When you look back at the history of the NHL, it’s amazing their death toll isn’t higher. Players went about for years without helmets as they took serious hits and some nasty shots but kept on going. The uniforms could be a bit drab as it took a while for the NHL to make helmets mandatory and also to make uniforms flashier. That’s worked for a lot of teams to be better but it hasn’t always worked out as planned. It doesn’t help that NHL teams have several alternate outfits and throwback uniforms that can add to the bad design work.
When polling NHL fans asking about what they think the best uniforms in the league are, the answers invariably come back to the original six, given that their looks are classic and ageless. A lot of the newer teams seem to constantly be tweaking their uniforms, still looking for the perfect look.
It was really terrible in the 1990s as designers tried to get some “new looks” for audiences that just ended up working terribly. Some outfits may have been okay in the shops but actually used on the ice looked terrible in many ways. And some outfits should never have been taken out of the page but kept in a deep, dark closet to never see the light of day. There have been so many examples for so many teams but every one in the NHL has had at least one jersey they deeply regret. Whether regular, away, an alternate or such, these are the worst of the worst for every current NHL team, jerseys you can’t believe were ever designed, let alone worn and each team having to bear it as part of their legacy.
30 Anaheim Ducks, 1995-96 Alternates
The Ducks had a major obstacle when they started as folks were unsure of a team inspired by a Disney movie. The designers did them absolutely no favors whatsoever with this team uniform design. Bursting out of ice is a massively muscled duck in a hockey mask with a giant stick, a super-hero design that would have been crazy for a theme park t-shirt. Having it worn by a professional hockey team was just nuttier and why the Ducks were a massive joke at first. They got a makeover and improved to Stanley Cup champions down the road but it has to rank as not just the worst jersey in team history but possibly the worst in all of the NHL.
29 Arizona Coyotes, 1997-98 Thirds
Man, the 1990s were not kind to NHL team designs and the Coyotes (then called Phoenix) fit that. The logo looked rough, one half of the coyote face masked, on a dark green background and the trim was meant to emulate the desert but it did not look remotely good enough. The Coyotes have done their best to change from those days, but this has to rank as a look that deserved to be buried in the wastelands.
28 Boston Bruins, 1995-2006 Winnie the Pooh
As if Boston fans hadn’t suffered enough over the years, they had to spend a decade with this absolutely horrible design. The yellow body and trim were a bad mix to start and somehow made the jerseys look baggier than they should have and the players not as good. The worst was the logo, a massive bear head that soon had them nicknamed as the “Winnie the Pooh” outfits. That they stuck with them so long is remarkable as fans felt like hibernating watching them play.
27 Buffalo Sabres, 2013-14 Thirds
When the president of the team slams these, you know it’s bad. As soon as the Sabres brought these out, the fans were irate, the bright mustard over the majority of the jersey mixing with the blue shoulders and back for a bad mix. The logo of dueling swords and a buffalo looked childish and amazingly bad overall. The whole thing caused Ted Black to say “If it’s a turd burger, I’ll have to put it on a bun and eat it.” A sentiment more than a few fans can agree with.
26 Calgary Flames, 1998-2006 Thirds
That they kept with these for almost a decade is amazing. Their outfits from ’95-2000 weren’t exactly stellar either with the trims but this has to top the list more. The black colors mix with the red and yellow forearms in a bad way but that logo…The horse snorting flames must have sounded cool but they went with one of the worst drawings imaginable for it, just a mess of fire and clouds so the effect is lost. A cool idea but terrible execution…which actually fits Calgary well.
25 Carolina Hurricanes, 2013-Present Alternates
Originally the Hartford Whalers, the Hurricanes have had a pretty simple logo, the red and black hurricane design that works well on red and white and they’ve been smart not to change that up too much. However, their alternate outfits aren’t as good as the logo is replaced by a hockey stick and flag in the wind which looks dumb and the black and red coloring off to mix with it. It’s slews better than the Whalers but still not as fun as the usual logo is.
24 Chicago Blackhawks, 1950s
As one of the Original Six, the Blackhawks haven’t shifted their logo, the classic chief’s head being a success over the years, especially with their Stanley Cup victories. Many would argue the Blackhawks have the best uniforms in the NHL. You’d have to go back to their older uniforms to see the bad stuff as their 1950s jerseys were an ugly black-red-white striped mix with the logo a small circle at the center chest. Chicago’s been lucky to have a good design overall but the older days showing how rough it could be.
