Everything old is new again in the NHL, at least when it comes to team uniforms.

This was definitely evident in Saturday night’s Los Angeles Kings/Vancouver Canucks game.  Both teams wore retro uniforms in order to celebrate the Canucks’ 40th anniversary.  The jerseys went as far as to exclude the nameplates from the players backs, just like it used to be.  Jonathan Quick even wore brown pads and a mask with ears painted on it to complete the look.

At least this time there was a reason for the retro jerseys.

Too often recently have NHL teams simply gone back in time and unveiled that their “new jerseys” were actually going to be their “old jerseys.”  You can see it around the league, from Philadelphia to Edmonton and in numerous spots in between.

The retro jerseys look nice, but there’s something to be said for the lack of creatively on display here.  It’s one thing to put on a period uniform to celebrate an anniversary like the Canucks did on Saturday night or the Canadiens did for far too long to celebrate their 100th, but it’s another thing entirely to switch back to an older jersey design simply because your current one isn’t very popular.

And yet this is happening across the NHL.  The Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers started with retro third jerseys before jumping all the way in and switching their primaries to an older look.  The Flyers and Islanders even created “new” road jerseys in the same retro style as their home uniforms.

The Calgary Flames turned their 30th anniversary throwback into their third.  The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks started with retro jerseys in the Winter Classic, but soon those jerseys became their alternates as well.

Again, it’s not the jersey styles that are the problem here.  It’s the complete lack of creativity on display.  It seems like every time a team wants to sell more jerseys or cheer up their fanbase, they revert to an older design.

Teams like the Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and a few other teams have gone about embracing the retro craze in a much more creative way.  They’ve produced jerseys that look vintage, but are actually new designs.  This is the perfect way to blend the past into the present.

Are there too many retro jerseys in the NHL, or is the league simply correcting some of the horrific design errors of the 1990s?  Yes, the retro jerseys generally look great – and they’re much better than “SENS” or “BOLTS” – but you have to think that NHL teams could do better than rehashing old designs.

Comments (9)

  1. I think you’re off-base here – with the Oilers / Flyers / Islanders, the move away from the jerseys was built off a misguided attempt to “modernise” the uniforms. While I actually liked some of the newer designs – the Flyers all-black certainly looked neat, and the Oilers’ road blue-and-bronze was nice – they screamed of test-marketed designs.

    The Oilers in particular always galled me, as the orange was what set them apart and it’s not as though they were the only team in sports to sport such a colour (EG the disastrous mustard-yellow Preds 3rd).

    But in citing the Sabres re-design, you skipped over the best of the bunch – the Kings’ proposed white version of their all-black jersey, which in and of itself was one of the best looks rolled out in the past couple of years. Sure, it took fans practically breaking into Luc Robitaille’s office to get a glimpse, but those are a great example of a fresh look with traditional colours, moreso than the weird Sabres jerseys.

  2. I see this as less over-doing the retro craze and more correcting the design mistakes of the past. In many cases, there was no good reason to move away from the old uniforms, but it was done in a misguided attempt to modernize the look.

  3. Outside of the unfortunate “LOS ANGELES” on the bottom of the jerseys, I like L.A’s current design. Though the Reebok Edge system did ruin a lot of teams’ looks.

  4. They are going back to the old ones because they look better, and you don’t become a classic unless you stick with your design even when it goes out of style before becoming classic–a la Flyers. Notice how the best jerseys have not changed? That Buffalo one in your picture is idotic, with those swipes placed above and below Buffalo because the designer didn’t know what else to do.

  5. I agree with the other comments – the retro jerseys are fantastic and in most cases they are replacing some really ugly new jerseys, most of which are, as noted earlier, the result of misadvised rebranding exercises.

    If a lack of creativity means no more ‘Buffaslug’ or ‘BOLTS’, I’m all for it. There’s a lot to be said for ‘switch[ing] back to an older jersey design simply because your current one isn’t very popular,’ especially if the older design looks really good.

  6. [...] though, the recent rash of blue, retro-inspired jerseys is another example of how NHL teams lack creativity when designing their jerseys.Puck Drawn has a great template for designing a new third jersey should any other team feel like [...]

  7. [...] on teams that actually changed their look to a new one.  It doesn’t include teams that gave up on their current designs and reverted to old ones or even teams that borrowed elements from the past to create new styles.  These are new designs [...]

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