1999 STANLEY CUP FINAL WEARING THE TOP AND MIDDLE JERSEYS ABOVE, THE SABRES HAD NO PARTICULAR REASON TO DEVIATE FROM THEIR SHARP ORIGINAL COLORS OF BLUE AND GOLD, WHICH THEY RE-ADOPTED IN 2006, A DECADE AFTER SWITCHING TO BLACK AND RED. THE NEW DESIGN AND LOGO COINCIDED WITH THE SABRES MOVE FROM THE BUFFALO MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM TO WHAT IS NOW FIRST NIAGARA CENTER IN 1996-97.

THE UNIFORM DESIGN WASN’T BAD – AND THE LOGO ROCKED – BUT I’M STILL PUZZLED AS TO WHY THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING CHOSE SUCH A DREARY COLOR SCHEME (ABOVE) UPON JOINING THE NHL IN 1992. PLAYING IN THE “SUNSHINE” STATE, COULDN’T THE CLUB HAVE CREATED SOMETHING A BIT BRIGHTER AND MORE APPEALING TO THE SENSES? THESE ARE COLORS THAT PEOPLE WEAR AFTER BEING ARRESTED. THOUGH THEY WERE GOD-AWFUL IN THE EARLY DAYS, THE NFL TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS HAD THE RIGHT IDEA, CHOOSING ORANGE AND RED AS THEIR INITIAL COLORS, WITH A PREDOMINANTLY ORANGE JERSEY WORN AT HOME. TO ITS CREDIT, THE LIGHTNING HAS BRIGHTENED UP THE CURRENT UNIFORM, CREATING A SEAFOAM BLUE AS ITS PRIMARY SHADE.

THE LATE HARRY ORNEST WAS KNOWN FOR A WALLET INFESTED WITH COB-WEBS BUT HE TREATED ME VERY NICELY DURING THE YEARS IN WHICH HE OWNED THE CFL’s TORONTO ARGONAUTS AND I WAS RATHER FOND OF HIM. HE SCREWED UP ROYALLY, HOWEVER, WHEN HE BOUGHT A PACKAGE OF CRAYONS FOR HIS WIFE, RUTH, WHILE IN COMMAND OF THE ST. LOUIS BLUES IN 1986. THE ABOVE JERSEY-DESIGN RESULTED FROM RUTH’S ARTISTIC ACUMEN; I’M TOLD SHE HAD FAR-MORE APPEALING QUALITIES. HARRY SHOULD HAVE INSISTED THE CLUB’S TERRIFIC BLUE-NOTE LOGO REMAIN LARGE AND UNACCOMPANIED ON THE JERSEY FRONT, BUT HE LET HIS WIFE ALTER IT BY ADDING THE TEAM NAME. DOUG GILMOUR, AMONG OTHERS, CUT HIS TEETH IN THE NHL DURING THE THREE-YEAR TERM OF THIS APPALLING DESIGN.

THE UNIFORM WORN BY THE WHALERS DURING THEIR LAST FIVE SEASONS IN HARTFORD (1992-97) WAS SHARP AND ATTRACTIVE (ABOVE), BUT IT NEEDLESSLY MESSED WITH TRADITION. IN ITS FIRST 20 YEARS, THE FRANCHISE MAINTAINED GREEN AS ITS PRIMARY COLOR – WORN WITH YELLOW AND WHITE AS NEW ENGLAND WHALERS OF THE WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION; WITH BLUE AND WHITE (AS BELOW) AFTER THE NHL/WHA MERGER OF 1979. THE GREEN HARTFORD JERSEY (WITH WHALE LOGO ON THE SHOULDER) HAD BEEN DONNED BY HOCKEY LEGENDS GORDIE HOWE, BOBBY HULL, DAVE KEON AND MARK HOWE. IT WAS A GREAT-LOOKING DESIGN AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN MAINTAINED BY THE CLUB. WHALERS WERE FORERUNNER OF THE CAROLINA HURRUCANES, WHO CHOSE A BLACK AND RED JERSEY AS AN ALTERNATE TWO SEASONS AGO. WOULDN’T THE GREEN THROW-BACK HAVE BEEN A BETTER OPTION?

