By Phil Hecken
He’s been a member of Uni Watch for a long time. You have undoubtedly heard of his wonderful blog (if you don’t already have that bookmarked, you really should). He’s probably met a few of you at a Uni Watch gathering. But today we’re really going to meet the man behind the Third String Goalie blog, and a man who gives new meaning to the term, “Hockey Jersey Collector.” Not only does he own and adore hundreds of hockey sweaters, which he’s been collecting for over 20 years, he writes about them all. An absolutely invaluable resource not just for fans of hockey, but for anyone who reads Uni Watch, dear readers, meet Jeff Barak:
Phil Hecken: When did you start collecting hockey jerseys?
Jeff Barak: I started by getting a North Stars jersey from the team souvenir stand at the old Met Stadium. It was a home white that I brought to a local sporting goods store to be customized. It came back without a name and the wrong font for the number. That’s a battle I’ve been fighting ever since. Where to get jerseys accurately lettered and in less than three to six months. Even when names and numbers are cut properly, they can sometimes be sewn on crooked. It’s the worst part of the hobby since you have so little control over it but have to live with it forever.
I added a Minnesota Gophers jersey that I asked for at Christmas. This was around 1987. The thing that really got me going was when some Soviet teams came over to play some exhibition games against the University of Minnesota and the North Stars in 1988 and 89. I got to see Dynamo Moscow play the Gophers. I stopped by the souvenir stand and, much to my surprise, the girl working there had some Soviet pins and small banners for sale. She told me that the Soviet players came by before the game and traded them to her for Gopher t-shirts and pucks. She then told me she even had a jersey, but she couldn’t sell it (to cover the cost of the stuff she gave them in exchange) fast enough because it stunk so badly! I was crushed at the thought that I had missed out not only on the chance to get Russian hockey jersey of any kind, but a game worn one!
After the game I hung out at her stand hoping the players would come back to trade some more. Sure enough, a player did come back and with hand gestures and a few basic words, I managed to communicate to him that I was interested in jerseys. He went back to the locker room and came out with a pair of home and away Dynamo Moscow jerseys and a stick in exchange for a pair of sweatshirts and a stocking cap, which I paid for.
Following that experience, I prowled the arenas every time a Soviet or Czechoslovakian team came to town and always got at least one jersey, and sometimes as many as five. From there I started to find NHL jerseys on sale at the Hockey Expo in St. Paul every year in conjunction with the Minnesota State High School Tournament. A few years after that, I was turned on to ebay and suddenly I had access to way, way too many options one could never expect to find in a retail store locally.
PH: In total, how many hockey jerseys do you now own?
JB: My collection is currently around 475. I’ve got at least one from each current NHL team, several defunct clubs, NHL All-Star jerseys, minor league jerseys from the IHL and AHL, international jerseys from 21 different national teams, foreign club teams and college jerseys.
I also patch every jersey I possibly can. 300 of mine have at least one additional patch of some sort on it. I really like how they tell a story of a championship team, anniversary season, memorial to a past player or unique tournament or event. It’s a bit like heraldry where the elements of a coat of arms can tell a story.
PH: What do you consider the best/worst jersey is of all time in the NHL? Do you own any of them?
JB: Since I’m partial to black and yellow, my idea of the best jersey of all time is a 1970-1990 era Boston Bruins black road jersey. I’ve got 3 of those. Also the 1991-92 Pittsburgh Penguins black road jersey with the 3 patches on it is another all time favorite.
The worst NHL jersey of all time has got to be the Anaheim Mighty Ducks Wild Wing alternate from 95-96. There was no dignity in that horrid thing. I can’t believe they asked NHL professionals to even wear it. I’ve got two of those in what I call my “Curious, Weird and Ugly” collection, along with a few other choice styles, like the Los Angeles Kings “Burger King” alternate from the same season. Those teams actually faced each other once each wearing theirs. It’s The Worst Dressed Game in the history of hockey!
PH: What is your all-time favorite jersey in your collection?
JB: After all this time, my favorite jersey is still my 1990-91 Soviet Red Army game worn CCM made jersey with the name on the back in Cyrillic. It’s an icon of an era when the Soviet Union was such a mysterious place and produced a machine-like team that steamrolled everything in it’s path. Plus it’s a really attractive, classic hockey jersey.
PH: Have you created any custom jerseys of your own design?
JB: I’ve done a couple custom jerseys. I made an alternate Ottawa Senators jersey using their 1920’s barberpole style only with modern logos and numbers that I thought turned out really nice.
