By Phil Hecken, with “Teebz” and Mike Engle
At long last, the Uni Watch “Hockey Wing” (or at least a portion of that wing) has some uniforms on which to comment!
As most of you (even if you’re not hockey fans) know, the NHL is embarking on a rather ambitious schedule of outdoor hockey games in the coming months. The games kick off with the traditional “Winter Classic” (played on New Year’s Day), then several new “Stadium Series” games (3 held before the Winter Olympics, 1 after), and finishing with the “Heritage Classic.”
All in all, a total of six outdoor games will be played in 5 cities: The “Winter Classic” in the Big House featuring the Red Wings & Maple Leafs on 1/1/14; “Stadium Series” games: In Dodger Stadium with the Kings vs. the Ducks on 1/25; Two in Yankee Stadium, the first (on 1/26) will feature the Rangers & Devils, and the second (on 1/29) will have the Rangers and Islanders hooking up; after a break for the Olympics, the Penguins and Blackhawks will play in Soldier Field (on 3/1); the “Heritage Classic” concludes outdoor stadium play with a matchup of the Canucks vs. Senators at BC Place (on 3/2).
Of course, all the games will feature teams wearing special uniforms, and that’s what we’re here to discuss today. Both Teebz and Mike Engle have their own takes on the unis, and I’ll add my own $.02 to their own thoughts as well. As you’ll see, the Winter & Heritage Classics feature “throwback” unis, while the Stadium Series are “new” jerseys created just for the event, not varying much from the teams’ current unis. We’ll take the Heritage & Winter Classics first, then the other outdoor games.
As far as I am concerned, the NHL outdoor uniforms can be grouped in two subgroups: the Winter and Heritage Classics together, and the Stadium Series jerseys. Respectively, we might as well call these “The Honors College at Uni Watch” and “Uni Watch State University.” Let me take care of the Honors College First.
All of the Honors College jerseys are fantastic. I am a Habs fan, so I will be wearing none of these, but objectively, I could be proud to wear any of those jerseys.
The next couple of months will see an explosion of outdoor hockey at the professional ranks, and that begins on January 1 with the annual NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic. We’ll also have the Tim Hortons Heritage Classic played in Vancouver, and the Stadium Series games played at Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field, and Dodger Stadium. Needless to say, if you wanted to see more outdoor games, you’re getting everything you wanted and more!
I pretty much said my piece above, so let’s move onto the games, starting with the first.
Winter Classic: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings (Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI; 1/1/14)
Mike: Red Wings. Pros: Red and wheat look nice together, and the winged wheel is legendary. Cons: I’m not too fond of the shoulder strips, the bottom hem stripe is basically backwards, and the captaincy patch–which should always go on the upper chest–is going to be on the sleeve instead. I don’t hate wheat on its face, but I almost always prefer white. This is going to look fairly muted against the Toronto sweaters. I give these a B+.
Maple Leafs. Pros: WHITE! Small con: stripe consistency. Four sets on the sleeves, two on the bottom, and probably three on the socks. Bigger con: The stripes are white, the shoulder yoke is white, and the numbers are white. But without enough blue in between, it all looks a bit too smushed together. I would have 67-ed (haha, oops, Habs fan alert, I meant to say “86-ed”) the top sleeve stripes, so that the numbers could move down a bit. I’ll give these an A, and I will admit that these will look even better opposite the red and wheat Detroit sweaters, but on their own, the Toronto sweaters are the salutatorians.
Teebz: Obviously, the biggest game on the NHL’s schedule is always the Winter Classic in terms of trying to generate additional interest in the game. This yea’s game features the Toronto Maple Leafs visiting Michigan Stadium, aka “The Big House”, at the University of Michigan for a date with the Detroit Red Wings. Let’s take a look at how these two teams will look on New Year’s Day.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are dipping into their history with their uniform choice as they dust off the 1927-30 sweater for the Winter Classic. Honestly, this might be one of Toronto’s best looks of all-time. I love the stripes, the colors are bold, and the stylized Maple Leafs logo sets it apart from the straight lines of the current logo. The only difference between this uniform and the ’27-30 sweater? The name on the back. Even saying that, this uniform gets a thumbs-up from me! GOOD.
The Detroit Red Wings went off the board on this design as they came up with a brand-new uniform. Since their founding, the Red Wings have always had one stripe on the sleeve, not two. They have never worn a shoulder yoke nor have they highlighted the shoulders in any way, but they will on New Year’s Day. The numbers appear to harken back to the 1982-83 uniforms, but they are missing the vertically-arched name that accompanied that funky number font. The captaincy patch will appear on the sleeve for the first time in NHL history. And what the heck is with the city name over the logo? Are we not past that design idea yet? I would have preferred red-and-white over the cream accent color, and I’m not a huge fan of all these new elements in this uniform. I absolutely hate the “Detroit” written over the logo, but that is offset by the great use of the ’82-83 font set. I’d like to rank this higher, but it’s a PUSH.
