Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2013 NHL jersey rankings

I wrote about changes in hockey jerseys this year, but I've never done a full NHL ranking of team sweaters. With a return to clean, classic looks being the new trend in jersey design, the NHL is looking better than ever 2013. This season is the most stagnant in a long time, uniform-wise, so it's the perfect opportunity to start my list. Without further ado:

30. Chicago Blackhawks

Hardcore hockey fans are always partial towards the sweaters of Original Six teams, and many folks in the hockey community point to this jersey in particular as the pinnacle of jersey aesthetics. I think it's absolutely atrocious. It's a boring sweater with no clear color scheme and an even more boring away jersey. But more importantly, it's racist. Defenders of the Blackhawks will say it's not nearly as incendiary as other Native American-named sports teams, like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins. They even say it's "respectful." But how would you feel if there were a team called the Chicago Zulus, with a "respectful" cartoon tribal leader as its primary logo? In the 21st century, it's unacceptable. And unlike some other Native American-named teams, the Blackhawks have an easy way out: they could change the logo without changing the name, and "Blackhawks" could literally refer to birds rather than to an ethnic group of humans.

29. Anaheim Ducks

Chicago racism aside, this is by far the ugliest jersey in hockey and Anaheim knows it. They take every chance they can get to wear their slightly more colorful third jersey, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the third jersey become the new home jersey in a couple years. Even when I went to the Ducks home opener this year, more fans at Honda Center were wearing the third jersey than the home one. The home jersey has no personality, and the boring wordmark is too small to read from far away.
It frustrates me that all three California NHL teams feature predominantly black jerseys. Of all places to not wear black, you'd think it'd be California. The Ducks wear orange as a reference to Orange County where they play, which I'd like to see more of. And with the shoulder patch on their third jersey, they're even beginning to hint at their classic Mighty Ducks look. Perhaps it's a sign of things to come.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets

Of course a team called the Blue Jackets has to wear blue. And the incorporation of the unique Ohio flag is a nice touch. But the shoulder/sleeve yoke on this jersey is straight out of the 1990s. There's nothing really compelling about this sweater or logo at all. Why is the Ohio flag wrapped around a star? There are already stars on the Ohio flag. It's pointless. It's unique that Columbus is one of the few sports teams trying to evoke the Union army in the American Civil War with its name, so I wish they would capitalize on the Civil War aspect a bit more. The shoulder patch is a step in the right direction, and the third jersey is a great rethinking of the Blue Jackets concept. One of Columbus' nifty hockey traditions is firing a Civil War-era cannon whenever the Blue Jackets score, and this third sweater incorporates the cannon into the team identity, much like Arsenal in soccer. More of this, please.

27. Dallas Stars

I suppose this incredibly bland design is meant to be an homage to college hockey uniforms, but it doesn't click in Dallas. It gets points for being unique, but it's not good either. Remember when I said teams in California shouldn't wear black? Texas doesn't seem like a black-shirt sort of place either. And while Dallas' official team color is predominantly green, we unfortunately see virtually no green here. It's a shame, since green is the most underrepresented color in the NHL today.
I expect the Stars to be a little higher on this list next year, as they've already officially announced they'll be revamping their look for the 2013-14 season with green as the primary color! I'm not sure what they'll do about their logo, but I actually like their alternate Texas logo a lot. I hope it stays in some capacity.

26. Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers' uniforms are lightyears ahead of where they were a couple seasons ago. Although I think a few too many NHL clubs wear red, the red looks better than the blue the Panthers wore before. And although in general I hate the sleeve-length yoke, it looks better on Florida's jerseys than probably any other team with this misguided design choice.
My main problem with Florida is the logo. The aggressive leaping panther looks like it would be more at home on a football team jersey than a hockey jersey. Hockey is a more modest sport, and all the best hockey logo designs are minimalist and iconic. The panther doesn't really do it for me. The team's discontinued third jersey had a slightly better panther head logo, one which I'd rather see on the primary jerseys than the leaping panther.
While I appreciate that Florida wears warm-weather colors, they haven't really developed a color scheme yet. I guess the colors are red and blue and gold and white. The panther logo with too many colors is partially to blame for this. I'd like to see the team incorporate gold a little more into their color scheme to give them a more distinct red/gold/blue look.