I also made a fantasy alternate third jersey for the Hartford Whalers 1992-93 set. They wore blue on the road and white at home. I found a green blank with a tie-neck and sliver trim (neither of which were ever used with their original green jerseys) and put the modern logo on the front and the retro Pucky the Whale patches on the shoulders. I get a lot of positive comments on that one.
PH: Which jersey would you say is the most coveted in your collection?
Coveted by others? My Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils #29 rookie jersey, from when they originally wore red and green, probably generates the most comments. The Wild Wing, the Los Angeles Kings “Burger King” alternate and Tampa Bay Lightning “Sea Sickness” alternate are ones I get offers for more than any others. People love the ugly alternates. Take my advice and grab yourself a Dallas Stars “Mooterus” while you can. It’s the Islanders “Fish Sticks” jersey of the future. 10 years from now, everyone will want one. If it’s got a derogatory nickname, you know it’s a future classic.
PH: With all your jerseys, are there any out there you still want to add?
JB: Now that they are making them again, I’d like to add one of the 1980’s Hartford Whalers jerseys made with modern construction. The old replicas are so thin you can see through them!
A 1980’s East German National Team would be fun to have. I was surprised they were mostly blue. You’d assume like the other communist countries they would have been mainly red, or even the black or orange from their flag.
My favorite player is Arturs Irbe from Latvia and the Carolina Hurricanes. Any player brave enough to man barricades against Soviet tanks gets my respect. A game worn jersey of his would be just fantastic.
PH: Any unique stories regarding any of your jerseys?
JB: Trading with the Soviets was probably the most unique. After several years of looking I was able to acquire a Nike Kazakhstan National Team jersey on ebay from a seller in… Australia! To this day I still shake my head at that one. That is one well-traveled jersey.
PH: Where do you go looking for your jerseys?
JB: Despite the exponential rise of knockoffs on ebay, it’s still the world’s biggest garage sale. Just try sorting through the clutter of fakes and football jerseys on some place like Craigslist, and coming home to ebay and it’s search function, it doesn’t seem quite so bad in comparison.
PH: How did you get the idea to start your blog?
JB: I participate on a jersey collecting message board, JerseyCentral.org, which covers all the major sports. It’s a very knowledgeable group. There is a thread on there titled “What are you wearing today?” It’s a place to show off your collection outside of the “new arrivals” threads.
I found myself posting jerseys when I had a historical reason to do so, like wearing my 1980 USA Miracle on Ice jersey on the anniversary of the win over the Soviets or because a team was playing for a championship that day. My explanations of why I was wearing a certain jersey started getting a bit longer over time and then it occurred to me to start a blog to expand on the idea, share my collection with a wider audience and give me a project to focus on since I am currently out of work and have too much time on my hands. Since I’m not a fan of the new Reebok Edge jerseys and was out of work, it seemed like a good idea to focus on sharing what I had, rather than spending time, energy and money adding to my collection.
PH: What have you learned writing your blog?
JB: I’ve had a few eye opening moments. It was funny to learn the entire reason the NHL was formed was so the original four team owners could ditch a fifth owner, Eddie Livingstone, who none of them could stand from the previous National Hockey Association.
I’ve also learned just how maddening and wonderful YouTube can be. I can’t find any footage of Sidney Crosby from the 2005 World Juniors, but I can find an interview from a former US college hockey player with only 13 games of NHL experience on the day he arrived to play for an obscure second division club team in Sweden. Go figure.
It’s also been interesting tracking the various countries where hits to my blog have come from. I’m up to 83 different countries so far. I really have to wonder what the visitors from Bahrain, Ecuador, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka were looking for when they found me. I feel like I owe them an apology of some sort. It’s cool to see regular visits from the same people in Latvia, Finland, Taiwan and New Zealand nearly every day. I wish I had the ability to send those readers a thank you note.
PH: Where did the name Third String Goalie come from?
JB: That came from a Uni Watch ticker item! There was a link to an old Baseball Digest from 1956. There was a humorous glossary of terms, one of which was Third String Catcher, which meant “a fan in the stands wearing a jersey”. If that isn’t me, I don’t know what is. I immediately thought that would be a great name for a website and filed it away. Later when I got the idea for the blog, I simply changed it to Third String Goalie.
PH: Is there any money to be made blogging?
JB: Nope. None whatsoever. It’s a labor of love.
