Jerseys have been a hot topic recently, with Fanatics’ impending takeover of the NHL’s exclusive jersey license causing some controversy, due to the fact they have a very poor reputation with fans of basically any sport.
The new contract with Fanatics offers a chance to close the book on another uniform supplier, as Adidas bows out just six years after they debuted their ADIZERO jerseys in 2017. They join an exclusive list of companies that have made NHL jerseys, and while the logos and team branding may have stayed similar over the years, the materials and designs of the uniforms have changed significantly.
The NHL only started having standardized uniforms in the year 2000, prior to that it was a lawless wasteland of shriveled up logos and weirdly proportioned sleeves. But out of the handful of companies, a few got them right, and some others… did not. For this list however, we’re just going to look at on-ice jerseys, since so many companies have tried their hand at replicas that it isn’t worth going over 100s of different cheaply made, gift shop abominations.
Honorable mention: Bauer
Bauer made one authentic NHL jersey in 1998-99. The apparent story behind it is that Nike, who had contracts with a select handful of other teams at the time, didn’t want to have their logo on an expansion franchise’s jersey. So they off-loaded the duties onto Bauer, their primarily hockey subsidiary at the time. The Nashville jersey looked quite good, but honestly it’s not worth adding them onto this list when they never made anything outside of replicas ever again after this year.
Reebok had their hand at making NHL jerseys from 2007-2017, with their Edge model focused on being lightweight, slim, and making players more maneuverable.
It’s also the only entry on this list that isn’t really up for debate, because NHL players hated the original design of these jerseys. The new sweat wicking technology apparently caused sweat to pool in the uniform, and a sizable portion of players went back to a more traditional fabric because of it. On top of that the jersey was tighter, which was fine for some players, but with equipment like shoulder and elbow pads varying in size, some found that it restricted movement.
Reebok had to alter the design of the original jerseys, and ultimately they did make the jerseys more loose fitting, and switched back to a more traditional material that was a little more breathable. But this was by far the jersey with the most problems with its construction, and that makes it suck.
The most recent manufacturers come in at three, not because of anything that they did, but mostly what they didn’t do.
Adidas is undoubtedly the biggest brand to get a full NHL license to date, and many were excited to see what exactly they could pull off with all of their resources focused on a complete redesign. It was ultimately a pretty unenviable position because they had to toe the thin line between ingenuity, and ruining some of the league’s most classic designs.
They mostly ended up erring on the side of caution for the most part, reusing many of the same base elements of jerseys from years past and adding in their ADIZERO technology which made the fabric a little stronger and lighter, without causing the same problems as the Reebok uniforms did previously.
Where Adidas really set themselves apart was in their Reverse Retro series, where they created new jerseys for all 32 franchises, largely based on retro designs having their colors swapped. They went about 1/1 with good and bad redesigns over the two seasons that they had, one year the Flyers jerseys were a cool nod to Lindros-era orange designs, and the next year they were kind of just… white. Very cool idea, but the best jerseys were really just vintage uniforms with an Adidas touch, and the color blue should never again touch the Montreal Canadiens uniform. I know that they had it before, but it just. looks. wrong.
As previously mentioned, Nike never had the full NHL license, they just made a handful of uniforms for teams in the years before the NHL had a standardized license for the whole league.
And this is where personal preference comes in because, man I love these jerseys. When I think of Nike NHL jerseys, I think of Sergei Fedorov, flying down the wing in that bright red Detroit jersey with the swoosh flapping behind him. I think of Ed Belfour in a Blackhawks jersey readying for the shot in his patented Eagle mask. The colors were perfect, the jerseys had a bit of bag to them, which accentuated the speed of players as they flapped in the wind behind them.
And that orange Lindros jersey I also mentioned before? Yeah that was Nike too. It was perfect; this is arbitrary, I like them more.
The Canadian is playing favorites. Koho and CCM made NHL jerseys from the year 2000, until 2007, with Koho just being a subsidiary of CCM who’s logo appeared on the away and third jerseys, with CCM putting their logo on the home uniforms.
Maybe it’s because I grew up with these uniforms, but these CCM made jerseys are everything that I envision NHL jerseys to be. The home and away designs feel like, well, home. Some notable standouts that come to mind are the Dallas Stars uniforms from their Stanley Cup run in 1999-2000, where the logo itself was contained in a star that stretched down the shoulders, I think should just be their jersey until the end of time.
The third jerseys had some sweet designs as well, the Calgary “flaming horse” that was brought back by Adidas recently, the absolutely crazy looking Ducks logo that pictured a masked duck wielding a goalie stick (also brought back by Adidas). And of course, how could we not mention the aluminum Flyers logo that was both loved and hated by many (I loved it).
CCM set the mold for a lot of what we see now, while still staying true to the roots of the league, and without pissing off a sizeable portion of players. That is why they have stood the test of time, and will continue to hopefully inspire the jerseys of the future.