Winner: Toronto Maple Leafs
Phil: If I’m grading by letter, like Mike, I too love both unis — both look great and I’ll go A- for BOTH. Unlike others, for some reason, I like the “cream” which adds a “vintage” feel to the throwback. I’m not sure I’d like to see an entire season of the treatment, but for one game, call me a fan.
Heritage Classic: Vancouver Canucks (playing as Vancouver Millionaires) vs. Ottawa Senators (BC Place, Vancouver, BC; 3/2/14)
Mike: Canucks as Millionaires. Pros: Maroon and wheat looks even better than regular red. Love the V logo. Straight up old school. Cons: With stripe-o-rama sleeves, the “Red Wings in maroon” socks with one stripe seems like a missed opportunity to make Paul Lukas squeal. I’m docking points for a lack of consistency. More damningly, there should be sleeve numbers for function. I would have colorblocked the elbows so some one-color numbers could have fit. I’ll give these an A-.
Senators. Pros: They recognized that the black ones like this are awesome, and didn’t re-invent the wheel. (I LOVE Ottawa’s black barber poles. Love love love them. If I weren’t a Habs fan, I would own one.) Another pro: Everything is consistent. Minor con: the 5 looks like an upside-down 2, thanks to that downwards serif in the northeast corner of that digit. UGH, I hate that! And something about the NOB font just rubs me the wrong way. Just feels a little heavy. These get an A and the valedictorian honor. But frankly, if the wheat were white, I might have given these an A+.
The Heritage Classic features the Ottawa Senators visiting the Vancouver Canucks under the open-air dome of BC Place on March 2, 2014. These two Canadian teams are going back to their heritages to make this game a true Heritage Classic. Here are the uniforms for the Senators and the Canucks.
The Ottawa Senators currently wear this alternate jersey, a variation on the sweaters worn in the 1930s by the original Senators team. For the Heritage Classic, they’re simply flipping the white and black in the uniforms. I like the alternate uniform, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? GOOD.
The Vancouver Canucks will wear their Vancouver Millionaires uniforms for the Heritage Classic – the same uniforms worn on March 16, 2013 when they commemorated the 100 years of hockey history in Vancouver. This is a gorgeous uniform, and the Canucks really did well in not messing with the uniform or its historical look. Call me a fan! GOOD.
Winner: Vancouver Canucks
Phil: Like my Canadian and unlike my re-pat friend, I like the Millionaires far more than the Sens, but that’s no knock on the Sens! Of the four we’ve seen so far, the Sens is my least favorite, but I’d still give it a B+, while the Vancouver team has knocked it out of the park (which may be an appropriate metaphor for a baseball stadium game, not so much for a football stadium). Best of them all and an A+ on my scale. Both are “VERY GOOD” with an edge to the Canucks.
Stadium Series Games: (1) Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings (Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA; 1/25/14); (2) NY Rangers vs. NJ Devils (Yankee Stadium, New York, NY; 1/26/14): (3) NY Rangers vs. NY Islanders (Yankee Stadium, 1/29/14); (4) Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Soldier Field, Chicago, IL; 3/1/14)
Mike: Now, on to State U. UGH POOP DAMN. These Stadium Series jerseys are TERRIBLE. I hate how the hem stripes have sharp angles, I really hate the angled sleeve numbers, and I REALLY REALLY hate the fact that the sleeve stripes are, sometimes, just strips. So yeah, this batch flat out sucks. You know it’s bad when the elongated back numbers don’t even register a blip on the radar screen. (Dear Reebok, GET LOST. Sincerely, MBE.) But to highlight some sort of preference hierarchy, and for the benefit of Uni Watch, I will be grading the Stadium Series jerseys on a curve. This means that all of these grades are relative to the competition. In a vacuum, each of these jerseys are probably worse than the grades I give.
Teebz: The Stadium Series will feature a total of seven teams playing in three different venues, and we’ll start with the venue that will play host to three teams. Yankee Stadium will play host to two game featuring the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, and the New Jersey Devils. The Rangers and Devils will meet on January 26, and the Rangers and Islanders will clash on January 29.
