Friday, July 23, 2010

International hockey jerseys: the countdown!

As I mentioned in my Spurs kit review, I've got a thing for uniforms. Let's start off by looking at international hockey sweaters! The last major tournament was the 2010 Winter Olympics, so those are the uniforms I'll be analyzing. Thanks to for the great photos.
Nike made the jerseys for all twelve teams in the Olympics this year, so there are certain similarities between them. A number of the sweaters have the same name/number font, which happens to be the Vancouver Canucks' letter style... wonder if it's a coincidence, since that's where the Olympics were.

12. Switzerland (also wears a
red jersey)

All twelve uniforms are fairly solid, but Switzerland's is the weakest. The Swiss cross is on the left breast like a soccer shirt, but that doesn't work in hockey. They've got all this extra real estate to work with, but all they do here is put a little cross in the corner. A big cross emblazoned across the chest would have looked great. Otherwise, it's a fairly simple uniform which works because of the simplicity of Switzerland's flag.

11. Russia (also wears a white jersey)

Russia has a great crest: a two-headed eagle. I wish it was bigger. But the blue accents on the red uniform don't match well at all, and look very elementary. I also believe if you have a logo, like the eagle, you shouldn't have your country's name spelled out below it, because presumably the role of the crest is to represent your team, so the written name is redundant. However, I appreciate that the word "Russia" is spelled out in Russian, instead of in English. There's so much more potential for the sweater than this. A nice touch is the watermark on the sleeves and waist you can only really see close-up, and don't show up on TV (check the image above of the white jersey, it's easier to see there).

10. Norway (also wears a white jersey)

Norway's uniforms are interesting because they're one of only two teams at the tournament, along with Sweden, to have a lace-up collar. The blue stripes on the sleeves, waist, and socks are great; they're very Norwegian. In place of a logo is "NORGE" diagonal across the front of the sweater, New York Rangers style (bonus points for spelling it in Norwegian instead of English). It's a very classic look, but Norway isn't a country with a winning and storied hockey tradition, so it's puzzling why they'd go so old-school. A team like theirs should be looking toward the future with a more modern look. This one is smartly designed but falls a bit flat.

9. Czech Republic (also wears a red jersey)

Four teams so far, four red jerseys. I'm torn over the Czech Republic's sweaters. I should love them. They feature a great national crest--coats of arms are always a success with me, as they're both very symbolic of the team and they just look classy. The Czech crest stands alone without the country's name underneath, which is smart design. And the name/number font used on the uniforms is unique among international hockey teams. But there's just something about these sweaters that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Perhaps it's the striping, which seems very casually designed and of no real meaning to the team or country.

8. Slovakia (also wears a white jersey)

Naturally, after the Czech Republic comes Slovakia. Finally, a national team that doesn't wear red! This may be part of the reason I like Slovakia's sweaters so much. On top of that, the specific shade of blue used on the uniform is eye-catching. This is probably the best usage of Nike's standard hockey jersey template of any international team. The Slovak national crest is simple yet distinctive, works well with the rest of the uniform, and is thankfully devoid of the country's name spelled out underneath. My main issue with this uniform is that while it's a great execution of a modern jersey, it works a bit too well with Nike's template. There's nothing that makes Slovakia's jerseys stand out in the crowd besides the fact that it's blue.

7. Canada (also wears a red jersey)

I want to hate this jersey so badly. It's big, bad Canada. It's another team in red. Below the logo is the name of the country, which is redundant (although I can't complain about the language of the country name, since Canada is "Canada" in both English and French). But it's hard to think of anything I would change about Canada's sweaters; they are Team Canada. Many Canadians were super pissed they weren't allowed to use the Hockey Canada logo during the Olympics (since national hockey federation logos are considered advertisement), but this one is even better. If you look closely, it's beautiful. The numbering and lettering font is different from most other teams, very matter-of-fact and very Canadian. Most teams suffer from their white jersey being not nearly as great as their dark jersey, but Canada has two equally iconic sweaters.

6. Belarus (also wears a white jersey)

There are a couple obvious design red flags in Belarus' jersey. It features a crest as well as the country's name underneath, and the name is in English instead of Belarusian or Russian. But I love that this is the first uniform on my list that features a color other than red, white, and blue as a primary color: green. The team may not be very talented (in fact, it looks as if the goalie in the picture is lamenting after a goal has been scored against him), but green on an international hockey sweater is awesome. And I love the crest of Belarus: instead of a fierce animal or medieval shield, it's wheat. And flowers.

5. United States (also wears a white jersey and third jersey)

Like our Neighbors to the North, many Americans were pissed Team USA couldn't use the USA Hockey logo on their jerseys. I, however, think that's fantastic. The USA Hockey logo sucks. Instead, we've got a great lettermark reminiscent of the 1980 Miracle on Ice uniforms. The dark blue with red around the waist is patriotic without being cheesy about it. The Canucks lettering and numbering font looks better on the USA jersey than on any other international sweater. Plus, much like the Russian jersey, there's watermarking on the sleeves and waist that can't be seen unless you're up close. In addition, the white away jersey isn't just a color palette swap of the blue sweater, and looks solid in its own right. The third jersey is a throwback to the other gold medal-winning USA team, the 1960 squad. It's very Rangers-ey; I wouldn't want it to be the home or away sweater, but for a third, it's alright.

4. Finland (also wears a blue jersey)

Finland's sky blue jerseys are majestic. Click the link above--Icethetics hasn't posted pics of the blue uni yet, so my photo to the left is the inferior white sweater. The blue stands out and gets you thinking Finnish. The crest is ancient and righteous, and although the name of the country accompanies it, the name has better placement and font than on other teams' jerseys, and it's the Finnish "Suomi," not "Finland"--there have been Finland jerseys in the past with the country name in English, so I'm glad these ones are in the native tongue. With the exception of a certain other Scandinavian country that has yet to be named, no other international hockey team has such an immediate color association as sky blue and Finland.

