A few short weeks ago, snow caked around my heart in defiance of Lord Stanley’s trip to Florida. But now, with some help from the ubiquitous Montreal summer street festival, it has started to melt, and so I’ve decided that it’s time to examine the finer points of professional hockey couture. In other words, a list of the best and worst fashion statements in the NHL.
Number one, despite the political incorrectness, is the Chicago Blackhawks’ away uniform. The intricate design of the native head and the deep red of the jersey make this my top pick. I think it is a testament to how good-looking the thing is that there aren’t yearly calls to change the name or logo, as there are with the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Indians. And this despite the Blackhawks being named the worst sports franchise of 2004 by ESPN.
Number two, to go along with being the most successful sports franchise ever (despite what Yankees fans might say), is le tricolore. Again, it is the red that does it for me, though I also quite like the white retro jersey that came out this year. Simple yet effective, the Montreal Canadiens jersey is a thing of beauty.
Number three, but number one in my heart, is the blue and white of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Again, it’s all about the simplicity, the history and the primary colours.
Number four is where I take a turn away from the traditional. Long considered one of the worst jerseys ever, the Vancouver Canucks’ orange, yellow and black flying-V (circa 1980) is, for me, a classic. This is perhaps why my wife has to dress me sometimes, but I have to admit to falling for the V. The design and colour were created specifically for the team by a San Francisco psychologist, who claimed they were the most aggressive combination. Personally, I just like orange. The V stands for “Victory.” And Vancouver, I guess. To be honest, the subsequent version of the Canucks jersey—with the stylized skate in an orange-red circle—is good for me, too, but I really don’t like the blue, red and white orca whale.
I could go on, but to round out my top five faves, I will again hit the retro trail. I nearly offered a panhandler twenty bucks for his bright green Hartford Whalers replica jersey the other day, but I wasn’t sure if he would consider it demeaning. Also, I thought that anyone wearing the green of the Whale would probably know that its value exceeds a mere twenty. It’s the solid colour and the whale fin above the “W” that do it for me. The blue and silver trim is nice, too. Why are there no hockey teams that wear green any more? I know, I know: “Blue and green, never seen,” but I enjoy the combo.
Okay, moving on to the worst.
The absolute worst, in terms of idea, colour, design and what it means to hockey, is easily the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Any version: home, away, the third jersey with the ugly cartoon duck, the Disneyfied Jason mask, Emilio Estevez . . . it’s all bad.
Number two, despite their recent, um, success, is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Has no one in Florida ever heard the expression, “Black and blue, that just won’t do”? I guess in a state populated by so many old guys with comb-overs wearing black socks pulled up to their knees and tucked into loafers (or worse, sandals), you can’t ask for much in terms of fashion.
Number three, closer to home, is the Ottawa Senators uni. The usually sharp combination of black, red and white is somehow defiled when you add those weird black arrows (chevrons?) on a yellow background around the hems; it just throws the whole thing off. At least the logo looks less like a condom wrapper than the previous incarnation. Maybe they should go back to the original Parliament Hill logo. I hear we’ll be getting an effective Senate any day now.
Number four is the New York Islanders’ failed attempt to move away from their traditional Long Island silhouette. The new logo looked like Captain Highliner with a SARS mask, and Rangers fans often chanted, “We want fish sticks” during games between the crosstown rivals. Thankfully, the Isles went back to their old logo in short order.
Finally, a jersey that isn’t quite so bad, but which deserves to be singled out because any attempt to mess with the Oil is doomed to fail. Just as this one does, despite being designed by Todd McFarlane, a comic-book artist who is part-owner of the Oilers. The colours are too dark, and there is no orange to be found! Just like Gretzky wouldn’t be caught wearing the Kings’ purple and yellow (though he did end up in this sad thing: ), there’s no way the Great One would ever wear this Oilers jersey.
Finally, I want to go way way back, thanks to www.nhluniforms.com—a site that has pictures of NHL wear dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century—and show you some of the earliest gear.
For even more fun, check out Bushparty.com. The creator of this site has searched through the annals of hockey logos and come up with four pages of the worst artwork ever and added some very funny commentary to go along with it. It’s definitely worth a look.
There you go! Summer fashion tips from the ice gods.