Pride In The Sweater
At the beginning of every hockey season one of the things fans are anxious to see is what teams have a new jersey and what it looks like. Some teams get total or partial redesigns to their current jersey, others get third, or alternate jerseys, a sweater that is worn on special games in addition to the two standard road and home jerseys the team wears.
Many third jerseys lately have been very nicely done. Case in point: the third jerseys for the Edmonton Oilers are very cool, having been designed by none other than Todd McFarlane. The Buffalo Sabres' recent alternate jersey addition is also up there on the cool scale (unfortunately their financial situation is not). Jerseys like those, the third jersey for the Colorado Avalanche, and current jerseys for the St. Louis Blues, are all good examples of jerseys that, even though new, reflect traditional hockey design values. Some of them have a retro feel to them, with the ties on the front of the collars that were on all jerseys back in the day.
Good jerseys make it easier for the hockey team's players to have pride in their sweater. One way for a player to get yelled at is, after a frustrating loss, to throw their sweater on the locker room floor. A player should have the utmost respect for their team and they show that in many ways, including treating their jerseys like an extremely expensive suit. But, sometimes, having this kind of respect for a jersey isn't that easy...
Unfortunately, since the 1990's, there have been a slew of god-awful hockey jerseys being designed, sweaters that have abandoned all hockey tradition in favor of flashy, bright designs. Good (or bad) examples of this are expansion teams like the Minnesota Wilds, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Atlanta Thrashers. The Anaheim "Mighty" Ducks, along with the fact that their entire hockey franchise is based off of a Disney movie, have a stupid and goofy cartoon logo, something every hard core hockey fan looks at in disgust every time those mallards come-a-callin'.
Other non-expansion and non-Disney examples of bad jerseys have been the mid-90's red-striped Blues jerseys (we here in St. Louis affectionately call the "clown suits" - we're glad they're gone), the "electrifying" Tampa Bay Lightning sweaters, and the absolute worst, most hideous of them all: the jerseys for the Phoenix Coyotes. This was the jersey that made every hockey traditionalist cringe at the mere sight of it. Along with being made of many, many different contrasting colors, it featured a southwest-style look more appropriate for a taco restaurant and a goofy, hockey stick wielding, stylized, retarded-looking coyote. If any player ever did throw that piece of garbage to the locker room floor, I wouldn't have blamed him.
So Why Are These Jerseys Designed So Badly?
The answer is easy. The jobs to design the jerseys are often handed to hipster graphic artists who may or may not be hockey fans. They also often don't have any sense for hockey tradition. They want to make jerseys that are flashy and, yes, grrr, even cute. I'll bet the designer of the Coyotes jersey was quite proud of his or her creation. I'd also bet they'd never actually attended a hockey game. This rampant disregard for the designs and styles that respect the traditions of the sport of hockey is one problem that needs to be solved. And there is hope that people out there are solving it.
It just so happens that those disgusting, laughable Coyotes jerseys may be going away. They have a new logo, which doesn't look half-bad, and this will presumably go with a new jersey that has yet to be unveiled. This move, along the redesigning of the Blues sweater in 1997, and the cool new duds for the Avalanche, Sabres, and Oilers, suggests that team owners are reconsidering, for the better, how hockey jerseys should look. And even though I despise the Detroit Red Wings, I respect the fact that the Wings, along with several other teams, haven't touched their uniforms in many, many decades. These teams didn't get swept up in the flashy jersey craze, that's hopefully passed for good, and probably never will. Let's all pray that the era of nice, clean, beautiful, traditional hockey sweaters has returned.