PH: Thanks Jeff!
Well now that you’ve met Mr. Hockey Jersey and have bookmarked his site, make sure you check it out every day, because Jeff will be highlighting a new sweater each day. I’ve always (sometimes begrudgingly) admitted that hockey uniforms and jerseys are the best looking of all the sports, and after seeing just a taste of what’s in Jeff’s collection, I can unabashedly confirm that. There is so much more to see than just the couple dozen or so jerseys shown on here today, so be sure to poke around and see what other wonderful looks you can find. Thanks again, Jeff!
Our “Special Edition Five Plus One” today brings us back to our man in the street, Jim Vilk, who presents you with his “Top 5″ Best and one WORST college football uni matchup from all the Pre-New Year’s Day Bowl Games:
5. Hawai’i Bowl: Nevada/SMU — Welcome back to the bowl games, Mustangs, and a big mahalo for wearing those great unis.
4. Emerald Bowl: BC/USC — I’m nuts over this classic-ish matchup.
3. The Car Bowl: Pitt/UNC — Panthers in their best post-script look, while the Heels continue to look great.
2. Brut Sun Bowl: Oklahoma/Stanford — Wore some Brut in honor of this game, and it looked as good as I smelled.
1. EagleBank Bowl: UCLA/Temple — One of the newest bowls had the best look of the old year.
Happy New Year, everybody! See you next week for the final 5+1.
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard:This guest entry comes from the poster who prefers to go by the name “Leon.” It’s maybe a little tricky, and maybe it’s not. But he was at the game. Ready? Guess The Game From The Scoreboard. Want a hint? Here’s his ticket stub. Please link to you answer. And, as always, if you enjoy the game, please send me some new scoreboards! Drop me a line. Thanks!
Ah yes…broomball…when you absotively posilutely have to come up with ways to have fun on the ice. Here’s Rick:
You just never know who you’re gonna go up against in broomball. A bunch of former hockey players? A flask-toting bunch that’s falling down even before they hit the ice? Perhaps a small group of determined devotees who face the cold without fear? Or is it a group of small determined…?
Enjoy your Saturday Benchies.
As we enter the final weekend of the season, we begin with another set of NFL uniform tweaks/revisions/concepts.
First up today is Elliott Hunter, who, like many, is not happy with the current Bills uni-set:
Being a massive Bills fan I have been pretty disgusted with their uniforms over the past decade (as well as their play). I figured the best way to revamp them would be to throw a nod to their past, as I think their original AFL uniforms are probably the best they’ve ever worn.
For the colors, I decided that instead of using their old royal blue, to go back a choose a shade more similar to the color they wore in the 90s. Other than that, nothing incredibly revolutionary going on.
The logo is based on this.
I’ve always liked the look of the red standing buffalo, but I feel like it’s been played out a bit and is also a bit bland. Their current logo, which they’ve had for 35 years, makes me wince when I look at it, I have never liked it. So I came up with this logo to kind of revamp the standing buffalo.
Next up is Andrew Jent, who has some thoughts on the Rams:
I have been reading Uni Watch for the past few weeks and have been wanting to try to make my own uni tweek. I decided to do the St. Louis Rams. I started with a new logo by reversing the color scheme.
Now for the unis. With the home I once again reversed the color scheme on the helmet. I removed the ram on the sleeves and replaced it with horns on a blue background. The jersey was changed to gold. The road helmet also got revesed and the ram on the sleeve was replaced with horns on a gold background. As for the alternate I kept it the same but made the pants blue and made the helmet horns “invisible” with the blue on blue.
Our next submission comes from Chris Sewell, who feels the current Seahawks uniforms could use a tweak:
First time submitting a uniform design and I thought I would start with one of the worst in the league, which is too bad because I am a Seahawks fan. I don’t mind the Seahawks colors but I think they use too much. I did not like the change in helmet color. In fact, I think the grey looked good but I think white looks even better. I like simple, dark tops, light pants for home and light top and dark pants for away. I did change the green to more of a grey green. I was hoping to find something similar to a vegas gold, like that in the Akron uniforms, with the green I chose but i probably needs a little work. I would love to see some people play with these colors to see what else they can come up with. Enjoy the blog and keep up the good work.
Moving along quickly, we have Jim Rigo, who suggests these simple changes for the Browns:
Since my beloved Browns are bent on having some sort of colored drawers (I despise the idea BTW), and since the new non-striped pant looks as if they were designed by Jacques Cousteau, I have attached some sensible options for the fans, and perhaps the team to consider. An old tyme NY Giant-like sand-knit option and a better (IMHO) brown option. Enjoy!