Kings vs. Ducks
Mike: Ducks. Pro: Woof. Somebody had enough restraint not to make these traffic cones even busier? I have nothing. Cons: These jerseys simply offend me. Chrome accents don’t work on orange, those sleeve strips are so laughably weak, that OC patch is extremely superfluous (GIVE ME AN ORIGINAL DUCK MASK OVER CROSSED STICKS LOGO!)…I am simply not a fan. Seriously, why not revive the aubergines? I’ll give this a very generous D, even on the curve. BUT, if the Ducks wear black helmets just like the Kings, then the Ducks shall get a technical FAIL. Reason being, referees must be able to quickly count 5-on-5 and assign a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty if necessary. If everybody is wearing a black helmet, you can’t do that. The Kings are home, so they have dibs on black lids. It is up to the Ducks to avoid the clash.
Kings. Pros: Silver and black make for a solid base for a chrome accent. Con: That brand new “ligature” shoulder logo is silly. I’ll give this a B+.
Teebz: The Anaheim Ducks will travel to Dodger Stadium on January 25 to play the Los Angeles Kings in perhaps the warmest venue the NHL has seen a regular season game played. The Ducks and Kings have had their share of uniforms in their respective histories to choose from, so let’s see what they’ll be wearing in late January.
The Los Angeles Kings have worn a number of colors through their history, sporting gold, purple, black, silver, and white in a variety of combinations. One color they haven’t worn before? Gray. Hockey is a game that is rich in colors throughout its history, and the Kings opted for gray. If you notice, there is a large “LA” on the shoulder. That’s actually for the county, not the team! I’d like to like this uniform, but the grayscale look isn’t good for hockey. STUPID.
On the other side of the coin, though, sit the Anaheim Ducks. There are a pile of jokes that can be made about these orangest jerseys ever in hockey, so let’s have some fun. Let it be known that the Pylon jerseys will be ugly. When Charles Schulz was still with us, he was a fan of the California Seals. Who’da thunk it that Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin search would end at Dodger Stadium? I’m not sure if Anaheim has a penitentiary in its vicinity, but the inmates have one helluva hockey team. Ok, I’ll stop. They will wear an “OC” on their sleeve to represent their county, but these are eyesores. No need to carry on because these look STUPID.
Winner: Los Angeles Kings
Phil: Both Mike and Teebz fairly well articulated many of my own concerns, but for a one-off, these uniforms are still just bad. I don’t mind the Kings’ gray, and I actually somewhat like the orange shade the Ducks are wearing. But (like all the “SS” [short for Stadium Series] unis) I’m not a fan of the “chrome” logos and templatey feel. Letter grades? Kings get a C+ and the Ducks get a B. I would have loved to see the Kings get ballsy and throwback to the all-gold uni. And since we already saw the Ducks throwback this year, I would have been happy with that as a matchup.
Rangers vs. Devils & Islanders
Mike: Islanders. Pro: In a vacuum, I like the minimalist logo. The Islanders say that when they move to the Barclays, they will keep the standard uniforms due to tradition, but they will create a black jersey as a tie-in with the basketball Nets. If this logo were to be used on a black jersey, I doubt I’d hate it. As long as it’s not on the current black jersey’s foundation. Con: Not enough orange for my liking. That sea of blue simply drowns the logo. The large logo on the breezers is dumb. And the nameplate. GAHHH! Ladies and gentlemen, the contrast nameplate belongs to the Philly Flyers, and even then, it was never a design element. It was just a “quick, we need nameplates on the oranges for national TV” maneuver. I’ll give this a C-
Rangers. Pro: I really like the number font. Reminds me of the one-year Lady Liberty uniforms. Because of that, I’m not super-offended by the chrome or the color scheme. Serious cons: Does the future necessarily yield losses of tradition and lazier design? No more shoulder yoke piping, no more pants piping, and no more vertical arch on the NOB? Yeesh. I’ll give this a B-.
Devils. Pros: These jerseys flash a very important middle finger at “The Template.” Thank you, real sleeve stripes, real hem stripes, and straight sleeve numbers! I don’t quite know whether or not the back numbers will be elongated and/or whether the logo will be chrome-ified, but these jerseys are good enough to “bust the curve” regardless. The Devils get an A.
Teebz: The New York Rangers stay with their traditional diagonal word mark, but they opt for “New York” as opposed to “Rangers”. This seems odd to me since they will be playing another New York-based team on January 29 who will also wear a “New York” design. To me, this uniform would have been perfect to bring the Lady Liberty logo back. Since everything is chromed on the chest logo as it is, Lady Liberty would have looked great on this uniform. Instead, they opt “New York” while playing in New York City? I get that the Rangers wore “New York” on their blue uniforms from 1978-87, and I know they wear “New York” on their alternate uniforms. And yes, I’m aware they wore “New York” after the 9/11 tragedy. But the Rangers are PLAYING AT HOME in New York! There’s no hem stripes either, so it looks like Girardi is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt. Ugh! Not using the Liberty logo and adding the city name to a uniform worn at home makes this jersey STUPID.
