Panthers defenseman Dennis Seidenberg sports the team's new blue-on-blue third jersey. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
There was a time, not too long ago, when black became all the rage in the NHL.
After The Great One was traded to Los Angeles in 1988 and the Kings took on their new optical identity, ‘The Darkness’ became the shade of choice and slowly swept across the landscape:
• In 1991-92 the North Stars changed their away jerseys from green and the Blackhawks introduced a retro sweater to celebrate the league’s 75th anniversary.
• Expansion took place in 1992-93 and both the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning arrived with black as the primary color on their road jerseys.
• 1995-96 saw the Penguins pick up a new alternate – though the Technicolor middle striping did tend to distract – as did the Canucks; well, at least half of it.
• A year later, in 1996-97, the Sabres turned from blue; the Blackhawks brought in a new third sweater; and the newly relocated Phoenix Coyotes chose it as their away base.
• Philadelphia added an alternate in 1997-98 and it’s interesting to note at this point 10 of 26 teams (38 percent) now had a black jersey in their arsenal, up from three of 21 (14 percent) in ‘87-88.
• Calgary added a new third in 1998-99 and the Kings got a redesign, but black remained.
• San Jose introduced a new alternate sweater in 2001-02. No surprise about the base color.
• In 2003-04 the NHL switched to dark jerseys at home and Anaheim brought black in for their new jersey, plus the Stars “constellation” sweater was revealed (much to fans’ chagrin).
• The Ducks dropped the ‘Mighty’ in 2006-07, but the color remained for their home sweater.
• In 2007-08, the Reebok Edge jerseys took over and the Stars went back (they’d gone mostly green back in 1999-00).
• The zenith arrived in 2008-09 when the Bruins, Hurricanes, Kings, Senators, Coyotes and Sharks all introduced it as their third; 12 of 30 teams have it as one of their three choices.
I may be over-simplifying here – several expansion and existing clubs unveiled colorful jerseys over the past 20 years – but there’s no denying black had become vogue.
Hopefully, however, the tide has broken as a new contender has emerged this season as the color of choice. Colorado, Florida and Nashville have all introduced alternates with blue featured prominently. Montreal, as well, recently wore an all-blue retro as part of its centennial celebrations.
Reviews of the new jerseys have been mixed. Most in the THN offices like Colorado’s, but would hit the restart button on Florida and Nashville’s. I’m not a fan of any of the three, though I do think there’s something redeeming with the Predators outfit if you can look past the checkerboard striping.
Regardless, it’s good to see teams making an effort and turning a cold shoulder towards the unimaginative, duplicated efforts of recent years, especially last campaign. (A nod must go to the Wild, too, for their new college/baseball-themed sweater.)
While many of the new black sweaters can certainly lay claim to being fashionable, there’s always an underlying sense of taking the easy road, perhaps afraid to be piled on the heap of epic fails along with such duds as the Superhero Duck or Burger King.
It’s worth rolling the dice.
The jerseys that always spring to mind – and jump off the pages of THN’s Greatest Jerseys of All-Time – as the most memorable are those that feature a selection from the spectrum, whether it be blue or otherwise, rather than the darkest shade.
(Be sure to check out the excellent nhluniforms.com site and Icethetics blog for all you’d ever need to know about jerseys past and present.)
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
From the Victoria Cougars to the Chicago Black Hawks to the California Seals, hockey jerseys – or sweaters – have a history as rich as the game itself.
THN senior editor Brian Costello and art director Jamie Hodgson look back at the process of selecting and photographing the hundreds of jerseys that were shot at the Hockey Hall of Fame for our collector's edition magazine The Greatest Jerseys of All-Time.
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper | PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: John Van Dusen
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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