We’re now well into the 21st century, and we live in a world where reckless greed, corporate deceit and human exploitation rule the masses and are gaining momentum. In the NHL, this unfortunate reality has resulted in sky-high ticket prices, an inundation of advertising (they’re talking about ads on jerseys now because of course they are), and frivolous team merchandising.
Today I’m going to focus on that last thing: merchandising. In 1995-96, the league introduced the concept of the third, or "alternate" jersey. Before the introduction of the third jerseys, the fashion landscape of the NHL was far simpler; you either owned your team’s home jersey or its away jersey, or both. Those were the options. The third jersey opened up a whole new world for fans with hundred dollar bills burning holes through their pockets.
To be fair, it’s not all about the almighty dollar, although that’s certainly what drove the idea. Fashion is still a part of every sports team, as the colors and logos are major parts of a team’s history. Unfortunately, third jerseys are so often eyesores that should be ritualistically burnt. They’re not all bad, but there have been more bad ones than good ones.
15 Oilers Spawn Logo (2001-2007)
The Oilers first third jersey opens our list at number 15. To be fair, this jersey was fairly well-received by many fans, but it sort of seemed out of place for me. At the time of its introduction, the Oilers had only used their original logo throughout the franchise’s 27 year history. Looking back, you can't believe how this jersey was ever brought to the forefront, when compared to the classic blue and orange.
The new logo was designed by “Spawn” creator Todd McFarlane, so it had a lot of street cred heading in coupled with high expectations, which could be the source of my disappointment.
The Oilers' current alternate jerseys may not be the most cutting edge, but at least they somewhat keep the tradition of the team. This seemed like a lame attempt at trying to create a futuristic type jersey.
14 Capitals with the Capitol (1997-2000)
I’m a big fan of classic, retro-style logos, so when the Capitals introduced their first ever third jerseys in 1997, I immediately disliked them.
The old Capitals colors are great, so I definitely have an issue with the dark background on the thirds. But the logo is also problematic; it’s a picture of the U.S. Capitol Building with the word “Capitals” sprawled in front of it. Not the most creative sweater logo I’ve ever seen.
The red, white and blue is a classic pattern that works great on so many teams and it's only fitting that the country's capital would have those colors too. The regular jerseys they used from the late 90s to mid 2000s weren't so bad, as they at least had an eagle across the front. This one just looks way too corporate.
13 The Predators’ Subtle Change (2001-2004)
If you’re going to introduce a third jersey to your fan base, I think it’s only fair that you make the logo different. The Predators joined the third jersey party in 2001 when they first introduced the mustard-yellow alternate jersey.
While I was one of the rare few who was a fan of the new color scheme, the logo is silly. It’s essentially the same as the old logo, but it’s looking at the predator’s head from a different angle—a cheap cop-out, if you ask me. Thankfully, these jerseys were disposed of by the time Shea Weber came into town. Could you imagine having to watch the Preds' captain skate around and fire his booming shot while in these atrocities?
The Preds now have a brighter yellow, which is also getting mixed opinions, but far more approval than their mustard yellows.
12 “Bolts” (2011-present)
As you’ll find with this entry as well as the next one on this list, I don’t like it when teams try to get cute with their jerseys. The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a few eyesores of jerseys in the past, but I think the whole “Bolts” thing has to be stopped.
That’s not even the team name. That would be like the Oilers getting “Slick” written across the front of their shirts, or the Devils getting “Lucifers” written on their sweaters (that would actually be sort of cool, I admit). Can you imagine the outcry in a city like Montreal if the Canadiens came out with an alternate with "Habs" running diagonally down the front?
The Lightning have switched jerseys several times throughout their history, and if they bring a new third jersey in, hopefully they opt for something a little more creative than "Bolts."
11 “Sens” (2008-2011)
“Sens” is at least a shortened version of “Senators,” but really what the hell are these things supposed to accomplish? Ottawa used these off and on from 2008 to 2011, which is when they switched to the slightly-less ugly retro sweaters with the capital “O” in the middle.
