Uniforms are one of the most important aspects of any sports franchise. They are a huge source of merchandise revenue and the quality of a team’s uniform design helps to determine their level of prestige, intimidation, and confidence. Every fan knows the iconic sports uniforms such as the Yankees’ pinstripes, the Cowboys’ blue jersey accentuated by silver pants and helmets, and the Canadiens’ bleu, blanc, et rouge. For every legendary jersey out there, however, there are two or three horrible ones.
This list will chronicle twenty of the worst NHL jerseys from the league’s 100-year history. Some sweaters have poor colour choices, some have terrible crests on them, and others are just very cartoon-esque. As you may notice, many of the jerseys on this list come from the mid-to-late 90s. This is because the NHL introduced “alternate” or “third” jerseys following the 1995-96 All-Star Game and many teams made pitiful choices with theirs. As you are reading this list, just be thankful that none of these jerseys are in circulation anymore. Enjoy.
20 1982 New Jersey Devils Away
The original New Jersey Devils’ team colours were terrible. The “Devils” moniker that the team adopted for their inaugural season in 1982 was a solid, intimidating choice. However, the red, white, and dark green combination that the Devils took on made them look more like a Christmas joke than a dangerous hockey team. This poor choice of colour scheme also affected their first jersey. While the design and logo were both winners, the red body and green and white striping made it hard to take the team seriously. Thankfully, the Devils’ management eventually realized their mistake. They improved their look by replacing the dark green in their colour scheme with black in time for the 1992 season.
19 2013 Buffalo Sabres Alternate
The Buffalo Sabres created an alternate jersey in 2013. The most recent alternate jersey besides this one was from 2010-12 when the team decided to go back to their roots of royal blue. The colour combination of this alternate jersey on the other hand is odd. The yellow, white and dark blue are the primary colours for the existing Sabres. Introducing grey completely ruined the jersey. The transition from the blue and yellow to the grey is quite choppy, which makes the look of the jersey cheap. Also, choosing grey numbers to try and make the colours work was a poor decision. Most importantly, the font colour on the front is the dark blue colour whereas on the back, is the yellow colour. This inconsistency is strange. Thankfully, the Sabres must have realized how ugly this jersey was and stopped using it as the squad’s alternate jersey after two seasons.
18 1998 Calgary Flames Alternate
The Calgary Flames have had a number of great jerseys in their history. The black, gold, and red colour scheme really pops and their flaming “C” logo is simple but very effective. For some reason, the Flames’ management decided to go away from that great logo for their 1998 alternate threads and the result was a dud. The new emblem that they went with was supposed to pay homage to Calgary’s yearly Stampede event, as it featured a horse with flames emerging from its nose. The colouring and head-on view of the horse don’t work as a logo and the thick, pointed striping on the jersey only emphasizes its poor design. Unfortunately for fans’ eyes, the Flames stuck with these ghastly uniforms for nearly eight seasons before finally retiring them in 2006.
17 2001 Vancouver Canucks Alternate
The first of three entries from the Vancouver Canucks in this article, this jersey is admittedly not terrible. The main reason why it lands on this list is the strange colour fade that happens on the torso of the jersey. It is a unique design that would suit an everyday clothing article much better than a professional sports jersey, obviously evidenced by the fact that no other team before or since has done such a thing. The odd jersey must’ve been a favourite of management, however, as it stuck around as the club’s alternate for five long years. While this sweater is not nearly as bad as Vancouver’s 1996 Alternates or their 1978 “Graduation Gown” duds, it still ranks among the twenty worst of all-time.
16 2006 Buffalo Sabres Home
The Buffalo Sabres had great uniforms from their inception in 1970 until 1996, when they made the poor decision to change things up. Their switch from a blue and yellow colour scheme to black and red was not well received in ‘96 and when they finally decided to go back to the blue and yellow in 2006, they did so with a horrid new logo. After having a simple buffalo-and-sword combination for so many years, and an intimidating red-eyed buffalo from ‘96-’06, the new logo, dubbed “the slug”, just didn’t cut it. The only buffalo-looking part of the crest were the horns, and the unorthodox vertical striping on the jersey didn’t help. The “slug” was mercifully retired in 2010 and after 14 long years, the Sabres finally went back to their original crest.
15 1974 California Golden Seals Away
The California Golden Seals were originally named the California Seals, but the team name was changed to the Oakland Seals and then eventually the California Golden Seals in 1970. Alongside their name change, there was a uniform change. The Seals wore simple yellow, green and white uniforms which weren’t that great either, before changing to this jersey. For starters, the colour scheme was a poor choice. The light turquoise colour isn’t bad, but when it is put on a shirt with the yellow and white, it becomes quite ugly. The style of the jersey is awful as well. The tight arm cuffs make it look like a sweater more than a jersey, and the stripes of yellow and white on the shoulders look awful. It looks like a basketball jersey that added sleeves. Looking at the "Seals" writing on the front, the font choice looks like a kid’s handwriting. All in all, the NHL made a poor decision allowing this uniform to be the Seals’ jersey for two terrible seasons.
