Grading the NHL Reverse Retro Jerseys
I’m back with a non-writing post! And it’s…a sports post?
Shit. What’s that sound? I’m pretty sure it was 85% of my readers simultaneously deleting my blog post from their email, closing out of this tab, or switching to an adult video site. In which case, thank you for visiting, do come again.
For the next to none of you still here, we’re going to talk hockey jerseys. On November 16th, the NHL released throwback jerseys for each of the 31 teams currently in the league. This series, called the Reverse Retro series aimed at remixing classic jersey designs fans love. Granted not every team is old enough to have a retro jersey — looking at you Minnesota1We’ll come back to this one., Columbus, Nashville, and Vegas. But the idea was solid regardless.
Because it’s been a while since I’ve done a true sports post on this blog, I thought we’d take a look at all 31 jerseys and rank give them grades and ranks. If you want to see the full announcement thread from the NHL, click here. In this list, I’ll follow the standard A-F grading system. I also will not be curving the grading scale, so if there are a lot of jerseys I really like, you’ll see a lot of A grades. Full disclosure going into this post: I’m a Blue Jackets fan, though I’ve been known to root for the Sharks, Avs (both pre-Jackets existence), and Golden Knights (because I like them) as well.
Alright. Let’s start by hitting the two jerseys that I objectively like but have mixed feelings about. Both Carolina and Colorado used to be other teams — the Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques, respectively. As representations of those teams, both of these jerseys are fine, though I would have preferred to see a green Whalers jersey and a sky blue Nordiques jersey, respectively. That said, both of these teams have retro looks they could have gone with that stayed true to their current team. I get the argument a bit more in Carolina’s case, as the single flag jersey was just retired in 2018, whereas the Avs ditched the diagonal Colorado on crimson jerseys in 2007. They’re fine nods to the history of the NHL, but aren’t good fit here — especially when there are two examples of teams who handled this better later in the list.
F: Retro Best Left in the Past
Calgary, NY Rangers, St. Louis, Winnipeg
When your name is the St. Louis Blues, having a red jersey is bad. The goal here is an homage to their 1995-1998 home jerseys, but those were also bad. And yet we somehow made them worse by making them even more red. I’m probably the only person that doesn’t like the Rangers’ Lady Liberty jersey or the Flames’ Blasty jersey, so I’m willing to admit that ranking them here is personal bias2To be fair to the Flames in particular, I don’t know what else they could have done, especially since they revived one of the best hockey jerseys ever by bringing back the yellow-outlined C in 2018.. Winnipeg’s jersey choice is just…strange. I love the old Jets logo, but the rest of the jersey looks awful. It might be the worst one of the whole bunch.
D: Fine as a One-Off, But Stick to Your Main Jerseys
Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles, Vegas, Washington
I know I’ll get flack for this, but the Mighty Ducks era of Anaheim hockey might have given us the worst jerseys in pro sports history — and yes, I’m counting the bumblebee Steelers’ uniforms. People love that era, so I get paying homage to it, but it’s still tacky. Same goes for the giant eagle on Washington’s kit and the purple-and-gold Kings uniforms3The Kings wore this color combination for their first 21 years of existence. That said, no one remembers it because it occurred pre-Wayne Gretzky.. The Kings in particular missed out on having a throwback to the single weirdest third jersey I’ve ever seen. Dallas’s jersey isn’t too bad, but when you follow these beauties with an all-white number, it’s disappointing. Vegas’s jersey pays homage to the city’s minor league hockey past, which I love as an idea. That said, such jerseys are typically one-off affairs.
C: Pretty Much What You’d Expect
Boston, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Everything in this grouping is a jersey color combo that you’d see if you asked the average fan to make a jersey for these teams. The best of the group is Boston’s all-yellow kit, but it’s not enough to bump it up a letter grade. Detroit, Edmonton, and Toronto must have co-designed their jerseys with a theme of “what if our current jerseys were more boring?”. Tampa and Nashville highlighted their franchise’s best years. You’d think Florida would have done the same, particularly since it’s been almost 25 years since they went to their lone Stanley Cup final, but instead they chose the dark blue jerseys from an era where they were very, very bad.
B: Not So Bad
Arizona, Buffalo, Columbus, NY Islanders, Ottawa
Let’s lead off by hitting the obvious one that’s going to generate some strange looks. Columbus’s red jersey is WEIRD. Considering they’ve never worn a red jersey as a primary or secondary jersey, seeing this in a retro line is just odd. I don’t hate it though. Arizona took a leap of faith going with a purple jersey — and it works. Granted, it takes A LOT of work to get a purple jersey not to look stupid and even more to get it to look good without yellow as your secondary color. In fact, only one other team has consistently pulled it off over time. But this jersey is pretty good. Buffalo’s sabre design is simple, but considering the terrible jerseys Buffalo has had over the years, this is a positive. You could pretty much use the exact same sentence I just said to describe the Isles’ jerseys historically. Ottawa’s shift to their old logo is a nice touch, but the fact that their retro jersey is red is a bit odd to me. Yes, 2020 will be the first season Ottawa didn’t use red as their primary sweater color since 1997, so having it as the third jersey makes sense. But…not as a retro jersey.
A: Stellar Sweaters
Chicago, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Vancouver
Four of these jerseys are just sharp. Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Jose basically just took jerseys that were already good and did their best not to fuck them up. They succeeded. Let’s talk about the other two now. Vancouver has a history of making some poor choices with their jersey design. While I am partial to any jersey that uses blue and green together well, the Canucks would have been the one team I could have seen screwing even that up somehow. And they almost did here, taking one of their worst designs ever (their 2001-2006 abomination of a third jersey) and just replacing red with green. And…it works? I’m just as confused as you are. Meanwhile, Minnesota decided to lean HARD into the fact that the Minnesota North Stars used to play there, co-opting their color scheme and using it on the Wild jersey design. It’s awesome. The only reason it’s not in our last category is that I’m sure rebranding would be much more complex for the Wild than the two teams below — you know, since the Stars still exist. But think about it.
A+: Scrap Your Current Threads in Favor of These
Montreal, New Jersey
Do you know how long I’ve wanted to see the Habs wear a primarily blue jersey? I’ve created alternate jerseys for them in every NHL game I’ve had since being a kid to give them a blue jersey. It just looked better in my mind. And we’re finally getting it. As for New Jersey, I love the Santa Devils look. If nothing else, can we please have New Jersey play on Christmas Day every year wearing these jerseys?