25. Winnipeg Jets

The NHL's newest club has some of its most least attractive uniforms. The Winnipeg Jets logo is meant to be a fighter jet on top of the Royal Canadian Air Force roundel, but the red maple leaf just makes the jet look like it's exploding.
But it's not the worst logo. And the jersey itself doesn't do anything wrong. But the dark blue is pretty unremarkable--the little touches of light blue stand out, and make me wish the whole jersey would feature more of it.
I wonder how long it'll be before Winnipeg inevitably phases in its original jersey as the new "throwback" uniform.

24. Carolina Hurricanes

Some people make fun of Carolina's "toilet bowl" primary logo, but I don't really have a problem with it. It's not fantastic, but it's serviceable. I really enjoy the hurricane warning flag pattern along the waist of the jersey, and I've often wondered if the Hurricanes' italicized number/letter font is a reference to the team's location in the NASCAR-loving South. The team color scheme is decent, but there seem to be a few too many teams wearing red in the NHL.
The team's black third jersey has been popular with fans, featuring the secondary hurricane warning flag logo. But if we're being nitpicky, the real-life hurricane warning flag is two flags. If Carolina could somehow fix this, their jerseys would be that much better.

23. Colorado Avalanche

Colorado has one of my favorite color schemes in the NHL, and they get bonus points for coordinating it with other Colorado sports teams like the Rockies and the Rapids. The burgundy (or is it maroon?) and steel blue look great together. It's just a shame they've got that '90s shoulder/sleeve yoke, and a subpar logo. Why is it an "A"? For Avalanche? I firmly believe the letter(s) in a team logo should be for the team's city or state, not for its team name. I get that the A is easier to create an "avalanche" with than a C, but they still could've come up with something better. The Bigfoot shoulder patch is a nice touch, though.
I love Colorado's third jersey. Some say it's too much of a ripoff of the Rangers' "diagonal lettermark" jerseys, but the shade of blue looks fantastic, and we don't have to look at the ugly Avalanche primary logo or the sleeve yoke from their other sweaters.

22. Minnesota Wild

It saddens me to put Minnesota so low on this list. Their home jersey is a work of art, and their baseball-style third jersey is just as good. Plus, it incorporates the under-appreciated jersey color of green. But the super-1990s away jersey leaves a terrible taste in my mouth, and while some people have praised the Wild's optical illusion "wild animal" logo, I think it's pretty cheesy. Ten-year-old me would've thought it was mind-blowing, but considering how classy their uniforms are, it's joltingly juvenile.
I have hope for the away jersey, at least! Rumor has it they'll replace it next season.

21. Nashville Predators

I wrote earlier about how hockey and "aggressive predatory animal" mascots don't mix. The Nashville Predators still have an unfortunate name, but their jerseys are as classy as can be after a revamp last season. They became the only team in the NHL with a yellow jersey. They originally had the same problem the Florida Panthers have, that they didn't have one clear color scheme. And they totally fixed that with this sweater. The "predator" logo isn't great, but it's better than it was before, and just about everything else on this jersey is perfect. The color is superb, and I love the guitar pick shoulder patch reflecting Nashville's status as a music town. There's even a piano pattern on the inside of the collar, and the jersey numbers have guitar strings going through them. The three stars on the guitar pick shoulder patch are a reference to the Tennessee state flag, which I love as a flag enthusiast.
Overall, making the most of a subpar mascot! I only wish they would use this totally badass sabertooth tiger skull alternate logo as their primary crest.