Just use the team name or nothing at all.
The Senators used these jerseys coming off their great run of the mid 2000s, after finishing first in the Eastern Conference in 2006, then making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007. Seeing stars like Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza skating around in these jerseys was cringeworthy. For a team that's only been around for about 25 years, the Senators have introduced many jerseys, with mixed results.
10 The Bruin Head (1995-2006)
As far as eyesores go, the Bruin-head third jersey is certainly not the worst. However, I feel like it should be the NHL’s policy to restrict Original Six teams from using third jerseys. It’s sacrilegious. We can't imagine Boston fans were too proud of strutting these jerseys around.
The worst thing about this jersey is it goes against everything the Boston Bruins stand for. The Bruins are supposed to be the big bad Bruins, the team that teams are intimidated to play against and think twice before skating through the neutral zone on them. Having a logo that looks about as scary as Winnie the Pooh across your chest doesn't do much to get in the heads of your opponents.
If teams insist on using one as a way to grab more cash from its dedicated fans, then leave the damn logo alone. Mess with the trim on the jersey or even slightly alter the color sequence. Leave the classic logos alone.
9 Hurricane Flag Stick (2013-present)
Full disclosure, I’ve always thought the original Hurricanes logo left something to be desired. However, they took a step back in 2013 when they introduced their most recent alternate jerseys.
The colors of the sweater are fine (black and red), but the logo is stupid. I don’t really even get what it is. Is it a flag hanging off a hockey stick? I guess so. The flag is sort of blowing in the wind, so I guess that’s how it ties into a “Hurricane.” I guess.
Some fans actually like the jersey, but that's likely because of the black rather tan the logo. If the Hurricanes were to simply place their actual logo on the front of the jersey or upgrade it, these would be one of the better alternate jerseys introduced. As of right now, the logo is killing it. Come on, with a cool name like the Hurricanes, you really can't think of anything better?
8 Dallas Steer Head (2003-2006)
The biggest disaster in Dallas Stars uniform history was introduced in 2003. This was the first year the Stars used an alternate jersey, and needless to say it did not go well.
According to nhluniforms.com, the logo was originally supposed to look like the Taurus constellation (hmm), but instead fans were quick to point out it sort of looks like a uterus. It was from then on known as the “Mooterus.”
At the time of its introduction, the team described it as: "The new logo depicts a constellation of individual stars aligning to form an unstoppable force of nature, a charging bull. Get it? A constellation of stars aligning to form an unstoppable force."
Needless to say, these jerseys didn't go over very well and just made fans appreciate the star patterned jerseys all the more.
7 Sabres Go Red (2000-2006)
The logo on this sweater is stupid enough, but I’d like to focus on the color here. The Sabres never had any red on their jerseys before 1996, which is when they added a thin red stripe on the bottom of the sweater and on the sleeves. Then, in 2000 the full on red was introduced. The crossing swords went back to the team's original look, but didn't include the bison that could be seen on the Sabres' jerseys of that era.
Nothing’s worse than a casual fan tuning into a game and not being able to tell which team is which because they’re using some unusual color scheme.
The Sabres would abandon the red and black altogether in 2006 when they introduced a blue and gold look that was a modern take on their classics. Let's hope the Sabres stick to the color scheme with which we associate the team.
6 Flaming Flames Horse Face (1998-2000)
Even though they’re not an Original Six team, the Flaming “C” is a pretty iconic jersey. It’s simple, and everyone knows and recognizes it. Whether it's with the black C on their current home jerseys, the red C on their road outfits or the white C on the old jerseys, it looks great. There was no need to mess with something that worked so well.
The first time Calgary used an alternate jersey was in 1998, when they introduced the above logo.
