Black, Gold, and Blue: Ranking the Pittsburgh Penguins' Jerseys
As the first puck drop of the NHL season approaches, so does the highly advertised Winter Classic, headlined by the equally advertised Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
In continuation of the Winter Classic tradition, both the Capitals and Penguins will wear a third jersey to honor the event that commemorates hockey in its purest form. Both teams unveiled their Winter Classic logos on July 27 featuring logos from former jerseys.
Pittsburgh will be using a logo from its inaugural season in 1967.
With this nod to the past in tandem with the opening of the Consol Energy Center, I thought now would be a good time to take a look at the Pens' past jerseys. The good, the bad, and the really ugly.
For the record, I'm not differentiating between the home and away jerseys. The focus is on the basic design for the sake of avoiding redundancy. I am also factoring in the memories that are tied to the jersey.
Here's my ranking of the Penguins' jerseys.
This jersey is bringing up the rear simply because it's so nauseating to look at.
I should note that I am a Pittsburgh purist who believes that all professional Pittsburgh sports should wear black and gold as their official jersey, but I let it slide sometimes. Although, the fact that the Pens saw their worst hockey when wearing blue and white easily makes this group of jerseys the worst of the bunch.
The theme of the jersey has no sense of cohesion and a majority of the problem boils down to the color scheme.
Looking past the idea that I'm a big proponent of the black and gold colors, the bright blue fabric that is slapped with a yellow and black penguin crest on the chest shows me that the designers of this jersey had no concept of interweaving the palette of colors. After all, the Buffalo Sabres have almost the exact colors as this but their jerseys aren't a hot mess like this.
However, it looks as if the jersey was designed and then someone thought to add a black and gold penguin crest for fun. It's messily put together, but it does represent the introduction of the triangle penguin crest which is still used to this day with only a few minor changes.
In fact, the only aspect of the jersey that works is the penguin crest. I would even say that the Penguins organization should bring back this crest because I like the aggressiveness in the penguin's "eye."
The rest of the jersey can be tossed and I wouldn't bat an eyelash.
Pictured: 1974-1975 road jersey.
Notable players to wear the jersey: Syl Apps Jr., Pierre Larouche, Rick Kehoe, Dave Burrows, Greg Malone.
I affectionately call this time the Age of the Pigeon Penguin jersey.
This jersey was a change from the triangle penguin crest, but it was a step in the wrong direction. Does this style even look like it belongs on the body of an athlete, let alone a hockey player?
Now, I'm all for the penguin mascot, but we aren't trying to make National Geographic happy by accurately depicting a penguin that we would find in the South Pole or sitting on a four-year-old's bed.
Not what you would call intimidating.
Excluding the current jersey, this is the jersey I most associate with the Pens because I started watching them when these styles were worn. This was also the jersey the Pens wore in arguably one of the greatest games in Penguins' history (the quadruple overtime win against the Capitals in the 1996 playoffs).
In the end, like the previous jersey, the colors and design weren't doing it for me.
The random inclusion of the gray stripes and bronze that go from the crest to the back make it look as if the crest was bleeding. On top of that, the random striping transfers onto the sleeves which looks like two people with two different ideas couldn't make up their mind in terms of the design, so they compromised by each taking half of the jersey.
Again, it looks sloppy with too much random design.
The organization was right to toss this crest and bring back the triangle penguin.
Pictured: 1996-2002 alternate/road jersey.
Notable players to wear the jersey: Jaromir Jagr, Martin Staka, Alexei Kovalev, Darius Kasparitis, Ed Olczyk.
The first-ever Penguins jersey, and this is as simple as it gets.
Following the NHL's expansion, State Senator Jack McGregor's wife Carol not only came up with the team name, but the navy blue, Columbia blue, and white colors as well.
What I like most about this jersey is the "Pittsburgh" running diagonally down the chest.
This makes sense because the Pens' first coach, Red Sullivan, was an ex-Ranger who came up with the idea to run the city's name on the chest in such a way. I find it to be a clean design that screams old time, helmet-less hockey.
While I'm not fond of the blue, as previously stated, at least the blue makes some sense and shows some cohesion. Though in this sense, I think the darker blue would have been better suited to fill the jersey rather than the Columbia blue.
Putting the looks aside, there is something so special about this jersey because it was the first jersey that brought a beloved team to Pittsburgh.
No matter how ugly the jersey could have been, it holds that value of being the first which can never be taken away.
Lucky for us, it wasn't bad-looking at all.
Pictured: 1967-1968 road jersey.
Notable players to wear the jersey: Andy Bathgate, Val Fonteyne, Ken Schinkel.
1968-1972 Jerseys/2008 NHL Winter Classic Jerseys/2008-2010 Alternate Jerseys
After a season with the diagonal "Pittsburgh" across the chest, the organization adopted the circle crest that featured the triangle penguin used today. It was the first time the Pens made their mascot known on their jersey.
What makes this jersey truly different from the rest is that it is the only jersey with the words "Penguins" spelled out.
Before, I complained about how the blue, yellow, and white colors didn't work because it looked sloppily put together.
This is the perfect example of how to make those three colors work together.