ALTERNATE (OR THIRD) JERSEYS

TEN BEST

WHILE SOME TEAMS CHOSE TO DREAM UP UNIQUE THIRD JERSEYS – MOST OF THEM ABSURD – THE PRUDENT CLUBS IN THE NHL RETURNED TO YESTERYEAR. TORONTO, CALGARY, OTTAWA AND WASHINGTON (TOP FOUR IMAGES IN THIS SECTION) HAVE THEREFORE CRAFTED THE PREMIER ALTERNATE DESIGNS; LEAFS SWITCHING FROM THE VERSION (MIDDLE ABOVE) IT WORE SINCE 1998 TO A REPLICA, THIS SEASON, OF THE BLUE HOME UNIFORM (MIDDLE IMAGE BELOW) WORN THE NIGHT IT LAST WON THE STANLEY CUP (MAY 2, 1967), AND DURING THE FIRST THREE SEASONS OF EXPANSION. THE WHITE JERSEY ABOVE WAS THE LEAFS ROAD LOOK FROM THE PLAYOFFS OF 1964 TO THE END OF THE 1966-67 SEASON, WHEN IT SWITCHED TO THE CURRENT ALTERNATE FOR ITS STANLEY CUP RUN.

CALGARY’S ALTERNATE (MIDDLE ABOVE) IS A VIRTUAL COPY OF THE ROAD JERSEY WORN BY THE TEAM AFTER RE-LOCATING FROM ATLANTA FOR THE 1980-81 SEASON. THE CLUB OBVIOUSLY (AND JUSTIFIABLY) LIKED ITS COLORS AND DESIGN (BELOW) AND MERELY REPLACED THE STYLIZED “A” WITH A FLAMING “C” ON THE IDENTICAL BASE.

OTTAWA INTRODUCED A THIRD JERSEY LAST SEASON (MIDDLE ABOVE) THAT IS FAR SUPERIOR TO ITS PREVIOUS ALTERNATE AND REFLECTIVE OF THE ORIGINAL SENATORS, WHO PLAYED IN THE NHL FROM 1917 TO 1934, WINNING STANLEY CUP TITLES IN ’20, ’21, ’23 AND ’27 BEFORE RE-LOCATING FOR ONE SEASON IN ST. LOUIS. THE “O” LOGO WAS WORN BY SUCH LEGENDARY PLAYERS AS KING CLANCY, FRANK NIGHBOR AND CLINT BENEDICT. THE JERSEY IS ALSO RELATED TO THE “BARBER-SHOP POLE” DESIGN OF THE JUNIOR TEAM IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL, THE OTTAWA 67s.

ALEXANDER OVECHKIN WAS NINE YEARS OLD WHEN THE WASHINGTON CAPITALS DITCHED THEIR ORIGINAL JERSEY (BOTTOM IMAGE ABOVE) AFTER THE LOCKOUT-SHORTENED SEASON OF 1994-95, AND COMPLETELY RE-DESIGNED THEIR UNIFORM (BELOW). THE CLUB BROUGHT BACK ITS FORMER HOME JERSEY AS AN ALTERNATE THIS SEASON – WITH THE RED AND BLUE STARS ON THE SLEEVE AND BELOW THE NECK, AND THE HOCKEY-STICK “L” ON THE FRONT. YES, THE FIRST-YEAR CAPITALS (1974-75) REMAIN THE WORST TEAM IN MODERN NHL HISTORY, BUT THE 8-67-5 STUMBLE-BUMS WERE NICELY OUT-FITTED.

THE OPPOSITE OF TRADITION GREW DOMINANT IN THE LATE-’90s, WHEN SEVERAL TEAMS WENT OVER THE TOP WITH THIRD-JERSEY DESIGNS. I LOVED TAMPA BAY’S “OCEAN-STORM” VERSION (BOTTOM IMAGE ABOVE), WITH THE WAVES AND THE LIGHTNING BOLTS ON THE SLEEVE. THE CLUB WORE IT FOR THREE SEASONS BEGINNING IN 1996-97, THE YEAR IT MOVED INTO ITS CURRENT HOME, NOW CALLED THE TAMPA BAY TIMES FORUM.