The New York Islanders constantly seem to be reducing their footprint on Long Island, and they continue to do so with their Stadium Series jerseys. When the Fisherman was introduced, the fans demanded the original Islanders logo return in quick fashion. When the Islanders had a chance to introduce an alternate, the throwback jersey turned out to be their best-selling alternate jersey in their history. Think there’s a correlation with that Islanders logo and the history behind it? Now, their current alternate uniforms have the logo removed with just a word mark, and these Stadium Series go one step further in eliminating all “Islanders” references altogether. Since this team apparently wants nothing do with its iconic logo or the brand it is trying to build, I want nothing to do with this uniform. Contrasting name bar? The Islanders have never used one. And thanks to that logo(?), we’ll have a “New York”-versus-“NY” game on January 29. Which is STUPID.
The New Jersey Devils will play their game against the Rangers on January 26 in the only uniform that should even be considered for special games. The Devils will go green-and-red for their game, and will look spectacular once more. Nothing else needs to be said as these uniforms are awesome. And awesome is GOOD.
Winner – Game One: New Jersey Devils
Winner – Game Two: New York Rangers (less stupid is better than plain stupid, right?)
Phil: Once again, the Hockey Wing has spoken more eruditely and less concisely than I, so I don’t have much to add. If ONLY because they seem to be eschewing the “template,” (and because they never should have dropped dropped green from their colorscheme), I’ll give my highest grade or the three teams to the Devils, who I’ll give a B+. Not a fan of the chrome though. The Isles (my Isles!) and Rangers blew an opportunity to look good. As Teebz pointed out, Lady Liberty would have been perfect for the Rags, and the Isles could at least have stuck with their current crest. Fails, both. Isles get a C and the Rangers get a C-.
Blackhawks & Penguins:
Mike: Blackhawks. Pro: Uh…nice socks? Cons: Mostly everything. This very same alternate jersey has existed before, and it was less than awesome. As is, “The Template” really makes this jersey awful. Giant con: The crest is horribly cheapened (no more chain stitching), and the shiny chrome treatment on the black jersey just washes out the chief’s head. Also, the chief’s black hair kind of disappears on the black jersey. Redeeming pro: At its core, this *is* an Original Six jersey, so my instincts are shouting, “It isn’t super awful.” Rebuttal: Maybe it’s just a bias on my end. Shoot, I’ll just give it a C.
Penguins. Pro: If you must use chrome, you might as well have a metallic color and black working around it. So the metallic gold is fine here. Small pro: This Penguins jersey is the only “modern” sweater without a lace-up collar, so small kudos for breaking the mold and creating diversity. Small con: Why is the gold on the shoulder yoke only on the back? Huge con: Sleeve strips, not sleeve stripes. This is a B-, but if the strips were stripes instead, I would have awarded a B.
Teebz: The final Stadium Series game will be played on March 1 when the Pittsburgh Penguins invade Soldier Field for a battle with the Chicago Blackhawks. Again, these two teams have a ton of uniforms to work with from their histories, so let’s see how they look.
The Blackhawks will wear the “Stadium Series” template, but they actually make it look good. I’m not a fan of black uniforms, as you may be aware, but the ‘Hawks get a pass because of their history with black. The white laces on the jersey should be swapped out with red or black, but that’s cosmetic. I’m a little concerned with that hip cutout on the hem, but the striping is solid. Even the chromed logo looks pretty solid. There’s not much to complain about here, so these are GOOD.
The Penguins, like the Blackhawks, seem to have embraced this template as they have put together a respectable uniform as well. The half-stripes on the sleeves look a little off, and that gold trim on the shoulder yoke seems a bit unnecessary, but this uniform is pretty solid. Again, there’s not a lot to complain about, so I’m listing this as a GOOD.
Phil: Can’t much argue with the experts. While I hate the Pens in the color metallic gold, the “chroming” of everything really makes that logo pop. So it works here. Likewise, not a big fan of the Blackhawks in black (unless it’s in this jersey), this uni seems to do just fine. I’ll give both the Pens and the Hawks a solid B.
And there you have it folks. A look at the uniforms for the upcoming outdoor games. Big, HUGE thanks to Mike and Teebz for their efforts on this one — they did all the heavy lifting.
Well readers? What say you? Are these unis good or stupid, or do you have your own letter grades? We’d love to hear from you.
