November 05, 2009
(No, the first decade of the 21st century doesn't technically end until 2011. Save your bellyaching. But we've had nine NHL seasons and one stolen from us since 1999-2000, and Yahoo! Sports has decided it's time to rank the best and worst of the last "decade." Enjoy, and snark freely in the comments.)
It's been an exciting and confusing 10 years for NHL fashion, and not just because hockey fans' Jersey Fouls have become the subject of academic discourse on blogs.
First, the NHL welcomed three expansion franchises with their own distinct looks: The Atlanta Thrashers (1999-2000), the Columbus Blue Jackets (2000-01) and the Minnesota Wild (2000-01). Two of those franchises are represented in the lists below.
In 2007, the Reebok EDGE Uniform System revolutionized the hockey sweater with a sleeker design, less water retention and more flexibility. They've continued to evolve, although not to the point where the hideous piping seen on jerseys like those of the Florida Panthers has been phased out.
The introduction of the RBK Edge sweaters caused a momentary interruption in the League's third jersey program, but it was back in full force later in the decade with a slew of "retro" and "heritage" jerseys. Among the best: The Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders dipping back into the 1980s; and the Winter Classic sweaters of the Penguins and the Blackhawks.
There were plenty of hits ... and while none of them reached the pinnacle of awful that was the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim Wild Wing jersey from the 1990s, there were plenty of misses, too.
Here are the 5 Best, followed by the 5 Worst, NHL Jerseys of the Last Decade. Please suggest your own, or debate our picks, in the comments.
First, a disclaimer: The jerseys had to debut during the 2000s, and there was more weight given to reinvention than recollection. In other words, we were most interested in teams that went in bold new directions rather than ones that slapped a commemorative patch on a previously worn sweater - with one obvious exception.
The 5 Best NHL Jerseys of the 2000s are as follows:
Designed by "Spawn" creator, comic book artist and then-part-owner of the Oilers Todd McFarlane, these jerseys were like a modern remake of a classic film that dazzles critics but alienates some audiences. McFarlane's Web site explained his artistic vision in 2001, when the sweaters debuted:
Though the new logo is bold, dynamic and industrially modern, it's rooted in respect for the traditions of hockey's past. The new design's key element - the oil drop - is taken from the original Oilers logo. The five rivets encircling the oil drop represent the five Stanley Cups the team has won since its 1979 National Hockey League debut. The 10 gear teeth (five each on both the inner and outer rings) represent each of the Oilers' 10 team captains, who include such legends as Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
It was bold, and perhaps too bold: By the end of the decade, the Oilers had course-corrected back to the classic orange and blue of the 1980s championship teams as a third jersey. If anything, the color scheme was more impressive than McFarlane's logo design, which looked sharp but not necessarily iconic.
Like the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the decade, the Washington Capitals upgraded a classic look after entering the 2000s with a pedestrian group of sweaters. The piping, the alternative logo and the colors all worked, helping to spark a "Rock The Red" campaign the fans embraced ... even if the white jerseys look ridiculously better than the home reds.
3. NHL All-Star Game Jerseys, 2003
These sweaters from the game held in Sunrise, Fla. are a reminder that simplicity is never a bad thing. The first all-star game since 1997 to feature the Eastern Conference vs. the Western Conference, the jerseys had some really sharp features: Numbers on the waistline; team logos and country of origin flags on the shoulders; and an NHL logo on the front that would resemble the "NHL 2.0" logo the League adopted after the lockout.
For a franchise that once created a third jersey so wretched that Mike Keenan banned the team from wearing it, this 2008 model was widely celebrated as one of the most well-conceived and aesthetically pleasing alternate sweaters in recent NHL history. It incorporated the iconography of the St. Louis Gateway Arch while still prominently displaying the Blue Note logo. Solid stuff ... if not exactly original. Which brings us to:
1. Minnesota Wild
The Wild's initial jerseys were striking, especially the all-green look of their solid sweaters. But this third jersey that debuted in 2003-04 remains perhaps the most successful in League history in concept and execution. The colors are spot-on, the design is iconic and it was eventually adopted by the team as its home jersey later in the decade. Often imitated, never duplicated.
Speaking of never duplicated, let's home none of these ever are: The 5 Worst Jerseys of the 2000s.
5. Atlanta Thrashers
A random quilt-like patchwork surrounding a giant number where a logo should be, these 2008 third jerseys were quickly reviled by fans around the League. Our initial take stands:
The font on the front of the jersey is still pretty snappy, but its quirky design emphasizes the "T" and "R" while de-emphasizing the "H" in "Thrashers"; the result is a subtle and unfortunate optical trick that pushes the eye to see "Trashers."
Please keep in mind these maroon and gold jerseys debuted while Atlanta was attempting to establish "Blueland" as a marketing rallying cry for fans in their arena.
4. NHL All-Star Game, 2000-2001
An unbalanced, unsightly design whiff that looked like the template for a better jersey. The colors are OK, but it's a completely forgettable jersey for a game whose threads are made for collectors. Five-year-old Colorado Avalanche fan Brandon Barban, moments after this photo was taken: "Your jerseys suck. Oh, and nice hair, Sakic ..."
3. Buffalo Sabres
An angry cashew. Donald Trump's hair. A possessed chipmunk. The Sabres' 2006 decision to completely revamp their uniforms for the second time in 10 years was met with widespread anger, universal scorn and inexplicably high merchandise sales (go figure). Sabres fans continue to fight the good fight against the "Buffaslug," including the blog Sabres, Not Slugs that is "dedicated to eliminating one of the worst logos on professional sports."
2. Dallas Stars
When these third jerseys debuted in 2003, the Stars offered the following justification for the look:
"The new logo depicts a constellation of individual stars aligning to form an unstoppable force of nature, a charging bull. Get it? A constellation of stars aligning to form an unstoppable force?"
That celestial reasoning did nothing for most Stars fans, whose intense loathing of the jerseys was immediate.
But the reason they're the second-worst jersey of the last decade is simple: It's because at no point during the market research for this new sweater did the Stars realize their logo was a diagram of the female reproductive organs, from the uterus to the fallopian tubes. Needless to say, the fans did.
If you don't believe these are the worst jerseys of the last decade, you're either under the influence of hallucinogens or a professional barber.
Worn as part of the Habs' centennial celebration, these throwbacks to the 1912-1913 team from the National Hockey Association were reintroduced last season and the laughter was deafening. Based on the fan reaction, they should have put the words "Epic Fail" inside of the leaf on the front.
(Oh, and the Habs rocking a sweater with a Maple Leaf on the front is a fail, in and of itself.)
We offered a meek defense after their debut:
Sure, they look like men's beachwear from the 1800s. Yes, they less resemble a hockey sweater than something you'd lick in the Wonka factory. But forget, for a moment, that the Canadiens already have an iconic sweater they wear every game -- pretend this was the only jersey they skate out in. Isn't this look even a little bit awesome? Wouldn't this be just as iconic? Or is it better left in an era without the benefit of digital television?
The masses agreed with that last statement. In a decade when old looks became hip new ones for many teams, this monstrosity deserved to be buried in the past.
Dishonorable Mention: The Nashville Predators' third jerseys and at least half of what the Vancouver Canucks wore in the last 10 years. Thanks to NHL Uniforms for the trips down memory lane.
Puck Daddy's Best & Worst of the Decade lists will run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through the end of 2009. (Yes, that includes holidays; cynical appraisal never sleeps.)