The hockey news cycle is in mid-August form: bland, nothing going on, and still too far away from actual NHL action to get truly pumped up.
So it’s nice that the NHL and Adidas released all 31 “Reverse Retro” jerseys on Monday, a unique take on old-time uniforms with some more modern elements (a full breakdown can be found here). To be honest, I was confused by the concept at first, but as a jersey collector, I was intrigued. I have said in the past I don’t care about nostalgia for jerseys – I’m too young to have any attachment to the uniforms from the 1980s and 1990s, but if a jersey looks great, then it can last a lifetime.
I’d say of the 31 uniforms, I’m a fan of at least 20. There’s a few that I don’t care too much for, others I absolutely love and even a few I don’t understand how it made it past the design stage. If you’re wondering what Nick Kypreos liked the most, he chose the Hartford Whalers – can’t go wrong with that. They have one of the best, and it’s self-explanatory why, but I think I hit the quota for “reverting to the previously relocated franchise’s look” while talking about Quebec, so consider Hartford a honorable mention.
Let’s take a look at five of the best and five of the worst uniforms as part of the league’s Reverse Retro initiative:
Best: Montreal Canadiens
Inspired by: Long-time Design
Full disclosure: I’ve wanted Montreal to bring this jersey out for as long as I’ve followed hockey and appreciate the fact that the minor hockey team, the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, have made it a part of their identity for quite some time. The Canadiens tried a few different designs over their team’s history but have had some form of the current look since 1915. Still, I’m not sure what I was expecting before Montreal announced their new uniforms, but I can’t help but be pleased. Blue has been a part of Montreal’s uniform design for over a century, but it was never really utilized after the team’s inception in 1909 other than for a one-off during the team’s centennial celebration. Easy winner for me.
Best: Colorado Avalanche
Inspired by: Quebec Nordiques
Keeping things in Quebec, the Avalanche have finally paid tribute to the franchise’s true beginnings. This is, in fact, the first time the Avalanche have thrown back to the Nordiques’ uniform in club history, but when you win two Stanley Cups in the first five years in your tenure in Denver, I can understand trying to focus on the team’s current home instead. The sweater features the legendary Nordiques igloo logo and the return of the fleur-de-lis symbol, but styled to match Colorado’s color scheme. I was worried as to how Quebecors were going to view the jersey, but so far, so good.
Best: Los Angeles Kings
Mixing two classic looks together, the Kings brought back the best logo in club history and mixed it with the best jersey design in team history. The Kings earned mainstream status when Wayne Gretzky was traded there in the late 1980s, ushering in a new identity with the white and black look with the club abandoning their yellow and purple. Now, the simple logo with one of the better, more unique color schemes in the sport offers a fantastic, fresh take on the team’s threads and something I hope they consider as a long-term third jersey. Side note, we need more purple in the NHL.
Best: Calgary Flames
I know so many people will disagree with me here because of the hatred for the horse logo. Surprise! I like it, and I hate the team’s insistence on bringing back the eyesore that is the white/yellow logo on the red sweater they’re bringing back for 2020-21. The jersey design is based on the team’s look from the start of the new millennium with a sleek black, red, and gold look. The horse became the club’s logo on the dark uniforms at the time, offering a nice nod to the legendary Calgary Stampede. Oh, and, I actually love the lighter C Flame logo on a black jersey – it’s significantly better for contrast. The jersey isn’t everyone’s cup of team, but mix in my three favorite colors together and you have a winner.
Best: New York Rangers
It’s hard to screw up the Rangers’ color scheme and the club definitely hit it out of the park with this design. Maybe it’s because I used to work for junior teams with a similar design, but this will go down as one of the better alternates in Rangers history. From the nice shade of blue down to a fan-favorite crest, this is everything a Rangers fan could have hoped for. Nothing about it is too special, but the throwback to a fantastic uniform is all the team needed to do and they didn’t disappoint.
Worst: Detroit Red Wings
Inspired by: Chinese knockoffs?
On the bright side, this design likely didn’t cost too much. Just head over to your local Wal-Mart in the Michigan area and you’ll find at least five in the clothing aisle. To the team’s credit, the Red Wings have largely kept the same design since 1932 for a reason: it’s clean, eye-catching, and has one of the best logos in sports. So there wasn’t much to throwback to, but this just feels like a cop-out. Crazy idea: what about a black and red uniform? You can definitely tell which teams didn’t really want to participate in this program and Detroit is one of them.
Worst: Pittsburgh Penguins
Inspired by: the great 1990s
Come on, Pens. The powder blue paint is sitting there, ready to bring some life to these jerseys. I get the idea, throwing back to the team’s Stanley Cup championship back in 1992, but this is one that could have really benefited from a bit of blue. It’s just bland, and while the diagonal lettermark is fine, it’s nothing special, either. If they wanted to mix timelines to create a unique throwback, why not bring back the logo from the late 1990s?
Worst: Winnipeg Jets
Inspired by: Winnipeg Jets inaugural season
Man, with a great color scheme in red, white and blue, you’d think the Jets would have had something strikingly beautiful. Instead, the uniform has a grey base with dark blue piping in in the logo and arms. It just looks like they were playing with some funky contrast settings in Photoshop or that their printer ran out of ink. Nothing really stands out about the jersey, and the vibrant color was completely drained. It makes me miss the fantastic Heritage Classic jersey they wore back in 2019. The design is fine here, but it just needed a bit of vibrance.
Worst: Columbus Blue Jackets
Inspired by: “The team’s roots”
The reactions have been very split on this one, and given my love for nearly every other red jersey announced on Monday, I’m almost surprised I hate this one. The team’s original logo makes a return on the front, but I feel like there just isn’t enough blue in the Blue Jackets’ identity here. I think turning the white arms to blue would have changed my outlook. Maybe it’ll look better in person, but I’m not holding my breath.
Worst: Toronto Maple Leafs
Inspired by: 1967 Stanley Cup
It’s never a bad idea to dedicate a throwback to a championship team, and the logo is a nod to Toronto’s last Stanley Cup from 1967. In concept? Sure, great idea. In reality? The only “reverse” part of this retro look is the logo goes from white to blue and doesn’t really stand out. The sweater is taken straight out of the disastrous Harold Ballard days that are often considered a major dark point in the team’s history. Had they slapped the team’s current logo on the jersey, I think it would be a winner. But this combination hasn’t been overly popular from the get-go.