20. Calgary Flames

Strange that the Calgary Flames inherit their name from their predecessor Atlanta Flames, who were named after the burning of Atlanta during the American Civil War. Calgary has seemed to turn this "Flame" identity into a reference to the huge oil industry in Western Canada, with the red/yellow/black color scheme of gas tanks.
As a flag enthusiast, I enjoy Calgary's usage of the Canadian flag on one shoulder and the Alberta provincial flag on the other. But I can't help but think the team's original look (without black in the color scheme) is brighter and better--and the team knows this, as they wear a throwback sweater as a third jersey.

19. Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators have a pretty awesome mascot to work with--a Roman general. But they haven't been able to establish any sort of solid identity with the Senator logo. When I look at the Senators' jerseys, my overriding reaction is... indifferent. Their primary sweaters aren't bad, but they're just... eh, average. It falls into the middle of the pack of NHL teams wearing red.
However, the team has recently started using a throwback jersey with a big "O" logo and red/white/black striping. It's sweet. I wish they would make this their home jersey. It would be a huge departure, but hey, the Canadiens have an equally minimalist primary uniform and everyone loves it.

18. New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils organization feels strongly about never changing their jersey, because they think it's just a money grab for merchandising. I respect that. And their jerseys are pretty boring, but they get the job done. A boring, reliable uniform for a boring, reliable team. It fits perfectly.
It never occurred to me until my girlfriend pointed it out to me a couple years ago that the "NJ" devil logo looks like a woman with large breasts. The devil horns are like the outline of her boobs, and the "NJ" shape is like she's sitting tantalizingly with one leg up. Do you see it? Once you see it, you can't un-see it. I'd like to think this was done on purpose by the Devils to capitalize on the devilish aesthetic, but it's probably just a coincidence.

17. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins are my most-hated team, but they've got perhaps my favorite logo in hockey. It's a cartoon penguin! Not a particularly edgy or aggressive penguin. Just a cartoon penguin. For a professional sports team in 2013, that's awesome.
The jerseys themselves are pretty unremarkable. I think everyone wishes they would abandon that pale gold color in favor of classic bright yellow, like they wore in the 1980s. I would have to swallow my pride and put them higher on the ranking if the Penguins did that.

16. Phoenix Coyotes

The Phoenix Coyotes may be the most derided team in the NHL. Their misunderstood, brilliant original jerseys were works of Southwestern art, and their current uniforms are more conservative but still solid. The brick red and sand color scheme fits the team's location, and they're able to pull off the "predatory animal" mascot without it seeming juvenile. The away jersey looks great with the brick-colored shoulder yoke.
Rumor has it the team may be renamed the Arizona Coyotes in the near future. After all, they play in Glendale, not Phoenix, Arizona. I'm generally not a fan of teams named after states rather than cities, but since they don't actually play in Phoenix, it's a little more excusable.

15. Tampa Bay Lightning

There was a big hubbub around Tampa Bay's uniform reboot prior to last season. They thankfully put an end to their status as "yet another warm-weather team wearing black," and tried upgrading to a more mature look. What resulted was... the Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, with a bit of Detroit Red Wings influence.
In all seriousness, the Lightning's new look is a bit boring but very smart. I would've preferred a perfectly circular primary crest rather than an Incredibles oval logo, but the two-tone blue/white color scheme (with a few black touches) makes Tampa Bay seem like a big boy club, rather than a quirky nontraditional-market hockey team.

14. San Jose Sharks

I've said I don't like hockey teams with aggressive predatory animal mascots. And I don't like the Sharks' name or logo. But it fits them perfectly. And in a nice change of pace, they're the only California NHL club to wear a nice summer color in their home jerseys rather than black. The teal is pretty epic for the Sharks. Unfortunately, San Jose still gives in to the trend and wears an all-black third jersey. But I'll pretend that one doesn't exist. For the most part, their aggressive teal shark look with orange accents reminds me of every ten-year-old boy's dream. And that's righteous. Also, Street Sharks.
One thing that bothers me about the Sharks' primary uniform is the shoulder patches. They're sharks. Their primary crest is a shark. And their shoulder patches are sharks, too. Isn't that a bit redundant?

13. Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have toyed a lot with their look over the years, and it's become more stable over the last few seasons but that doesn't mean fans are totally satisfied. The current orca sweater is very well-designed, but fans seem to want the throwback third jersey with the stick-in-rink logo to replace it. I don't know if I'm sold on that--yes, it's more "classic," but it's also much more lifeless.
Something I do enjoy from the third jerseys, however, is the excellent Johnny Canuck "V" shoulder patch. I would love it if Vancouver were bold enough to make a modified version of this their primary logo, with ice skating lumberjack Johnny Canuck as the new team mascot.

12. Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings can't decide what their color scheme is. They've got two unique schemes to choose from: the gold & purple look from their Lakers tie-in early days, or the black & white look from their Gretzky years. For a few years they tried to meet both color schemes halfway and use a black/white/purple look. The team has recently switched over to this all-black/white look and subsequently won the Stanley Cup, so they'll probably be sticking with this one for a while. I say California teams shouldn't wear black, but of any team that currently wears it, L.A. makes the most sense.
But the Kings are always eager to whip out their vintage purple/gold threads for a few games every year, and it looks great! I wish they would promote this throwback jersey to full third-jersey status.

11. Washington Capitals

Yes, perhaps I'm a little biased when it comes to this particular hockey club. But the Capitals' current threads are a successful re-imagining of the team's original look (the original look lives on today in the Caps' third jersey). It's able to look both modern and classic at the same time. The "Weagle" shoulder patch with the Capitol dome in the negative space is brilliant, and of course, the red/white/blue color scheme is befitting of a team playing in the capital of the United States. The three stars above the primary crest is a nice reference to the D.C. flag.
But my favorite touch, however, may be the fact that the "capitals" wordmark is ironically in all lower-case letters.

10. St. Louis Blues

The Nashville Predators aren't the first NHL team with uniforms revolving around music. The wonderful "Blue Note" adorns St. Louis' bright blue sweaters. A bit of unnecessary modern piping and an unusual dark blue shoulder yoke are the only things tarnishing this blue and yellow charmer.
It puzzles me why so many fans seem to think the Blues' third jersey is superior. It's a well-designed sweater, but it's nowhere near as good as their primary uniform.

9. Buffalo Sabres

Speaking of blue and yellow... after an unfortunate series of sweaters from 1996 through 2010, Buffalo finally returned to its classy original look. The very literal eponymous "Buffalo and sabre"logo may be my favorite in hockey. With that said, I could do without the modern gray piping up the sides of the jersey and the strange armpit stains beneath the sleeves. The away sweater looks great but the dark shoulder yoke and circular logo make it look like the Boston Bruins from afar. It's also a shame the Sabres stopped wearing their retro third jersey from last year, with a superior bright blue color scheme that makes me wish the home jersey would use that same shade.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

There's not much to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs sweater. It's... maple leaves (leafs?). It irks me that there's a maple leaf on the front of the jersey as well as on both shoulders. Isn't that maple leaf overkill? Oh well. Other than that, this is a classic Original Six look that I don't anticipate will be changed in any real capacity in the near or distant future, other than maybe switch the modern primary leaf style with the more retro leaf they've worn on throwback sweaters recently.

7. Montréal Canadiens

Truth be told, you could say this uniform is one of the most boring on the whole list. But the sweater of the oldest team in the NHL has remained nearly unchanged in its century-long existence, and something has to be said for that. The white away jersey is nearly as famous as the red home jersey, which is pretty awesome as well. If it weren't for this sweater, there probably would be no other hockey sweaters for me to rank.
Most of all, Montréal's uniform is great because it inspired one of the most iconic Canadian children's books and subsequent animated short film. Rock Carrier's The Hockey Sweater is so important to Canada that a quote from it is on their five-dollar bill.

