I’m a huge hockey logo and jersey design nut. I’ve been a fan of the NHL since the late 80’s, when the league was a paltry 21 teams. In that time I’ve seen a lot of great jerseys and a few ugly ones, the latter of which I’ll be showing off here. In no particular order:
We’ll start off with an honorable mention, this St. Louis Blues monstrosity that was killed by then-head coach Mike Keenan. It never made it onto the ice, but how it got to the prototype stage is beyond me. Check out that Poochie-like mascot.
1. Late 90’s St. Louis Blues jerseys. Iron Mike couldn’t kill these, which had a layout similar to the bestselling Mighty Ducks jerseys of the time. The primary colors were interesting, but the music note lines and skewed numbers made for an eyesore. Logistically this must have been a nightmare for retailers, having to need 3 different-sized digits for the numbers (one for the left side, one for the right, and one if it’s a single-digit). Gretzky wore these during his brief tenure in St. Louis, he must have been relieved to don a Broadway Blueshirt the following season.
2. Nashville Predators mustard third jersey. This jersey had a few nice logos going for it, but the blue armpits, busy cuff stripes, square-shaped collar, and of course the dreary mustard color that made it famous make for an odd combination. Fortunately the Preds now wear a very nice gold home jersey, one that seems to have learned from this mustard jersey and the aforementioned Blues jersey (by using music note lines minimally).
I recall this funny story of when the Predators debuted this jersey at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, and their 1st-round pick (who had to wear the jersey) dryly joked “It’s the jersey I dreamed of wearing while I was growing up.” Sadly I cannot verify this quote right now.
3. Inaugural Phoenix Coyotes jerseys (1996). The 90’s were dark times for hockey fashion, and the Coyotes decided to wear something born of a desert mirage. The brick red and sand colors are all that remains on the current Coyotes jerseys (next year the team will be named the Arizona Coyotes). I feel some blame should go to the Vancouver Grizzlies, who started play one year prior with a similar pattern trim on their jerseys.
4. Phoenix Coyotes alternate jersey, 1998-2003. I’m all for a pretty landscape, just not one that covers the lower half of a hockey jersey. The mix of all three secondary colors (green, orange, purple) is an assault on the senses. I’m very surprised this jersey lasted 5 years in the NHL, I figured it got the axe after a few games. Speaking of jerseys with really short lifespans…
5. Anaheim and Los Angeles third jerseys (1995). The NHL ushered in their third jersey program in the spring of 1995, with 5 teams participating (LA, ANA, BOS, PIT, and VAN), and two of those teams debuted these jerseys by playing head-to-head, the Kings and Mighty Ducks in their “Burger King” and “Wild Wing” jerseys respectively. Both jerseys were horrendous and drew ridicule from the media and fans, and would only be worn a few more times by both teams before being put to pasture. While both jerseys have gained a cult following since, at the time they were an embarrassment to the league. This is probably why we’ll never see themed jerseys (like Star Wars) in the NHL.
6. The entire Atlanta Thrashers jersey catalog. In their brief 12 years in Atlanta, the Thrashers were never a good-looking hockey club. They had some nice elements like their primary logo and unique color scheme, unfortunately every other design cue was unconventional, like their asymmetrical powder blue jersey with “Atlanta” on one arm, or the infamous brick red “motocross” third jersey. The Thrashers are now in Winnipeg playing as the Jets 2.0, and I feel it’s safe to say that these jerseys won’t carry the same popularity as other relocated clubs (like the Nordiques, North Stars, and Whalers).
7. The New York Islanders “fish sticks” hockey jerseys (mid-90’s). The Islanders tried to capitalize on the teal and grey craze of the 90’s, and even borrowed a page from the Mighty Ducks for asymmetrical striping. Unfortunately their logo resembled the Gorton’s fisherman mascot, hence the “fish sticks” nickname. Other design miscues include skewed numbers (much like what the St. Louis Blues did, see above) and skewed names that aligned to a wavy shoulder yoke. Fish sticks was a bizarre jersey in every conceivable way. If the Islanders could, they’d nuke these jerseys from all the history books and photoshop them out of existence.