IT WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE COYOTES TO CRAFT A THIRD JERSEY AS SPECTACULAR AS THEIR PRIMARY IN 1998… AND THEY DIDN’T. STILL, THE DESIGN (BOTTOM ABOVE) RANKS AMONG THE BEST-EVER ALTERNATES WITH ITS CACTI; MOUNTAINS AND CRESCENT MOON (UNDER WHICH COYOTES HOWL), THOUGH I WAS NEVER BIG ON THE CLUB’S SECONDARY LOGO. PHOENIX WORE THIS JERSEY BETWEEN ’98 AND 2003.

AS YOU CAN SEE IN THE ABOVE IMAGES, VANCOUVER HAD MODIFIED ITS COMICAL “V” JERSEY BY 1995… IN FACT, A DECADE BEFORE ’95, WHEN THE CLUB REPLACED THE GIANT LETTER WITH ITS LOGO, WHILE MAINTAINING THE ANGRY COLOR SCHEME OF BLACK, YELLOW AND ORANGE. TYPICALLY, THE CANUCKS DESIGNED A LOUD ALTERNATE, WITH ORANGE AS PRIMARY COLOR, YET IT RANKED AMONG THE BETTER THIRD JERSEYS OF THE LATE-’90s AND WAS WORN FOR TWO SEASONS BEFORE ORCA BAY INVESTMENTS BOUGHT THE CLUB FROM THE GRIFFITHS FAMILY.

I KNOW I’M GOING TO CATCH GRIEF OVER THIS, BUT THE PREDATORS MUSTARD-YELLOW ALTERNATE (MIDDLE ABOVE) RANKED EASILY IN THE TOP TEN OF ITS ILK; PROBABLY IN THE TOP FIVE. IT WAS RIDICULED THROUGHOUT THE HOCKEY WORLD, WHICH PROVES THERE REALLY IS NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE. I ACTUALLY TRIED TO PURCHASE ONE DURING A LEAFS TRIP TO NASHVILLE IN 2003 BUT THE TEAM STORE AT BRIDGESTONE ARENA WAS FLUSH OUT OF THE ITEM. THE PREDS WORE IT BETWEEN 2001 AND 2007; IT WAS MUCH SHARPER THAN THE CLUB’S MOST RECENT ALTERNATE (MIDDLE BELOW).

LONG BEFORE THIRD JERSEYS BECAME A COMMON ITEM, THE PITTSBURGH PENGUINS INTRODUCED A GOLD ALTERNATE (MIDDLE ABOVE), WORN OCCASIONALLY ON HOME ICE IN 1982-83, AND THEN EXCLUSIVELY DURING GAMES AT CIVIC ARENA IN ’83-84. PITTSBURGH THUS BECAME THE THIRD NHL TEAM – AFTER BOSTON AND LOS ANGELES – TO DON GOLD AS PRIMARY HOME COLOR, RATHER THAN WHITE. LONG-TIME PENGUIN FANS LIKELY HAVE SOUR MEMORIES OF THIS JERSEY, FOR THE TEAM COMPILED A LEAGUE-WORST 16-56-8 RECORD IN ’83-84, THOUGH IT GRANTED PENGUINS THE RIGHT TO SELECT MARIO LEMIEUX FIRST OVERALL IN THE 1984 DRAFT, THEREBY CHARTING AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT COURSE FOR THE FRANCHISE. PENGUINS OCCASIONALLY WORE THE GOLD ALTERNATE AT HOME DURING LEMIEUX’S ROOKIE SEASON BEFORE IT WAS RETIRED.

MINNESOTA WILD HAS NEVER DONE ANYTHING INADEQUATELY FROM AN ARTISTIC VIEWPOINT AND THAT INCLUDES DESIGN OF ITS CURRENT ALTERNATE JERSEY (MIDDLE ABOVE). THE FOREST-GREEN THAT ADORNED MINNESOTA’S UNIFORM WHEN IT JOINED THE LEAGUE IN 2000 BECAME PRIME IN THE THIRD JERSEY, WITH A NIFTY OFF-WHITE TRIM, SIMILAR TO THAT OF THE NUMBERING ON ITS RED HOME DESIGN. THE TOP TWO ITEMS IN THE ABOVE IMAGE MAY BE THE SHARPEST OF ALL NHL JERSEYS.

