Logos are sacred. They are the symbol athletes fight and bleed for, and they are the source of pride for a team’s fans. Those aforementioned logos rest on the crest of a team’s jersey, made up of the colors and designs that make each team unique and provides the visual representation of a franchise.
For the most part, NHL jerseys are fairly standard: basic color schemes, nothing too extravagant or wild, which should come as no surprise in a league that has often wagged a disciplinary finger at anything remotely close to flamboyant or original. As opposed to other leagues, notably football in the past few year, there has never been much room for creativity or originality when it comes to the styles and colors of NHL jerseys. Quite frankly, I’m not one to complain about it, because I’d like to be able to focus on the game without having to squint through bright neon jerseys or chromed-out helmets, but that’s just me.
However, there are plenty of examples of NHL jersey concepts that have left many of us scratching our heads, laughing incredulously or simply looking on silently, utterly disgusted. Some were simply poor judgement. We’ve all had ideas that seemed right in our head to start, but once executed we stand back and wonder how we ever could have thought this was a smart decision to make.
There are some jersey concepts that we’ve seen, though, that should be federally investigated, as they are simply criminal. No self-respecting professional athlete should ever have to put on such hideous sweaters, no matter how much fame and fortune comes the way of a pro hockey player. As the great prophet Deion “PrimeTime” Sanders once said: look good, play good. This, apparently, was not a mantra these teams lived by when they decided to come up with these awful jerseys.
15. Anaheim Mighty Ducks: 1995-1996
The Anaheim Ducks are one of the most respected and talented teams in the NHL today. The Anaheim “Mighty” Ducks, on the other hand, we’re usually as ragtag as the team they were based off of, save for the Jean-Sebastien Giguere years of the mid-2000’s. While the classic Mighty Ducks logo is incredibly popular, this “Wildwing” jersey was the butt-end of jokes more than a highly sought after commodity. While the idea was interesting, the execution was downright awful. It’s almost saddening, as this could have been a great jersey.
14. Montreal Canadiens: 1912-1913
The Montreal Canadiens have more logos and jerseys than most teams have Stanley Cups and almost all of them are visually appealing. The classic look is the only thing that works for a classic organization. They have one blotch on the “jersey record” though, and it’s without a doubt the barber-pole jersey. The striped bleu, blanc, rouge does nothing more than dizzy spectators, and probably the Habs themselves trying to pick out teammates on the ice. Thankfully, these were retired for good after the Centennial Season.
13. Edmonton Oilers: 2001
The Edmonton Oilers classic logo is, in my opinion, one of the best logos in the league. It brings back memories of Gretzky, Messier, and the rest of the powerhouse Edmonton teams of the 80’s. Why the Oilers ever though it would be a good idea to deviate from that logo concept is beyond me. The Oil Drop may have been a nice idea, but at the end of the day, it’s just a drop of liquid. There is nothing intimidating or appealing about a drop of oil. Usually drops of oil are a nuisance…what was the message being sent? “Oh, you guys are going to get it now, we’re going to drop some oil and you’ll just be slipping and sliding everywhere!” The only sliding that ended up happening was the Oilers sliding down the standings.
12. California Seals: 1974-1976
In hindsight, perhaps the California Seals we’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wayne Gretzky hadn’t left his mark on SoCal just yet, so hockey in California was just a strange notion to begin with. Add in the rest of the factors: a) the team wasn’t very good, b) the team was called the Seals, and c) the jerseys were awful, specifically the bright blue/turquoise jerseys pictured above. So to recap, it was more than just the jersey that was a problem for the fearsome Seals.
11. New York Islanders: 1995
The New York Islanders have found a way to be consistently ridiculous throughout their history. If it hadn’t been for Mike Bossy and the vaunted Islanders teams of the 80’s, this franchise would have literally nothing to hang their hats on, besides being the laughing stock of the league. It would appear the team wanted this type of attention, because they have us another reason to scoff at them when they released these alternate jerseys in the 1990’s. Thankfully the Isles came to their senses… with regards to the jersey concepts, anyway.
10. Boston Bruins: 1995
The Bruins have long been the most fearsome and intimidating team in the NHL. That’s part of the reason why this jersey is this high on the list – not only is it not intimidating, it’s almost cute, a word that should never be associated with anything related to the Bruins. Some have gone as far as calling this the Bruins’ “Winnie the Pooh” jersey, while other have stuck to the Smiling Bear. Anyway you look at it, this looks more like a child’s stuffed teddy bear that a vicious animal.