23 Colorado Avalance, 2001-07 Thirds
It’s clear the Avalanche’s early uniforms were inspired by the Rangers with the team lettering sloped around the torso, a good thing for New York but Colorado couldn’t quite pull it off. The striping at the bottom looks inconsistent with the sleeves and the bad logo doesn’t match with the Avalanche at all. It took some trial and error to get through it for a better look while fans prefer this buried under an avalanche for real.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets, 2003-07 Thirds
Third jerseys are often trashed by fans as dumb, especially in their early versions and the Blue Jackets are tops among that. The logo bore no resemblance to the Civil War history the team is based on, a swinging arm around a star, making you baffled as to what Columbus is supposed to be. The dark blue is okay but the black and red trim makes it look worse as well as the red necklines. They’ve been smart to embrace the “blue” motif a lot more since but the early going had Columbus failing majorly in their thirds.
21 Dallas Stars, 2003-06 Thirds
Here is how the Stars publicity department described the design: “the new logo depicts a constellation of individual stars aligning to form an unstoppable force of nature, a charging bull.” To too many fans, it looked like everything from a messy blob to a certain body part. It just looked dumb and that’s without the black color and red-yellow-green trim. The Stars have usually been able to pull off some good looks, but this sure wasn't one of them.
20 Detroit Red Wings, 1991-92
Detroit has always had the red and white colors to set them apart, that hasn’t changed. What has is how they were originally the Falcons before changing to reflect the Motor City a bit more. However, the modern times have brought one of the worst as in 1991, they tried an alternate that was red and white stripes with “Detroit” on the top and that great logo slid to a small patch on the right shoulder. It was a terrible look, better suited for a college frat than the ice and thankfully got the yank fast.
19 Edmonton Oilers, 2001-07 Thirds
The dark color on these outfits is rough but still able to handle. Even the lack of a team name can be manageable. However, the logo is something else. Rather than the classic oil drop and team name, these boast a design by former minority owner Todd McFarlane and for a famous comic book artist, it’s horrible. The bizarre mix of fire, oil and metal just comes off like some creature from space rather than a reminder of the team name and put with the dark colors makes it even more messy.
18 Florida Panthers, 1998 Third
y obvious choice here. The logo wasn’t too bad but trying to “arch” the sight of a charging cat came off more cartoonish than intended, even breaking a hockey stick. Even without that, you had a terrible mix of blue, red and yellow and cat-shaped neck lining that looked like a color-blind child’s design. It was a horrible sight on the ice and amazing Florida kept to it for a while as the Panthers failed to click over with this design.
17 Los Angeles Kings, 1995-96
“The Burger King shirts.” That’s what every L.A. fan calls this utterly ridiculous design that the Kings debuted in 1995. Just looking at it makes you crack up: The white mixing with darker grey across the mid-section, sweeping around the wrists and the logos on the shoulders. And then there’s the logo of the figure with a crown that’s meant to be royal but looks completely stupid. A horrible design that made the Kings look more like the court jesters.
16 Minnesota Wild - Reds
An obvious choice here. The early Wild design wasn’t too terrible, green fitting Minnesota and latching onto the nice image of a bear against the woods. In 2003, they went with a Reebok-inspired look that was just solid red with a green circle containing that logo. It just has no real flair for it, nothing major on the ice, doing okay but drab against the much flashier uniforms of opposing teams. Their away outfits actually look good but the home uniforms just made the Wild look tame.
15 Montreal Canadiens - Barbershop Jerseys
There are a lot of bad classic uniforms but the Canadians outdid them all. Their jerseys looked like a chain gang hitting the ice, horrible stripes and a mess of colors. Their own coach said he felt dizzy as hell watching them play and the fans weren’t much better as it looked like a zigzag TV pattern in playing. They only used them once and that may well be the wisest move the Canadians have made in years to spare their fans further agony.
14 Nashville Predators, 2001-07 Thirds
To be fair, the logo on these is actually pretty cool-looking with the massive tiger head and huge fangs lunging out at you. Sadly, that logo is placed into an ugly-looking dark mustard and the square necks look amazingly dopey. The Predators usually go for sharp colors to enhance the name but it’s pretty hard to take seriously a bunch dressed like a bad marching bad. A shame as that logo is damn awesome and against a better color, these would shine wonderfully.
13 New Jersey Devils - Green
Originally set in Kansas City, then the Colorado Rockies, the Devils finally settled into New Jersey for their current home, latching onto the cool “Horned NJ” logo and red and white colors for their jerseys. However, the first time was rough as the green trim was off on the colors and the original striping clashing a bit too much. They thankfully improved and not among the worst around but the Devils’ first look was a tad too hellish.
12 New York Islanders, 1995-99
The 2011 Thirds outfits are a close contender with their messy mix and stamping the logo at the neckline. But most fans will agree that the uniforms worn by the team in this time period are the topper. The curved striping was meant to look like waves but came off as a child’s drawing, the colors a mess (worse for the away versions) and the logos on the front seemed a bit off too. The Islanders had to endure a lot in the ‘90s (John Spano comes to mind) but the uniforms didn’t help matters at all.