I don’t know what’s going on there, really. Is that a horse head? And are those flames coming out of its nose? Yes? Okay so wait, is it actually a dragon? I’m confused. The Flames didn't have much success with this jersey and ironically, they would reach the Stanley Cup Final not long after scrapping them.
5 Pens Light Blue Atrocities (2008-2011)
Again, the Penguins aren’t Original Six but there’s no mistaking that their logo is a classic. The jerseys they introduced in 2008 were sort of out of the blue (get it!?), and I have to say that I much prefer the black and yellow color scheme to these.
If I’m being fair, I should point out that the Pens’ original colors when they first joined the NHL in the 1970s were blue and white, but they’d rocked the black and yellow since 1980 and, frankly, looked great doing so. The city of Pittsburgh as a whole just seems to work so much better with black and yellow. You have the Steelers and Pirates, and the Penguins were right to start matching those two teams with their color scheme.
This was a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Now we're stuck with the image of Crosby having to sport one of these.
4 Canucks Red and Blue Mess (2001-2006)
Ever since the Canucks moved to their modern-day logo back in 1997, they’ve had some one of the ugliest logos/jerseys in the league. In 2001 the Canucks ran out an alternate jersey that featured a navy blue color at the top, fading into a gross maroon on the bottom.
The logo stayed the same on these ones, but this is one of the few times I would have welcomed a new logo because the Canucks’ logo looks like an art project created by a 10-year-old.
Needless to say, this was a very polarizing jersey when it was first introduced to Canucks fans. No other jersey has quite tried to do the fade pattern and this one should explain why. The Canucks eventually scrapped these when they changed the team colors to blue and green. The best part about the change was these jerseys didn't have to be seen again.
3 Islanders’ Numbers Up Front (2011-2014)
Numbers go on the back of hockey jerseys, everybody knows that. So when the New York Islanders introduced their alternate jerseys in 2011 which featured numbers on the front and the back, fans were a little confused.
This could have been why Thomas Vanek turned down a $49 million contract offer from the Islanders a few years ago. He probably couldn't have pictured himself wearing those jerseys for another seven years.
The Isles have since changed these alternates to at least feature the classic Islanders logo instead of the numbers on the front; the black color is still a little jarring for the Islanders, but, hey, at least they got rid of the numbers on the chest. The Islanders play in Brooklyn now, but it'd be best if they didn't try to match the Nets colors as they have their own history and longtime Islander fans would love for the team to stick with blue and orange.
2 The Desert Scape (1998-99)
When the Winnipeg Jets made the move to Arizona in 1996, they left behind a classic 1980s style Jets uniform and replaced it with a terrible-looking jersey. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they introduced the franchise’s first-ever alternate jersey in 1998, and it was even worse. It's hard to fathom what the team was thinking.
Rather than classic trim like virtually every other jersey ever that came before it, the Coyotes first alternate sweater featured a weird desert-scape design along the bottom and on the sleeves. Couple that with the minimalist Coyote head logo, and you have one of the ugliest jerseys in history. We get that you play in the desert, but the whole jersey doesn't have to look like you're painting an Arizona desert all across it. While the Coyotes' subsequent jerseys haven't been among the league's best, at least they aren't the abomination that this one was.
1 1.The Burger King Kings Jersey (1995-96)
When researching the league’s worst third jerseys of all time, I’d completely forgotten about this gem. Perhaps because it was only around for one season, or perhaps it’s because my mind has trained itself to block out traumatizing memories.
Just think, Wayne Gretzky once had to put on this jersey. Could this be why he chose not to re-sign with the Kings when his contract was coming to an end that season?
Either way, this seems like one of those jerseys that could have only come to fruition in a decade like the 90s.
I have absolutely zero understanding of how this jersey even got past the pitch stage.
Designer: “Oh hey guys. I have this really good idea for the Kings first alternate jersey. Three words: Burger King Mascot!”
L.A. Kings Exec: “Say no more. I love it.”
Thankfully the Kings have redeemed themselves with some sweet jerseys throughout the years.