14 2001 Edmonton Oilers Alternate
Yet another jersey that is greatly hampered by a poor logo, the 2001 Oilers Alternate threads are an aberration in the franchise’s long line of solid jerseys. After 22 years with their simple-yet-effective round “OILERS” crest, they came out with the oil drop logo for their alternate unis. The small oil drop, however, was surrounded by what looked like a metal meteor. The strange logo was not helped by the almost unreadable font used for the players’ names on the back of the jerseys. Edmonton’s attempt at a turn-of-the-century futuristic alternate jersey was incredibly unimpressive.
13 1996 Vancouver Canucks Alternate
The Vancouver Canucks have been very indecisive on their team colours and the look of their jerseys over the years. In the 1995-96 season, the Canucks decided to don this red alternate jersey. To start, the main logo that they used in previous seasons is way too busy. There is almost too much going on in the logo that it is hard to even read the "Canucks" writing. With the poorly-organized logo, the angled line that splits the two colours apart is not seen as a traditional form of line separation and frankly, it's a bad idea. Most importantly, with the diagonal line going through the back and the front of the jersey, the number on the back looks awful because of the three colours cramming the space. The yellow-on-yellow decision was a poor one. The Canucks’ attempt to make a unique jersey was a flat-out failure.
12 1996 L.A. Kings Alternate
The Los Angeles Kings have been around since the late 1960s, having pretty promising start-up colours of yellow and purple with a detailed crown as their primary logo. In 1988, they switched gears to a simple black and white scheme. Shortly after taking this turn, they created an alternate jersey in the 1995-96 season. These alternate threads were created with a strange black, grey, white, yellow, and purple colour combination. The Kings’ logo choice was also an unpleasant one. The emblem looks like Burger King with purple facial hair. After using this alternate jersey for one year, it was thankfully never seen again. The choice to even have this for one season was a horrendous one, and it’s unbelievable that the NHL allowed such a jersey.
11 1995 New York Islanders Away
The New York Islanders were founded in 1972. For 23 years the team had fairly clean, neutral looking jerseys before attempting to create a unique jersey in 1995. This jersey is awful. The wavy lines on the trim make it look cartoony . They take away from the neatness of the jersey and make it look like they did not have a ruler when creating this design. Alongside the bumpy lines, they decided for some odd reason to have the numbers and names of the players wacky. Looking at the back of the jersey, the inconsistency of the numbers make it look like someone just slapped them on the back without evening them out. The slanted names make the team look messy, creating the idea that they are not a professional squad. Overall, the NHL’s and Islanders’ decision to allow such an awful jersey design from 1995-98 was a very poor one.
10 1996 Tampa Bay Lightning Alternate
Another atrocious alternate jersey from the late-‘90s, this Tampa Bay Lightning uniform just has way too much going on. The fans understand that lightning is usually accompanied by a storm. They don’t need the visual representation of rain falling into wavy water, with lightning bolts all around. Tampa’s management obviously thought they did though, as all of those things can be found crammed into this messy jersey. The Cullen Clover that the team wore to honour cancer victim and former Bolt John Cullen just adds to the clutter. If anything, the only redeeming quality of these crazy threads is that they may have acted as a distraction to opposing players and goalies. Somehow, these jerseys actually lasted for three seasons before our eyes were finally put out of their misery in 1999.
9 1999 Atlanta Thrashers Away
The Atlanta Thrashers were an NHL team that played from 1999-2011 before moving up north to become the new Winnipeg Jets. The team had the national bird of Georgia, the Thrasher, as their main logo. The home jersey had this good-looking, tornado-shaped logo on it, whereas the away jersey had this embarrassing figure on the front and only featured the main logo on the shoulders. The figure looks like a poorly-drawn crane bird. Alongside this mishap, the numbers on the back of the jersey are also poorly-chosen. They are an awful font and when looking at the home and away jerseys side-by-side, the font looks like a slightly different size. The detailing on the sleeves and the bottom of the jersey are also too busy, it takes away from the whole intimidating look of the team. It’s quite shocking that this jersey stuck around for seven seasons - a poor choice by both the franchise and the NHL.
8 2003 Dallas Stars Alternate
This incredibly strange jersey looks like something that a kid would create in a hockey video game's Create-a-Team mode. When the Stars moved from Minnesota to Dallas in 1993, they came up with a simply-striped black, green, and white jersey which lasted for six seasons. Then, for some reason, the club donned a garish star-shaped jersey in 1999 and it stuck for eight seasons. As bad as the star jersey was, the alternate that was created and worn from 2003-2006 was simply unsuitable for a professional sports team. For starters, the uniform featured a strange logo which was designed to represent the Taurus constellation but looked more like a uterus diagram, earning it the nickname “Mooterus”. To go along with this awful crest, the dark green, gold, and orangey-red striping on the jersey just didn’t work. Thankfully the threads only lasted three seasons, but even that is much too long for these eye sores.