11 New York Rangers, 1996-2007 Alternate
The Rangers set the bar for the jersey tops with the team name wrapped around the torso and the white and blue colors that have become iconic. In 1996, they tried something with an alternate jersey, one that was a navy blue with a logo at the chest boasting the Statue of Liberty and red at the arms. It just seemed off, meant to celebrate New York but too gaudy for it to work right with fans. The Rangers showed working your city too much into your jersey design can backfire.
10 Ottawa Senators, 2009-11 Thirds
It’s a simple thing: Your jersey should have your whole team name on it. The black color with some red trimmings and turtleneck top is off already. But “Sens?” Really, it looks completely idiotic to have your team name abbreviated on the front of your jersey, even high school teams don’t do that. It made the Senators look like a joke and not winning their fans over and amazing they kept to this as long as they did.
9 Philadelphia Flyers, 2002-07 Thirds
Infamously one of the hardest and roughest teams in NHL history, the Flyers haven’t altered their design too much, sticking with the “Winged P” and orange colors and it works fine. However, their attempt to “chrome up” the P logo went over badly and what looked like layers of triangles on the sleeves was too distracting, not to mention the heart-shaped neck lines. The Flyers haven’t had too many bungles in their uniforms but trying to look cooler just took away from what made the design effective.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins, 1992-97
Hockey fans are a suspicious bunch so it’s no surprise this uniform has gathered a unique reputation. In 1992, having won their second straight Stanley Cup, the Penguins decided to shift their long-standing uniforms for a newer design. The logo looked quite bad with a winged penguin and the away uniforms had the team name spread out across the torso. It looked rough and the Penguins took a tumble afterward as it would be 17 years (and a new uniform) before they won another Cup, making many Pittsburgh fans treat this outfit like a curse.
7 San Jose Sharks, 1998-2007
The Sharks have boasted a cool logo of a shark biting down on a hockey stick that shines nicely in their later uniforms. However, for these ones, the logo looked very bland, not that threatening at all. Plus, the home outfits had a mostly white color with stripes of grey and aqua green that looked nasty. The away outfits were worse, like a skintight water suit that looked terrible on the ice and the neckline didn’t do any favors either. They’ve improved the design since but the Sharks showcased how it took a while to get the kinks out.
6 St. Louis Blues, Proposed 1996 Thirds
This list is meant for jerseys actually worn but this is so utterly atrocious that it deserves mention. In 1996, the Blues had a proposal for a jersey that looked like it was designed by a jazz musician on a week-long New Orleans bender. Striped purple sleeves framed a hodgepodge of colors with giant trumpets and musical notes mixed in, topped off with a yellow and orange striped collar. In what has to rank as the smartest move of his tenure, Mike Keenan took one look at them and refused to let his team don them for the ice. The Blues have had some bad stuff but they truly dodged a bullet with this.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning, 1996-99
Yes, their name is the Lightning and they’re based on the Florida coast so it makes sense. But the design was just a total mess. The logo wasn’t bad but the horizontal rain drops looked stupid and the lightning bolt frames on their arms wasn’t much better. The fans have always loathed this and the team have shifted to better designs since as proof lightning rarely strikes twice but when it hits, it can hit bad in terrible designs.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1927
You mention the Maple Leafs, you think bright blue and white with the classic leaf design. Despite some shifts, that’s been the standard over the years and it’s worked pretty well for the team. But their very first outfits bore none of that. Instead, there were almost totally white with a small green leaf at the front and on first glance, you’d think this was a St. Patrick’s Day parade shirt. It’s a bit easy to slam the old-styled outfits but this has to rank as poor and thankfully Toronto realized the blue went a lot further than the green.
3 Vancouver Canucks, 1995-97 Thirds
Vancouver has had some bad ones before like the rather wretched 1980s outfits. However, the alternate outfits they used in ’95 are truly bad. The logo looked like a mess of spaghetti bisected in red and yellow and the colors a drab color, not really fitting the team at all. It may speak a lot to how bad the Canucks were in this time period but it still ranks as just a mess of a jersey and why Vancouver fans prefer to forget this time period.
2 Washington Capitals, 1974-75
The Capitals have had some rough looks like the eagle logo against blue and white. However, these outfits (revived for the Winter Classic) looked pretty nasty as well. The giant hockey stick forming the “L” in the team name looks obtrusive and the stars at the top are too distracting. The red and blue stripes against white may be patriotic but not enough to overcome the problems of the giant lettering and putting a capitol on how bad these jerseys look.
1 Winnipeg Jets (Atlanta Thrashers), 2007-11
The Jets have a complicated history having started off in 1972 and then moving to Arizona to become the Coyotes in 1996. In 2011, the city regained a team when the Atlanta Thrashers moved there and were renamed. Thus, the currents Jets have sadly inherited the legacy of one of the worst jerseys ever seen, the infamous “motocross” outfits. They don’t even look like they were designed for hockey, red and white with no team logo, an ugly affair and Jets fans should be happy the team left these in Atlanta.
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