Closing out the show today is Wil Risinger, who I think went real old school with a flair pen for his Raiders tweak:
Feeling rather blasphemous on a slow business day, I decided the Raiders away uniform could use a simple tweak. Just as their home black jersey uniform conveys everything a gridiron menace should, feel the away whites are equally lame. Seems the silver pants wash out the white jersey – therefore I simply blacked out the pants for what I feel is the much needed contrast all great uni’s have. Excuse the execution – seems I am the Jamarcus Russell of Graphics and went all throwback on you.
Well, there you have it, another set of concepts. You can keep the NFL coming, but don’t hesitate to also send me NHL or (shudder) NBA concepts as well, since we’ll be moving towards those real soon. You can send them to me here.
And now we’re back with Teebz for a Winter Classic roundup. Here’s Teebz:
With the Neilsen’s people recalculating their numbers for the Winter Classic ratings, Phil has given me a chance to bring some images from the 2010 Bridgestone Winter Classic to your monitors. We’ll run through this quickly, but there are some good pictures in here.
* Claude Julien followed Mike Babcock’s lead from last year, and brought back some retro headwear for the game.
* Dan Carcillo and Shawn Thornton engaged in the first brawl at the Winter Classic. Historians don’t seem to care.
* Biggest cheers at Fenway went out for Tuukka Rask’s mask. The bear destroying the Yankees jersey seemed to energize the crowd for some reason.
* Danny Syvret scored Philadelphia’s only goal of the game in the second period.
* Mark Recchi and Marco Sturm scored the two Boston goals, both via redirections. Sturm scored at 1:56 of overtime to give the Bruins the victory – the first time a home team has won in three Winter Classic games.
* Tim Thomas’ day got better as he was announced as one of the goaltenders that the USA is taking to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Thomas’s teammates weren’t on-hand to get their jerseys, but the minor hockey players represented the NHL players well.
Overall, a very entertaining game, especially the last five minutes of the third period. As a hockey fan, I always tell people to stay until the final horn sounds, and the 2010 Winter Classic was a prime example of that. The Flyers had carried the play in the third period, but one late goal changed everything for the Bruins, and they claimed victory!
Where will the 2011 Winter Classic be held? Who will participate? Let the discussion begin.
Thanks Teebz, for the wrap. Conventional wisdom says the next one will be in Yankee Stadium, probably featuring the Rangers (duh). Their opponent? Whatever team the NHL feels has the biggest draw. What say you all?
And now…a Uni Watch Deep Freeze announcement:
Paul will be making an official announcement on Monday on the date and location of the “2010 Twin Cities Deep Freeze” gathering. Stay tuned.
Of course — (and thanks Ricko, for the ‘cartoon’) — that won’t be nearly as apropos if the Vikings are eliminated from the playoffs by the time the Gathering takes place.
And for the final entry today, I’m bringing back everyone’s favorite uniform critic, and a man “who’d wear that” for just about any uniform, Jim Vilk. We’re going to do a wrap up of yesterday’s Bowl games, all of which were inappropriately named.
JV: Lots of mistakes, but a wild game. Nice unis, and I love overcast days, so this game looked very good to me.
PH: Did this one end yet?
PH: You know I love PSU’s unis, but the silver pants worn especially for this game was a nice touch.
JV: So much to love here — a timeless coach, great throwback conditions, fantastic unis…THAT is football.
JV: Nice feel-good story here. That, and the great color contrast, eased the pain of this sort-of Mountaineer fan.
PH: I wonder if Bobby Bowden pretended the logo was T.K. Wetherell.
JV: And the Ducks’ unis were the thorn. At least the Oregon band matched up well against the Buckeyes.
PH: OK. Note to those left to play their games: Ditch the white helmets — like, yesterday.
PH: Alternate names: “The ‘I Got Your Messiah Right Here’ Bowl” or “The Dusty Springfield Bowl.”
JV: Instead of white helmets, the Bearcats should have come out with a white flag.
That’s all for this fine Saturday boys and girls. Big ups again to Jeff Barak for the fantastic interview, and Teebz and Jim and Ricko and Leon for their contributions as well, plus the latest round of uni-tweakers.
I’m off tomorrow, so you can look forward to a much shorter entry on Sunday. Have a great day everyone.