8. The Buffalo Sabres “Buffaslug” jersey (2006-2010). While fans in Buffalo welcomed the return of the blue and gold palette (from the previous black, red, and silver colors), the reaction to Reebok’s first NHL team makeover was overwhelmingly negative. The logo was even been compared to Donald Trump’s toupee. It took four years, but the Sabres finally went back to their classic logo from the 70’s-90’s full-time in 2011. Sadly their new alternate jersey is making the Buffaslug look tasteful by comparison.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning 3rd jersey (late 90’s). The NHL’s new 3rd jersey program was an opportunity to use sublimated printing techniques, turning every inch of the hockey jersey into a canvas. The Pittsburgh Penguins used this smartly for their third jersey. Unfortunately for the Lightning, some artist ignored the moral of Jurassic Park (just because you can, doesn’t mean you should), and went overboard on this design. In my opinion if the weather effects were removed and blue was added to the sleeves, there’s a very good-looking jersey to be had in there.
10. The Dallas Stars “Mooterus” jersey (2003). The team attempted a very solid jersey design, opting to step outside their color palette and add red to change things up. Unfortunately things fell apart for the main logo (which was fashioned after the “Taurus” constellation system), which upon its release was met by derision from both the fans and the media who compared it to the female reproductive system, and thus the cruel-yet-clever “Mooterus” nickname was born. The team trotted these out only a few times before retiring them permanently. The original plan was to wear these for at least 3 years, but Dallas decided to forego a third jersey altogether for that term, and were forbidden from creating a new one during that time by the NHL. The Stars wouldn’t attempt a 3rd jersey again until 2008.
I feel the jersey design is solid, and the colors are great, but the logo really sinks the whole thing.
11. Almost every Vancouver Canucks jersey to date. Full disclosure: I am a Calgary Flames fan, so I hate the Canucks unconditionally. That said my designer side has loathed every uniform worn by this team, from the “Flying V” to the “Spaghetti Plate” era to their current “Constipated Orca” look. The Canucks have just been dismally ugly throughout their history. However their initial “Stick in a Rink” jerseys look decent, so maybe they got it right the first time?
12. The Calgary Flames 3rd jersey (2013). After making fun of Vancouver’s “city name over a c-shaped logo” jerseys these past 7 years, the Flames go and do this. Just like their current home and away jerseys (which have shoulder flag patches for Canada and Alberta), this jersey looks it was designed by a tourism board. The Flames “sneezing horsie” jersey from a decade ago looks quite respectable now.
13. The 2007 Reebok Makeover. I was working at EA Canada when NHL ’08 was about to ship, and I was among the first outside of Reebok and the NHL to see the new look of all 30 teams, and it was a dark day indeed. I thought there was some mistakes with the textures or the 3D player models, but no, the new Reebok jerseys actually looked this way.
The scooped waist hem, the apron strings, flared elbow stripes, ribbon collars, prominent RBK branding; all of these traits were applied nearly across the board. Many teams eschewed waist stripes for a “practice jersey” look (TOR, PHI, EDM, FLA, to name a few), Dallas opted for a wordmark logo, the Canes and Isles went for unnecessary shoulder yoke stripes, the Flyers had weird shoulder flares, and the list goes on and on. Since then many teams have righted the ship (BUF, PHI, DAL, CAR, EDM, FLA, NYI, SJ, NSH, TOR). It wasn’t all bad, as Washington, Ottawa, and Pittsburgh benefited from the 2007 re-brand. Sadly my Flames are still the ugliest team in the NHL.
More honorable mentions:
– Kansas City Scouts jerseys. Too many stripes with an insurance company logo.
– Calgary Flames “Ronald McDonald” Heritage Classic jerseys.
– Montreal Canadiens Centennial “Barber Pole” jerseys.
– Boston Bruins gold “Winnie The Pooh” jerseys.
– New York Islanders current black third jersey. This jersey was just retired a few nights ago.
– Inaugural Columbus Blue Jackets jerseys. Not too terrible, but the logos with the accent neon green were a bit unsightly.