6. Boston Bruins

Boston has had the same look for decades, and there's a reason for that. The "spoked B" is iconic, the striping is just enough, the color scheme is solid, and the yellow shoulder yoke keeps the black sweater from looking too dark. There's nothing unnecessary in this uniform. Unfortunately, the away jersey looks incredibly boring by comparison.
The great shoulder patch is a reference to the team's original 1924 bear logo, although the third jersey featuring this as the primary crest seems a bit redundant. But the Bruins' flawless home jersey makes up for all of it.
It's a shame the NHL requires teams to wear white away jerseys. I wish they could adapt their gold Winter Classic jersey into their away jersey.
But hey, at least they're not still wearing this third jersey.

5. New York Islanders

After a few years of dillydallying with inferior designs, the New York Islanders have harkened back to their  glory years with their current look. The team's colors are vivid, and the thick striping sets the Islanders apart from all the other teams with stripes all over their sweaters.
The Islanders have always been the Long Island NHL club, while the Rangers have been the New York City team. It'll be interesting to see what the Islanders do when they move to Brooklyn in 2015. Name change and uniform change like the newly-minted Brooklyn Nets in the NBA? The look is so beloved by fans that I can't imagine much changing, but their nice new arena in Brooklyn will help the team out a ton. Maybe a new third jersey though.
Speaking of their third jersey, the only reason the Islanders aren't higher on this list is their atrocious third jersey introduced last year. It's worse than the Anaheim Ducks home jersey. Good thing it's only a third jersey.

4. Edmonton Oilers

Speaking of "blue and orange teams with circular logos," we've got the Edmonton Oilers! After a few years of dillydallying with inferior designs, Edmonton has harkened back to its Wayne Gretzky glory years with their current look. Although some people think the Oilers logo is a bit dated at this point with the goofy melting letters, I think it fits perfectly with oil-rich Alberta. The team's colors are vivid, and the thick striping sets Edmonton apart from all the other teams with stripes all over their sweaters. The stripes look particularly great on the collar, something not seen in any other current NHL get-ups.
The colors even look great on the team's away jersey!

3. New York Rangers

It's a little predictable to (mostly) put all of the Original Six teams really high up on this list, but they all warrant it. Their jerseys have stayed the same after all these years for a reason.
The New York Rangers' sweater is unique because their team logo appears nowhere on it. Instead, we get the "RANGERS" lettermark diagonal across the front of the jersey. Strange that there's also a baseball team and a soccer team named Rangers, both of which also use blue as their primary color, with red and white as secondary colors. Neither of them use their primary logos on their uniforms, either. I wonder why that is.
The red hockey pants and the striping on the Rangers' away jersey are a bit goofy, but I can overlook that because it's such a seminal sweater.

2. Philadelphia Flyers

It pains me to put the hated Philadelphia Flyers at #2 on the list. But they've got an A+ logo, an A+ unique bright color scheme, and really don't need to change their design anytime soon.
Philadelphia finds a way to pull off the shoulder yoke and make it look excellent. It may look even better on their white away jersey. The Flyers are the only team able to successfully pull off an all-orange look, without it looking super tacky.

1. Detroit Red Wings

This is without a doubt the greatest sweater in hockey. The logo is simple yet perfectly fitting for the city it represents. There is absolutely nothing extra added, so much that there aren't even any colors involved in the uniform other than red and white. The away jersey looks classic too with the red sleeves. There's a reason Detroit hasn't really messed with this design since 1932.
There's nothing you can say to detract from this sweater. Every hockey jersey aspires to be this jersey. The Detroit Red Wings are a class-act hockey organization, and their uniform reflects it.


  1. pretty stupid list, and your writing style sucks too

  2. racist?.. your a fucking douchebag. Ya loser

  3. gonna love it when the blackhawks hoist the cup in that jersey this year,.

  4. How does this clown have Chicago at 30

  5. you're a fucking idiot. #30 is considered the best jersey in sports by...everyone.