9. Buffalo Sabres: 2006
The Sabres classic two-sword logo is one of the classier logos in league history. For whatever reason, the Buffalo brain-trust decided to first go with the red, white and black abomination of the late 90’s (but at least that was a bit scarier-looking). In 2006, though, it got worse. The Buffaslug was born and the barrage of negative reactions was never-ending. No one could understand what the logo was supposed to represent, or what it even was, for that matter. Toss in the relatively new fad of social media and you had a disaster waiting to happen.
8. Vancouver Canucks: 1978
Some might argue that the Vancouver Canucks have one of the worst jersey collections in the history of the NHL. We won’t go that far, but we would be remiss if we didn’t include the Canucks awful Flying V jersey on this list. There was no logo on this particular jersey, no matter what any Canucks fan tells you. The jersey looked like something a beer league team that didn’t want to pay a lot for jerseys would wear. While the reference to the V standing for Vancouver is understood, it’s way to easy to make the reference to a bunch of birds flying in formation.
7. A Majority of the Atlanta Thrashers Jersey Collection
The Atlanta Thrashers were destined to fail from the start. They played in a town where most people didn’t even know there was a hockey team. They had horrible rosters (you can count the amount of star players they had in the franchises history on one hand), and they had horrible jerseys. The one displayed here is by far the worst one, but the official logo gets an honorable mention because, quite frankly, whatever a Thrasher is, it probably does not look like an orange flamingo wrapped around itself at all times.
6. Los Angeles Kings: 1995
Don’t get me wrong, most people love a good Whopper; but when the mascot of Burger King suddenly becomes one of your professional sports franchise’s logos, there’s a serious problem. The reference makes sense, as humorous as it is, but at the end of the day do you really want your homage to royalty be the king of greasy fast-food burgers? Some might say yes, but in the NHL, that should have been a hard “NO” from the second the idea was suggested.
5. Calgary Flames: 1998
The Calgary Flames are yet another example of a team that deviated from a great logo just for the sake of being different. Thankfully, the backlash on the “Horse Snot” alternate jersey was as present as it was for the “Buffaslug”…but because it happened to a Canadian franchise, it was that much bigger of an issue. There are several things you need to take very seriously in Western Canada, and two of those things are hockey and horses – so making a mockery of both with one swift act was a big mistake.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning: 1996-1999
If the Tampa Bay Lightning hadn’t resurrected their jersey history with their sleek new white and blue uniforms, this jersey may have been higher on the list. The “Wavy Bolts” jersey simply had way too much going on, and a lot of the stuff that was going on was either out of place or, simply put, downright ugly. The bottom of the jersey looks like ocean waves crashing over each other…isn’t water and electricity supposed to be a bad mix?
3. Dallas Stars: 2003-2006
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the “Mooterus” jersey during a game. I must have been flipping channels and landed on this particular game, and it was at a point in the action where the imposed scoreboard was not on the screen at that particular moment, meaning that neither team’s abbreviation was on the screen, let alone the score. I watched for a few seconds, confused, wondering if this was an NHL game or some weird crossover game.
Alas, the scoreboard reappeared and to my great surprise and disgust, it turned out these hideous jerseys belonged to the Dallas Stars.
So a word to all NHL teams who plan on making future jersey changes: if die-hard hockey fans can’t recognize what team you are immediately, it’s probably not a good logo idea.
2. St. Louis Blues: 1996
If it wasn’t for the number one jersey on this list, this Blues jersey would have been far and away the worst jersey of all-time, and would have a pretty decent shot at winning worst jersey in all of sports. God Bless “Iron” Mike Keenan, who shot down the jerseys before they became a mainstay. Not only were these jerseys an eyesore, they were quite possibly the least intimidating jersey of all-time, and perhaps the “trippiest” jerseys of all-time…who thinks of putting a smiley face on a trumpet?
1. The Entire Phoenix Coyotes Jersey Collection
You all knew this was coming. The Phoenix Coyotes inaugural jersey was a absolute mess. Not only that, once the organization realized this, they proceeded to make changes to the jersey…but they used the exact same concept, color scheme and overall design in the newer versions. The original Coyotes jerseys were pricklier than a desert cactus, and it probably felt like the players were wearing one when they pulled those awful things over their heads.
They finally moved over to the red and white version when Reebok redesigned the jerseys for the entire league, but even the latest Coyotes jerseys have their flaws.