7 1996 Phoenix Coyotes Away
Unless you’re into uniqueness, there are absolutely no redeeming qualities about the then-Phoenix Coyotes’ 1996 road jersey. The off-white, burgundy, dark green, and black colour combination is as ugly as it sounds. The logo just has way too much going on, with a cyborg-looking, hockey-playing coyote wearing the same awful-coloured attire as is featured on the body of the jersey. The trim of the jersey is also strange, looking like the battlements of a castle. For some unforeseen reason, these horrible duds lasted for seven seasons before finally being put out of circulation in 2003.
6 1926 New York Americans Home
It’s almost as if someone on the Americans’ management team in 1926 could see ahead 90 years to the future trend of ugly Christmas sweaters when they came up with this jersey design. To be fair, a lot of the jerseys in the NHL’s early years were a busy mess of colours and stripes, but this one takes the cake. The uniform had an overwhelming amount of stripes on the stomach area and the arms, and the stars peppering the upper half of the sweater on both the front and back just add to the madness. The team stuck with a similar version of these threads for thirteen seasons before finally moving to a calmer look in 1938. Unfortunately, the franchise didn’t last much longer after that anyway, folding after the 1942 season.
5 1998 Phoenix Coyotes Alternate
The 1998-1999 season is when the Phoenix Coyotes introduced this alternate jersey. This crazy design is quite something. They went from a white, black, and burgundy colour scheme to a green, black, and orange design. All the graphic designs on the bottom of the shirt are too much for an NHL jersey. The orange mountains and green cacti are not flattering. Alongside this mishap, their choice on the main logo was awful. A mixed-coloured coyote that looks like a cartoon character does not make for an intimidating logo. The Coyotes organization and the NHL made a poor decision by allowing their players to ever don this jersey, and they continued to use it as an alternate jersey until 2003! What a mistake.
4 2001 Nashville Predators Alternate
The Nashville Predators currently own one of the best jerseys in the NHL. Their gold and dark blue colour combination works wonders and the logo that the team currently employs is the best version in the franchise’s history. The alternate threads that the team began sporting in the 2001 season are everything that their current jersey is not. The mustard yellow that fills most of the jersey is one of the worst colours in NHL history, the arm striping is over-the-top and unnecessary, and the logo just looks too cartoonish. For some reason, Preds management saw fit to keep these duds for six long seasons before they were mercifully retired following the 2007 campaign.
3 1996 Anaheim Mighty Ducks Alternate
Anaheim’s NHL team was founded in 1993 by Walt Disney and named after the hit movie The Mighty Ducks. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks had an interesting choice for their alternate jersey in the 1995-1996 season. This jersey can not be taken seriously in the NHL world. It’s a jersey that the one guy in the office that knows nothing about hockey would wear to the themed office party. The numbers and writing of the names look like they were written by a toddler. The front of their jerseys look like an awful cartoon from the '80s. The duck emerging from the ice looking like the Michelin Man with hockey equipment on is more of a joke then an intimidating NHL logo. The Ducks’ poor choice of attire was noticed by everyone, and the following year the team chose to have no alternate jersey (thankfully).
2 1920 Hamilton Tigers Home
The Hamilton Tigers are no longer an NHL team, but during their time from 1920-1925, their decision to wear these jerseys was a poor one. To begin, the colour scheme is awful. The yellow and black striped attire makes the team look like bees on the ice. Having the logo and jersey numbers in black boxes is atrocious, as they almost look Photoshopped onto the jersey itself. The Tigers made a very poor decision allowing these duds to be their home jerseys. Not only did they keep the terrible colour scheme during their entire five years as a team, they only made slight adjustments, changing the logo and the direction of the stripes.. This should not have been allowed for players in the NHL to wear, and thankfully the team only lasted five seasons.
1 1978 Vancouver Canucks Home
This is the worst jersey in National Hockey League history. The Canucks had a weary journey to becoming an NHL team. Once they did, their original jerseys were great - almost before their time with the simple striping and logo. After eight seasons of existence, the Canucks’ jerseys were changed in 1978. They went from blue, white, and green to yellow, red and black. This jersey came with no logo on the front or back, simply a crest on each sleeve. The jersey had a large V coming down the middle, making the Canucks players look more like the graduating class of 1978 than an NHL team. Unbelievably, this unfortunate choice of attire stuck around for SEVEN seasons before someone with some sense in their brain finally decided to fix the team’s look.