The yellow isn't attempting to over-power the rest of the jersey, instead, taking a backseat while the powder and navy blue make the loudest statement on the jersey together. I also like how much white was incorporated to the color scheme so the jersey isn't just a mass of blues.
It's a very clean design and a simple one at that.
Of course, we all know that the Pens have a fond place in their hearts for this jersey because it was resurrected and tweaked ever so slightly when the Pens announced they would play in the 2008 Winter Classic.
Because I feel that jersey is so similar to this one, the memories of the terrible blues can be forgotten by watching Sidney Crosby's game-winning shootout goal that sealed the Winter Classic victory.
The Pens continue to use this jersey as their alternate throwback which has made appearances in 22 home and away games.
In its first full season of use in 2008-2009, the Pens went 3-5-2 in the games the jerseys were worn, giving the vibe that the jersey's claimed an unlucky curse of the past. Despite the concerns, the powder blue alternates are a fan favorite and many can be spotted wherever the Pens are playing.
Thoughts of a curse were quickly dropped when the Pens went 8-3-1 in 2009-2010 wearing the jerseys.
Pictured: 1968-1972 road jersey.
Notable players to wear the jersey: Jean Pronovost, Michel Briere, Les Binkley, Ron Schock.
I know I'm breaking my own rule by including this jersey since it's the road equivalent from slide two, but this style is a breath of fresh air that cannot be overlooked.
No blue colors and no monster pigeons on the chest.
In all seriousness, what makes this jersey ranked so high is that it has the right colors and a unique style that speaks to the city of Pittsburgh and the team itself. That's all I can ask for in a jersey.
The "Pittsburgh" across the chest is a nod to the Pens' first jersey and the team crest is patched on the shoulders. It's a shame that they stuck with the pigeon instead of the penguin on the shoulder or else this would have been nearly a perfect jersey.
I was advocating this jersey to become the Pens' next alternate jersey until I heard that Mario Lemieux was strictly against bringing back jerseys from successful seasons, especially the jerseys from the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup wins.
The Pens didn't win the Stanley Cup in 1993, but they put together one of the best teams in Pittsburgh history and won the President's Trophy. The group consisted of Mario Lemieux (who would be diagnosed with cancer halfway through the season), Jaromir Jagr, Larry Murphy, Ron Francis, Joey Mullen, Tom Barrasso, Kevin Stevens, and Martin Straka to name of few.
Regardless of the tragedy that took place in the playoffs, this was a fantastic season for the Pens and I feel it's necessary to honor the fact that they did have a good road jersey despite the awful home jersey.
Pictured: 1993-1998 road jersey.
Notable players to wear the jersey: See slide two.
If you're going to tune in to watch a Pens game, this is the jersey you will most likely see on the players.
After far too many years with the pigeon penguin, the organization smartly decided to bring back the triangle penguin as the team's crest with, of course, some changes.
The most obvious change was going from yellow to a more sheer-looking Vegas gold. The sheerness, however, comes from League-wide changes made in 2007 when the NHL and Reebok created a uniform system that featured technologically-enhanced materials and fabrics that were more breathable, more water-resistant, more comfortable, and more compatible with equipment.
In terms of design and hockey savviness, this jersey could easily be No. 1 if that was the only criteria.
This jersey goes further back than the current Pens roster we flaunt today. In a way, this jersey is similar to the blue curse jerseys because of the horrible times seen in the early 2000s.
But then the lockout came and so did our future greatness with players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal.
Of course, we can't forget that the Pens won their third Stanley Cup wearing this jersey in 2009.
This jersey represents the whole gamut of emotions for this team, going from league embarrassment to Stanley Cup Champions in a matter of seasons.
Pictured: 2007-present road jersey.
Notable players to wear the jersey: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan Malone, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sergei Gonchar, Gary Roberts, Brooks Orpik, Bill Guerin, Rico Fata.
Everyone had to see this one coming.
The jersey that lifted the franchise's first and second Stanley Cups back to back.
Although this jersey bears a striking resemblance to the current jersey, I feel this jersey is most representative of what we know and love about the Pens.
When I close my eyes and think about the successful 90s teams with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Ron Francis—they're wearing these jerseys.
It was the time of our beloved Badger Bob Johnson and, "It's a great day for hockey."
Most importantly, it was the time Pittsburgh came to truly love the Penguins.
The organization played its last game in blue and white jerseys on January 27, 1980 against the Bruins in Boston. From then on, the Pens became a part of Pittsburgh by taking on the black and gold, the city's colors that are present no matter where you are in the city.
Make no mistake, Pittsburgh is predominantly a football town. But because of Lemieux, the love of hockey displayed by the city isn't far off of the love for the Steelers.
Drafting him in 1985 was and forever will be the greatest thing to happen to this franchise. Lemieux helped rebuild a drab franchise and turn it into one that is ingrained in hard work, class, and appreciation for the fans.
It's this jersey that signifies all of that and more, making it the greatest jersey in the history of the Penguins.
Pictured: 1990-1991 jersey.
Notable players to wear the jersey: Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis, Paul Coffey, Bob Errey, Mark Recchi, Tom Barrasso, Randy Carlyle, Mike Bullard.