3. Germany (also wears a white jersey)

Germany is a rising power in the hockey world, but their uniform speaks with authority. A striking black sweater with eagle detail watermarks on the sleeves, it's an instantly recognizable jersey. The German black eagle coat of arms looks great, and although the name of the country is below, once again, it's written in German, which is good. Some people think black is overused in the NHL these days, but on the international level, it's a unique color scheme which stands out in a world of red, white, and blue. Yellow also pervades Germany's uniform, adding another element not seen on many international jerseys. Recently at the World Championship in Germany, they began wearing an all-yellow third jersey which looks even better than the standard white away jersey; hopefully the yellow will replace the white soon.

2. Latvia (also wears a white jersey)

You wouldn't expect a little hockey country like Latvia to make the #2 spot on this list. But their beautiful maroon color and smart integration of the word "LATVIJA" (in Latvian) into the waist of the sweater complement perhaps the best coat of arms of any international hockey team, the silver and white going great with the maroon. Teams with a uniform of these colors are few and far between; I'd like to see it more. Coincidentally, a club team that does have this color scheme is the only KHL team based out of Latvia, Dinamo Riga. Nearly the entire Latvian national team comes from this one club team.

1. Sweden (also wears a blue jersey)

Was this ever in question? Sweden is the only major international team with a non-white light jersey. Instead, they've got the iconic yellow. Besides Norway, this is the only uniform with the classy lace-up neck. The Tre Kronor is a flawless logo, and coincidentally, there's no "SWEDEN" written below it. This is arguably the best uniform in all of hockey. Since the Swedish national team was founded in 1920, this uniform has been virtually unchanged. It's perfect. It flows better than the Team Canada uniform, it's more creative than the Montreal Canadiens uniform. I wish I had more to say about this uniform, but it's perfect.

I know the Olympics happened a while ago, but I won't get another chance to rank these uniforms until 2014! Sometime next week or so, I'll be ranking World Cup kits. That will have to be more than double the length of this entry. Epic.


  1. 1. Sweden
    2. Canada's Red Jersey
    3. Belarus's White Jersey
    4. Deutschland
    5. USA's White Jersey & 3rd Jersey
    6. Norge
    7. Latvia
    8. Russia
    9. Switzerland
    10. Suomi

  2. 11. Slovakia
    13. Czech Republic.


  3. As much as I would love to support Deutschland's jersey, it's very typical of German jerseys. In fact, it's very similar to almost every World Cup/Euro Jersey the nation has ever worn. If I had to do a ranking, it would be:

    2. Belarus
    3. United States
    4. Russia
    5. Latvia
    6. Deutschland (uber alles minus the above)
    7. Finland
    8. Canada
    9. Slovakia
    10. Czech Republic
    11. Switzerland
    12. Norway

    You're probably wondering why I bumped Norway down to last, but in my opinion their jersey is the bastard child of the jerseys of the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers. It also could be related to the Russian Jersey, as very little separate them, but ultimately I have to give the nod to the Russians for the better-looking version of the two.

  4. I don't want to rank all of them, but I've personal biases towards Deutschland and Der Schweiss. You can hate for having it be the same jersey, but the reason that the Deutschers haven't changed their uniform is because it works. Suisse's was strikingly simple but effective.

  5. You have to admit that the Russians wore some pretty sweet socks.

  6. Nice ranking :) I prefer the blue "Tre Kronor"-jersey tough.
    Some fun facts: in the early 80`s, maybe even late 70`s, Team Sweden had a big sponsor who´s logo (stylized "S") together with the words "Tre kronor Sweden" replaced the three crowns, and if I remember it correctly there was a year or two with a polar bear (also a sponsor logo) on the crest. But after a campaign among fans and media the tree crowns (wich represent the foundation of Sweden as a country) returned in the mid 80`s.

    Apart from loving the Tre Kronor-jersey, I like the German jersey because it resembles my favorite teams jersey in the SEL.

  7. Good stuff, Jake - I'm a bit of a jersey nerd, myself. Only thing I'd change would be to put Germany in second, and Norway's much higher :).

    Additionally, the uniforms United States wore in the group stage game against Canada were infinitely better looking than the regulars and deserve some sort of a shoutout.

    Now we need a multi-part ranking of the NHL jerseys!

  8. Thanks for all the comments!

    Calvin: I think it's good that Germany's soccer and hockey teams have the same look as each other, they go well together.

    whitermage: You think Switzerland's current uniform looks better than if they had a giant cross in the middle of the chest?

    VTcaps: A lot of people dislike vertical stripes on socks!

    SwedeTom and Chris: I'll do an NHL uniform list when the NHL season starts in October, since some teams have new jerseys this season. Until then, I'll be doing rankings of World Cup kits, MLS kits, and English Premier League kits.

  9. I actually love Russia's jersey. If they got rid of blue it would remind people of this: which I think they want to avoid on some level.

  10. Definitely think it looks better than if they'd had a giant cross in the middle of the chest. It's just classy looking. Is it top 5? Eh, maybe not. But it definitely looks sharp. Also spelled Schweiz wrong. Oh well.

  11. The best looking sweater would definitely have to be the USA sweater! Nothing compares to the great look of the red, white and blue!

  12. I think Finland's blue shirt is the best. Its represents nature of Finland. The Land of Thousands Lakes and the Santa Claus' home country.

  13. I still have to say the 1996 world cup of hockey USA jersey is the best jersey I have ever seen.