TEN WORST

NO JERSEY CREATION IN THE NHL WAS MORE SACRELIGIOUS THAN CHICAGO’S BLACK ALTERNATE (MIDDLE ABOVE), WORN BY THE CLUB BETWEEN 1996 AND 2007, THEN AGAIN IN 2008-09. THERE ARE TWO JERSEYS IN THE NHL YOU SIMPLY DO NOT MESS WITH: CHICAGO’S CLASSIC RED AND MONTREAL’S LEGENDARY RED. BORROWING WORDS FROM THE CULT MOVIE “SLAPSHOT”, THE ‘HAWKS SHOULD “FEEL SHAME” – NOW AND FOREVER – FOR BETRAYING THEIR SCARLET UNIFORM.

OKAY, WE GET IT: THE MIGHTY DUCKS OF ANAHEIM WERE CHRISTENED SO, IN 1993, FOR A DISNEY MOVIE OF THE SAME NAME. WE ALSO UNDERSTAND THE DISNEY CORPORATION’S NEED TO MARKET ITS PRODUCT. BUT, THE NHL SHOULD ENSURE THAT NO-SUCH ABERRATION AS THE MIGHTY DUCKS’ ALTERNATE JERSEY OF 1995-96 (ABOVE BOTTOM) EVER AGAIN MAKES IT ONTO AN ICE SURFACE. THIS CREATION WAS DIFFICULT ENOUGH TO LOOK AT; IMAGINE THE POOR BASTARDS THAT HAD TO WEAR THE THING IN FRONT OF 17,000 SNICKERING SOULS.

WAYNE GRETZKY, MARK MESSIER, PAUL COFFEY AND OTHERS SHOULD HAVE FILED SUIT AGAINST THE EDMONTON OILERS FOR IMAGE DESERCRATION AFTER THE EYE-SORE THE CLUB CONCOTED (ABOVE BOTTOM) AS A THIRD JERSEY IN 2001. REMARKABLY, THIS CREATIVE SHORTCOMING WAS WORN FOR SIX SEASONS! SURELY SOMEONE COULD HAVE STEPPED UP BEFOREHAND IN THE INTEREST OF APPEARANCE AND REPRESENTATION. AT FIRST GLANCE, THE LOGO LOOKS LIKE A GIANT TEAR-DROP – APPROPRIATE, GIVEN MY INITIAL REACTION TO SEEING IT. OBVIOUSLY, IT’S A DROP OF OIL. THE FIVE RIVETS BENEATH IT SYMBOLIZE THE STANLEY CUP TITLES EDMONTON WON BETWEEN 1984 AND 1990. THAT WAS CLEVER; THE REST REVOLTING.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY GRETZKY PUSHED HARD TO BE TRADED BY LOS ANGELES IN 1995-96, CAST YOUR EYES ON THE ABHORRENT MIDDLE-IMAGE ABOVE. HARD TO BELIEVE THE GREATEST PLAYER IN HOCKEY ANNALS HAD TO SKATE OUT IN PUBLIC WEARING THIS MONSTROSITY. NO. 99 WAS DEALT TO ST. LOUIS ON FEB. 27, 1996, WHEREUPON HE ENCOUNTERED THE “DECORUM” OF MIKE KEENAN. THE TWO ENGAGED IN FREQUENT VERBAL WARFARE AND EACH TIME THE HOSTILITY PEAKED, KEENAN REMINDED GRETZKY OF THE ALTERNATE UNIFORM HE’D LEFT BEHIND IN CALIFORNIA. WITHIN SECONDS, PLAYER AND COACH WERE ON THE BEST OF TERMS.

THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS HAVE HAD PLENTY OF TROUBLE ON THE ICE IN RECENT YEARS, YOU’D THINK THE CLUB WOULD AVOID COMPOUNDING MATTERS WITH A GROTESQUE FASHION STATEMENT. NOT SO. THE ISLANDERS’ CURRENT ALTERNATE JERSEY (ABOVE MIDDLE) IS REASON ENOUGH NOT TO SHOW UP AT THE ANTIQUATED NASSAU COLISEUM. IT IS THE POLAR OPPOSITE OF THE “FISH-STICKS” UNIFORM FROM THE MID-’90s, AND THAT’S A BLESSING. OTHERWISE, IT IS BLAAHHH.

