What makes a great jersey? When the topic comes up, it’s hard not to default to the NHL’s Original Six era. Those sweaters launched the pro game to another level. But does that means sartorial glory is a given?
This was one of the questions when we put our list of the greatest jerseys of all-time together. Just because a team has never won a Stanley Cup doesn’t mean it hasn’t looked good trying.
The criteria emphasized factors such as boldness, uniqueness, aesthetics and yes, timelessness. To guard against historical biases, we also reached out to a group of graphic designers, some of whom watch little to no hockey.
Over the next five days, we list off the best ever. Some are really old, some are brand new. And it’s not NHL exclusive. Major junior, college, minor pro, even international jerseys are repped.
No. 50: New York Americans (NHL)
Stars and Stripes motifs were popular in the early days, and the Amerks did it right.
No. 49: Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
The original Sabres jersey — also a great one — came in at a lighter shade of blue. We’ll use the more modern take for this entry because the number on the right breast works pretty well and this sweater was also responsible for erasing one of the worst jersey experiments of all-time, the ‘Buffaslug.’
Overall, the Sabres have themselves a pretty classic logo and one that doesn’t need much fuss around it. The dark blue works just as well with the gold as the lighter shade had before it, and we all love lace-up collars.
No. 48: Khimik Voskresensk (Russia)
When Russian teams came over to play NHL squads in the early 1990s, the boldness of Khimik’s sweaters was impossible to miss. Go bold or go home.
No. 47: Madison Capitols (USHL)
Not only do the Capitols have a great color scheme with the double-blue and a hint of red, but that capitol building logo is really good, perhaps even trumping the one Washington rocked in the 1990w. Ryan Suter actually parts-owns this squad.
No. 46: Team USA (1976 Olympics)
The ‘Miracle on Ice’ jersey may be way more famous, but it’s this entry from the previous Games that stands on its own, without the gold-tinged bias. You still get your Stars and Stripes but also a patriotic eagle and USA shield that hit all the notes when it comes to American exceptionality on the ice.
No. 45: Michigan State Spartans (NCAA)
True, the Spartans are better known for their baseball script-style jerseys — and most college teams seem to rock script-based sweaters. But, aesthetically, logos are more fun on hockey jerseys, since you have such a great canvas to work from. So since history is just one factor in these rankings, we’re going with the Spartan helmet sweater. That’s just a great logo with clean lines, and Michigan State also has the benefit of being one of those two-color teams. Strong green and white energy.
No. 44: Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
The cattle skull logo is amazing, and the secondary ‘R’ mark has its own great third jersey.
No. 43: Sherbrooke Faucons (QMJHL)
Great colors and a cool logo. Plus, a rare effective use of diagonal lines on a sweater.
No. 42: Chicago Black Hawks (NHL)
Chicago has always had a knack with sweaters, and even the first edition ever was pretty sweet. Interestingly enough, the famous red base was nowhere to be seen, as Chicago wore exclusively cream and black duds, flipping to a black base in its second season.
No. 41: Salt Lake Golden Eagles (WIHL)
First off, that’s a pretty good eagle mascot the minor pro Golden Eagles were wearing back then. It’s pretty much the best you could put together and still remain timeless. The real clincher for this Salt Lake City outfit is the innovation with the shoulder striping, which is not only bold in its construct but also becomes a focal point of the uniform itself, since it extends all the way down the socks and into the skates. The number on the arm pops out thanks to a great font and those bold colors, while the simplicity of the sweater’s main image gives the jersey ample breathing room, aesthetically speaking. The Golden Eagles name spanned several different pro leagues in a long history that ended in 1994.
The countdown continues on Tuesday with Nos. 40 to 31.