A Look at the NHL's Alternate Jerseys
After all of the league's home and away jerseys got makeovers before the 2007-08 season, this year has been the year for teams to unveil their new third jerseys. 18 teams unveiled official third jerseys over the course of the season, and the Winter Classic once again gave us two extra jerseys used exclusively for that game.
Some teams chose to make bold moves forward, while others decided to pay homage to the great teams of seasons past. Some jerseys are exciting, some are boring. Some are visually pleasing, some are far from it. But regardless of how your team's third jersey turned out, the designs—both new and old-inevitably get fans talking.
Pittsburgh first revealed this jersey at the 2008 Winter Classic, and officially adopted it as the team's third jersey in November 2008. The new uniform is similar to the throwback style that is becoming more and more popular in the NHL, with the circular logo in the center of the chest.
A similar jersey was worn by the team from 1968-72, which serves as proof that Pittsburgh had a pro hockey team before Mario Lemieux came along. The jerseys are sharp, but there is something unsettling about a sports team from Pittsburgh straying from the black and gold staple...
New York Islanders
Unlike the Penguins, the Islanders have always sported the circular logo on their jerseys, so this doesn't seem retro as much as it seems like...just another Islanders jersey. The lighter blue is a nice touch and tribute to the dominant Islander teams of the early '80s, but really, wouldn't it be nicer to focus on an homage that involved putting together a team that didn't hang out in the basement of the Atlantic Division?
It's not the color scheme that Isles fans get nostalgic about when they think of the '80s, it's the four consecutive Cups.
From the front, Philly's third jersey is kind of nice. The orange color scheme suits Mike Richards almost as well as it suited Bobby Clarke in the '70s. But apparently black words are hard to read on an orange background, and as a result a rectangular white nameplate graces the back of these jerseys.
It looks more like the jersey of a Little League team being sponsored by a corner market than it looks like a pro hockey jersey. Most Flyers fans acknowledge that orange is the true color of the Flyers, but this new jersey finishes a distant third behind the team's home black and road white uniforms.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs return to the third jerseys they used before RBK took over the jersey-making business. It's not an interesting jersey, and though the logo is a bit altered, I've personally never understood why the team bothers to wear a third jersey that looks so much like the road whites.
The normal jerseys look very similar to the jerseys of old, so perhaps something more modern would be appropriate. Or maybe a tribute to the city using the image of the CN Tower? Consult St. Louis for ideas.
Like the Pens, Buffalo first unveiled their third jerseys at the 2008 Winter Classic. The logo chosen by the organization was presumably the result of a successful game of Pictionary in which the designer was forced to draw "Buffalo Sabres" and managed to do so well that the team adopted the design.
Personally, I prefer these third jerseys to the standard home and away jersey, which merely seems to be the offspring of a bison and a San Diego Chargers helmet.
I'm not entirely sure what the Bruins were going for when they unveiled this new look. They already have a black jersey, and the logo just seems a little weak. I suppose this one is intended to look retro as well, but after a lot of promising concept designs, I just found myself disappointed with this result.
And come on, those yellow jersey with the bear head on the front were awesome. Why can't we see those again?
While most teams have been trying to get nostalgic for the past, Ottawa and a few other teams have gone the opposite direction. It's a bold move, in my opinion, to embrace the team's nickname and stitch it onto the jersey, but I like it.
I've always felt that the third jerseys should be a big step away from the regular home and away designs, and I think Ottawa nailed it.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Before we go giving Ottawa all the credit, let's acknowledge that Tampa Bay also went the route of making the team's nickname-the Bolts-an official part of their third jerseys. And, they pull it off with great results.
The unfortunate storyline for Lightning fans is that Vinny Lecavalier won't get to enjoy these new uniforms for very long.
Carolina was one of the first teams to release their alternates in 2008. They moved the shoulder patch logo to the chest and the chest logo to the shoulder and put it all on black.
I like the color scheme, and so does the rest of the league, because Carolina isn't the only team to use it on their alternates (I'm looking at you, Phoenix, Ottawa, and Chicago). But I have to admit, I think Carolina looks best.
Of all the third jerseys released over the course of the 2008-09 season, Atlanta's design is the most bold. The only comparable jersey template in the league comes out of Dallas, whose home black jerseys and alternate whites also display the team name in an arc over the player's number.
But Atlanta got more bold with the color scheme, something that Thrashers fans have gotten used to. If Kovalchuk's talented is going to be wasted in Atlanta, well, at least he looks good doing it. Even if nobody really gets to see...
Chicago's third jerseys are nothing special. Same logo as they've always had, same shoulder patch as the home and away jerseys, and basically the same design as the team's third jersey before the RBK Edge era.
Something a little bolder (following the designs that the Lightning or Thrashers chose) or more retro (like the team's Winter Classic jerseys) would have stood out. It just seems inappropriate to give a very boring look to a very exciting young team.
St. Louis Blues
Like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and a few others, St. Louis chose to go with the retro template in designing the team's third jersey. The circular logo features not only the signature music note, but also the Gateway Arch, a long overdo tribute to the city's biggest landmark.