I HAVE NOTHING PARTICULAR AGAINST THE CURRENT ALTERNATE DESIGN OF THE FLORIDA PANTHERS (ABOVE MIDDLE), BUT I CAN SEE VIRTUALLY THE SAME UNIFORM ANY NIGHT THE JUNIOR MISSISSAUGA ST. MICHAEL’S MAJORS ARE IN ACTION AT THE HERSHEY CENTRE. THIS MUST BE THE CREATION OF AN AMATEUR SCOUT.

THE LAST TIME I SAW A HOCKEY GAME AT JOBING.COM ARENA IN GLENDALE, ARIZONA WAS A YEAR AGO THIS PAST WEEK – JAN. 13, 2011, WHEN THE LEAFS PLAYED THE PHOENIX COYOTES – AND I HAD THE MISFORTUNE OF WATCHING THE HOME TEAM SKATE AROUND IN ITS REPULSIVE THIRD JERSEY (ABOVE MIDDLE). AFTER DESIGNING SEVERAL OF THE BEST UNIFORMS (PRIMARY AND ALTERNATE) IN NHL HISTORY, THE COYOTES FINALLY BLEW IT. BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME.

GIVEN THE WONDERFUL THROW-BACK JERSEY THE FLAMES CURRENTLY HAVE AS AN ALTERNATE, IT’S CLEAR THE TEAM LEARNED A PAINFUL LESSON BY FOISTING THE ABOVE-MIDDLE IMAGE ON THE PAYING PUBLIC FOR EIGHT LONG YEARS (1998-2006). WHY THE CLUB SANCTIONED THE LOGO OF AN ANIMAL WITH POST-NASAL DRIP IS AMONG HOCKEY’S ALL-TIME GREATEST MYSTERIES. THANKFULLY, THE UNIFORM HAS BEEN RETIRED, HOPEFULLY TO AN INCINERATOR.

THE OTTAWA SENATORS AND TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING SHOULD HAVE BEEN FINED IN SEVEN FIGURES BY GARY BETTMAN FOR THE MERE NOTION OF USING MONIKERS (MIDDLE, ABOVE AND BELOW) AS A JERSEY-FRONT LOGO. HOW THESE ATROCITIES EVER SAW THE LIGHT OF DAY IS SOMETHING THE COMMISSIONER HAS YET TO ADDRESS. IMAGINE THE MAPLE LEAFS SKATING OUT WITH “BUDS” EMBLAZONED ACROSS THEIR UNIFORM. OR MONTREAL REPLACING ITS CLASSIC C-H LOGO WITH “HABS”. IT’S AN IDEA THAT MET AN EARLY DEMISE, JUST NOT EARLY ENOUGH.

Email: howardlberger@gmail.com

Twitter: Berger_BYTES

Facebook: Howard Berger [Thornhill ON]

4 comments on “Best/Worst NHL Uniforms of All Time

  1. Nice blog, I’ve always been extremely interested in hockey jerseys and logos. I agree with most of these picks some of your picks are just ridiculous.

    -That brown and yellow Bruins pre-expansion jersey looks like someone uh, well, relieved themselves on it. It would definitely be in the 10 worst for me.

    -I’m also not a fan of the Canucks original blue and green jersey. Most say simple, I say boring. I mean, can you get more boring that a stick in a rectangle? The “V” on the sleeve also looks pretty weird.

    -Nashville’s “mustard-custard” jersey is very ugly, and not just because of the colour. Not a fan of the logo or the sleeve striping either.

    -The Tampa Bay storm jersey and the Phoenix “desert evening” jersey both look like something that would be in the ECHL or IHL. Those just aren’t pro-league jerseys.

  2. Howard, I love the photo blogs. Are you able to do more of these of players on/off the ice, during practices, warmups, candid photos etc? Maybe even some videos as well? Thanks, & keep up the excellent work!

  3. Interesting list, Howie. To me, the best jerseys ever were the ones worn by the Maple Leafs just prior to the to the 1963-64 playoffs. They debuted in the 1961-62 playoffs (with the shoulder TV numbers), winning a Stanley Cup,in 1962, and both a Prince of Wales trophy and Stanley Cup in 1963.

  4. Excellent. I am partial to Leaf jerseys. I did like the look of the late 20’s jerseys with the arm stripes and I think it would be cool for the Leafs to bring out the St. Pats look for at least one game a year in March. Given that history…maybe a Toronto Arenas day too….circa 1917.

Comments are closed.

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.