There were four games played yesterday and last evening and TJ will bring you the scoop on all of them. I’ll list my “Picking The Bowls by uni” results (in blue) after each game writeup. OK? OK.
Now, here’s TJ:
Welcome back. So, how did everything go yesterday? Well, let me tell you…
• Notre Dame vs. Rutgers (played on Saturday, December 28th, 2013)
Not exactly the BCS title game that the University of Notre Dame du Lac Fighting Irish had the honors of being in last year, but regardless, they came to play. They wore their navy jerseys and gold pants paired with what I still find to be the best helmets in college football. As per tradition, they added player names to the back of the jerseys for their bowl game. They faced off against the Rutgers (The State University of New Jersey) Scarlet Knights, who weren’t looking so scarlet. They wore their silver helmets with white jerseys and pants.
Skipper’s Pick: ND. Final Score: ND 29-Rutgers 16; Record 7-5
• North Carolina vs. Cincinnati (played on Saturday, December 28th, 2013)
I love color-vs.-color games. This game featured the The University of North Carolina (at Chapel Hill) Tar Heels in monochrome light blue. Too bad it couldn’t be full-light blue, because they had to wear those dumb black helmets. Grrr… On the other side of the ball, we have the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, who wore black jerseys, red pants, and brand-new red helmets. I like this look (although I’m not too crazy about the eyes on the back of the helmet)! That didn’t reflect on the scoreboard, however.
Skipper’s Pick: UC. Final Score: UNC 39-UC 17; Record: 7-6
• Louisville vs. Miami (FL) (played on Saturday, December 28th, 2013)
It was a pretty good day for Teddy Bridgewater and his University of Louisville
Pearly White Birds Cardinals, as they breezed through the University of Miami (Florida) Hurricanes 36-9. Louisville wore red jerseys and pants with the white helmets. The helmet decals looked to have been the same as from the Cincinnati game from earlier in the season. Miami wore white jerseys and pants with the *mostly* white helmets that were originally worn with these grey jerseys.
Skipper’s Pick: L’ville. Final Score: L’ville 36-The U-9; Record: 8-6
• Kansas State vs. Michigan (played on Saturday, December 28th, 2013)
Nothing out of the ordinary here: the Kansas State University Wildcats in their silver helmets and pants with purple jerseys, and the University of Michigan Wolverines in their winged helmets, white jerseys, and whatever-color-they’re-calling-it-these-days pants. Not a bad-looking game, although I do prefer Kansas State’s unis slightly. That shade of purple really appeals to me for whatever reason.
Skipper’s Pick: UM. Final Score: KSU 31-UM 14; Record: 8-7
That does it for part 2. I’ll see you soon for part 3. Take care.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Not a lot of submissions from yesterday, so it’s Old School ticker today.
During the Fight Hunger Bowl, the BYU sideline was sending in plays in-part using giant cue cards, at least one of which showed a picture of Seattle, of course the home of UW (good spot by Brian Eagle). … ICYMI in yesterday’s ticker, check out these Texas A&M fake unis. Says submitter Wayne Koehler, “How long before this actually becomes a reality?” … “I received the new Eastbay catalog in the mail a few days ago and cringed at what I saw,” says Gregg Wiebusch. “It appears as if Nike has taken their football glove concept of putting the logo on the palms and put it on the baseball diamond.” Here’s the link to the website as well. … Here’s a look at the Rochester Americans playing in the Spengler Cup and wearing european style jerseys. Says submitter Ryan Bohannon “No AHL team has played in the Cup in 17 years.” … If the name fits: “This guy was born to play hockey,” says Mike Raymer. Mr. Bloodoff plays for the Gwinnett Gladiators (minor league team). … Frank Albanese watching the Ken Burns documentary “Baseball” the other night (the “Tenth Inning” episode) and this shot of Rivera warming up during the 1995 season caught his eye. Frank asks, “Is it me, or is the 4 wrong on his jersey?”
And that will do it for me for the 2013 Uni Watch season. Big thanks today to Teebz, Mike and Terry, and throughout the year to all who have contributed, either articles, concepts, colorizations, DIY’s, what have you. It’s been my great pleasure and I thank you all for your support!
I’ll be back next year with a whole bunch of new stuff (and if things work out, I should have a couple of real treats in the next couple weekends — so stay tuned for that). Till then, everyone have a great New Year’s Eve (amateur night) and a wonderful new year. Stay safe and enjoy. You guys are the best!
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“I don’t understand the hate on SUNY-Buffalo. A lot of us went through the SUNY system, and are proud of it…Why can’t UB wear that pride as well?”