Honoring the city that the team plays in is almost always a classy move, and the Blues are following in the footsteps of team likes the Red Wings (wheels as an homage to the city's motor vehicle industry) and the Rangers (the Statue of Liberty on the old alternates).
The Oilers return to their roots with their third jerseys, bringing back the design the team used in the days of Gretzky and Messier. Apparently the organization backed away from the daring design of the third jerseys released in 2001 that featured an oil droplet overtop of two gears.
Like the Blackhawks, these new third jerseys are too much like the normal home and away design. There's nothing wrong with a tribute to better days in Edmonton, but a little more creativity is always nice.
Perhaps no organization is more enthusiastic about new jerseys than the Vancouver Canucks. Historically, the team has experimented with a number of color schemes, logos, and jersey designs that range from aesthetically pleasing to just plain nauseating.
The switch to the RBK Edge jerseys at the beginning of the 2007-08 season brought another makeover for Vancouver, adopting the color scheme that the team used in the 1970s.
This year's third jerseys finish the job by bringing back the "stick-in-rink" logo. It's a comfortably tame design coming from a team that has brought us the orca logo, the flying skate logo, and that giant V logo that most of the hockey world would like to forget.
In my opinion, no team's jerseys were more negatively affected after the RBK Edge jerseys were released than the Stars.
The team's jerseys before 2007-08 were two of the best jerseys in the league, but apparently the new jersey designers were so distracted by the city's Romo-Jessica tabloid stories that they forgot to come up with a good idea for the team's new third jersey. There's something about "Hey, let's take the black jerseys and make them...(drumroll)...white" that comes off as lazy.
Atlanta has the same basic design in its alternate jerseys, but they managed to make it exciting. Dallas just made it look like the type of jersey you would design for a pickup street hockey team.
It's a good try, but it just lacks some sort of finishing touch. Maybe it's the logo, because we're just seeing the same coyote from a different angle. The left shoulder patch, which is a circular design with a paw-print in the center, might have done better as a center logo.
That being said, the team looks like a contender for the first time in years, so who am I to tell the team what to wear?
San Jose Sharks
The black jersey for San Jose is nothing new, as the team's three-jersey concept has been white-teal-black for most of its history. I think the new jersey's biggest pro is the fact that it minimizes the use of orange that the team adopted for the RBK Edge jerseys last year.
There is something about teal and orange that I find...unsettling. The Sharks should be teal, white, and black. With maybe some silver or gray. Orange is out of place, and I can only hope that this third jersey is a sign that the organization agrees.
I also like the shoulder patch on this uniform (which, of course, is the only part of the jersey that contains orange. Making me sound like a hypocrite).
Los Angeles Kings
The designer of the Kings' third jersey deserves perhaps the most credit of any third jersey designer. While most teams chose either retro/tribute jerseys (Edmonton, Philadelphia, etc.) or jerseys that seemed to look forward with unique designs (Atlanta, Tampa Bay, etc.), Los Angeles wears a perfect blend of historical and modern looks.
The color scheme is retro, bringing back the look that Gretzky wore when he scored No. 802, and the shape of the logo is also a throwback to logos past. But the jersey also includes the more modern crown and a sleek pattern of stripes.
And come on, black, white and silver is never going to go out of style.
Honorable Mention No. 1: Detroit Red Wings
I'm still unclear whether or not Winter Classic jerseys count as third jerseys. Obviously last year's WC uniforms became the alternates of the Pens and Sabres, but I get the impression that Detroit and Chicago don't (yet) consider these to be third jerseys.
Or fourth, in Chicago's case. Nonetheless, considering the team has never had an official third jersey before, Detroit made the Winter Classic jersey count. They didn't try to stray from the red and white, and the logo pays tribute to the Detroit Cougars of the 1920s and also looks similar to the logo of the city's baseball team, the Tigers. Because, as we all know, members of the cat family prefer old English fonts.
Honorable Mention No. 2: Chicago Blackhawks
Yes, Chicago fans got to spend twice as much money as the rest of us spent on new jerseys this year. And in my opinion, the Winter Classic jersey is the better of the two. It's a throwback to the old Hawks jerseys of the 1930s, a time when hockey had not yet found its way south of the Mason-Dixon line. However, they chose to leave out a dozen or so stripes, which is a good move.
Hopefully, Chicago will do a side-by-side between these jerseys and the boring black alternates and keep these for the 2009-10 season. Oh, fun fact: the jerseys that the Winter Classic paid tribute to are still older than the combined ages of the team's captain (Jonathan Toews) and alternate captains (Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith). Is the future bright in Chicago or what?
I realize that my opinions don't reflect the opinions of all (or many, for that matter). In fact, in gathering images for this article, I found a ranking of the alternate jerseys done by Phil Hecken.
Turns out, the author and I have almost completely opposing views of the jerseys. He likes the throwbacks of the Blackhawks, Oilers, and Flyers (he even likes those white nameplates) and he despises what the Hurricanes, Thrashers, Bolts and Sens have done.
So, whether you like tributes to old time hockey or prefer bold modern designs seems to dictate which jerseys you love and which jerseys disgust you. But either way, about a dozen teams are left to explore the option of a third jersey for next year, and this year's batch has given the rest of the league plenty of designs to contemplate.