Ranking the 5 Best NHL Outdoor-Game Jerseys

Cal GildartContributor IFebruary 18, 2021

Ranking the 5 Best NHL Outdoor-Game Jerseys

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    Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

    Nothing makes hockey fans drop the gloves faster than a jersey ranking. And when the NHL heads outdoors, the teams' looks draw almost as much attention as the game itself.

    On Saturday and Sunday, the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, and the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, respectively, are set to face off on the fairway of the 18th hole of the golf course at Edgewood Tahoe Resort on the shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada.

    Fans won't attend, but that won't be the most noticeable aspect of NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe. And considering commissioner Gary Bettman's typically euphemistic admission that the COVID-19 pandemic means the league's losses are "out of the M range and into the B," per ESPN's Emily Kaplan, it's also the most surprising aspect of 2021's outdoor games.

    There will be no special jerseys.

    Perhaps that's because each of the league's 31 teams has already introduced at least one new sweater this season. And granted, the four teams competing at Lake Tahoe will wear their recently released Reverse Retro jerseys (a nice bonus that means we get color vs. color Sunday). Still, there's a portion of the sport's fanbase lamenting the missed opportunity to add to their wardrobes.

    Thankfully, the league and its teams haven't been so reserved regarding fresh looks for the 29 outdoor games since the 2008 Winter Classic. Some should have only left the scrapbook after being ripped out and chucked in the bin (looking at you, Los Angeles Kings), but those misses are outnumbered to the extent that limiting a ranking to a top five is an arduous task.

    There's no accounting for taste when it comes to appraising a sweater. You've got to leave your color preferences, piping penchants and fandom at the door. But even taking all that into account, the list is subjective.

    B/R isn't taking the instigator penalty for this. If you're happy to, let us know why you wanna go in the comments section.

5. New York Rangers or Buffalo Sabres, 2018 Winter Classic

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    It would be criminal for either of these jerseys to not at least get a mention. The first Winter Classic after Adidas took over from Reebok as the NHL's uniform manufacturer is the most aesthetically pleasing in the event's history.

    The New York Rangers jersey is a quintessential yet unique look. The base-color hem recalls the design from 1978 to 1997, and the shoulder striping is a nice nod to the team's road jerseys. But the pared-down nature of the iconic diagonal wordmark and jersey numbers, white collar and bold, uninterrupted stripes pay tribute to New York's inaugural sweater.

    On the other side of the ice, the Buffalo Sabres were also sporting a stunning blend of historical and modern design. The striping is lifted from the team's 40th-anniversary alternative sweater, but despite being presented with a bold yoke, it looks crisp rather than busy. As for the coloring, is it a coincidence that the team ditched navy as its primary color for royal blue just a few years later?

    Toss a coin for fifth place. You're not wrong either way.

4. Minnesota Wild, 2016 Stadium Series

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    Craig Lassig/Associated Press

    The NHL's Stadium Series is responsible for most of the entrants in the sartorial wing of the outdoor-game hall of shame.

    But for their matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in February 2016, the Minnesota Wild showed that the apparent Stadium Series edict of simple, blocky designs can work. And then some.

    Minnesota opted for a forest-green base rather than the iron-range red of the contemporary home jerseys. The bold stripes work harmoniously and give instant brand recognition despite being far removed from the designs of the team's other sweaters at the time.

    As with the Sabres' reversion to royal blue from navy, you have to wonder whether the triumph of the Stadium Series look led to Minnesota's uniform refresh in 2017—that wheat-colored hem looks awfully familiar.

    The Wild were set to host the 2021 Winter Classic before its pandemic-related cancellation, robbing us of a design that's sure to be a conversation-starter (especially if they went the Reverse Retro route and tapped into the North Stars' history).

3. Washington Capitals, 2015 Winter Classic

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    Susan Walsh/Associated Press

    The standard-bearer for fauxback jerseys.

    The most recent Winter Classic between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators was a fetching contest between franchises paying homage to the teams of yesteryear from their areas. Dallas', in particular, would have been a contender for this list had it used the tan of the pants and gloves on the jerseys rather than white (or vice versa).

    But neither had that je ne sais quoi of the Washington Capitals' garb for the 2015 Winter Classic. With retro being the order of the day for the NHL's New Year's Day showcase and the Caps' history only dating back to 1974, the design team scoured the D.C. sports archives to create a look against which all other fauxbacks will be judged.

    It's clean, yet it's not boring. There are visually striking elements, yet it's not busy. It shouts "old-school hockey," yet it's timeless.

    The "W" of the logo, with its subtle nod to the Washington Monument, has been modified for use on the Caps' new third jerseys. Unfortunately, that's where the influence ends, as those uniforms otherwise take their lead from the team's 2018 Stadium Series getup.

2. St. Louis Blues, 2017 Winter Classic

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    At the onset of the team's 50th year of existence, the St. Louis Blues shifted to Busch Stadium for the 2017 Winter Classic in almost identical jerseys to those with which they took to the ice in 1967.

    The tweaks to the original design give the jersey an aged look to great effect, with a softer blue used as the primary color and cream replacing white.

    Some purists are well within their rights to argue that the striping on the arms should mirror the thickness of the stripes at the hem, but the designers clearly wanted to stay faithful to the original.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find anything else to question about this beaut of a sweater.

1. Montreal Canadiens, 2016 Winter Classic

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The problem with boasting arguably the most iconic design in the sport is that when it comes to making uniform tweaks, the spotlight is piercing. Fortunately for the Montreal Canadiens ahead of the 2016 Winter Classic, the designers were on their game.

    Winter Classic jerseys often have a retro bent or are outright historical replicas. And Montreal's fit for this game in Massachusetts perfectly married design elements from the team's rich history.

    The crew-neck collar screams vintage, while the red gives it a modern boldness. The logo is a copy of the one on the Habs' jerseys from when they won their first Stanley Cup of the NHL era in 1924, right down to the asymmetrical outline. And despite being road whites, the chest stripe is there.

    The futuristic numbering presents a small gripe in how incongruous it is, but even that seems to have a precedent in the font used during a four-year period starting in 1966 that saw Montreal pick up two Stanley Cups.

    Even those Habs fans who somehow weren't sold on these sweaters before the game will have a soft spot for them after they embarrassed the Boston Bruins 5-1 in Gillette Stadium.


    Eternal thanks to the NHL Uniform Database.