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It’s one of the things that makes hockey, well…hockey.
Changing logos. Third jerseys. Merging classic old elements with ambitious new designs.
No sport puts as much work into making sure there’s fresh product on the in-house apparel racks. The arrival of the Adidas Reverse Retro uniforms—which provide a modern twist on throwback looks for all 31 NHL teams—only accentuates this.
It’s the first time in league history that all teams have participated in an alternate jersey rollout, and each new offering was inspired by one worn by a team during a season with some historical significance.
The design process took roughly two years, and the jerseys will be worn at various points in the upcoming season, including in designated rivalry games.
True to their hockey-mad form, B/R’s cadre of sticks, skates and pucks devotees took a look at each team’s entry into the Reverse Retro fray and ranked them worst to best.
Spoiler alert: If you’re not familiar with the World Hockey Association, get thee to a search engine.
In the meantime, take a look at every jersey, click through to see what you like and don’t like and feel free to provide your brand of fashion policing in the comments section.
Nos. 31-26: Predators, Ducks, Coyotes, Flames, Stars, Penguins
31. Nashville Predators
Well, someone’s got to be last. And it’s not as if we loathe the reimagination of the 1998 original. The adjustments to the numbers, striping and crest are a nice touch, and the silver sleeve is a nice enough spark. But there are too many other good ones to give the Preds much attention.
30. Anaheim Ducks
Upon further review, we don’t like Wild Wing as much as we thought. Though it stands strong amid a collection of interesting third jerseys in NHL history, it doesn’t compare as well with some of the other reverse retros that teams have come up with. Sorry, Anaheim, but we’ll always have 1995, right?
29. Arizona Coyotes
Another different strokes for different folks bit. A lot of people seem to be high on the color-swapped version of Arizona’s desert scene alternate jersey from 1999, with purple subbing for green. Us, not so much. Though there is a lizard shoulder patch, a phrase not often uttered by professional apparel designers.
28. Calgary Flames
Ah, to be in 1998 again. This one recalls the arrival of the horse head as the main logo on the team’s first third jersey, which was the first time a Calgary uniform was without a flaming C. The design was the team’s home look in the early 2000s, and it supposedly celebrates the city’s western culture. We call meh.
27. Dallas Stars
There’s a lot to like about the 1999 jersey from which the reverse retro design takes inspiration. It was the primary jersey for the team when it won its lone Stanley Cup, and the look was borrowed from All-Star Game uniforms in the 1980s. But the white base color reeks of a practice jersey look.
26. Pittsburgh Penguins
Once again, even at 26th, it’s not as if this one’s dreadful. Mario Lemieux wore it in 1997 on the way to winning his sixth NHL scoring title, and Snoop Dogg gave it some crossover street cred in the hip-hop arena. But, like Dallas before it, the look was way better in black than the modern white take.
Nos. 25-21: Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Bruins, Islanders, Sabres
25. Detroit Red Wings
Well, it’s got plenty of pedigree behind it. This one was inspired by the jerseys worn in the 1998 Stanley Cup-winning season and by the franchise’s Centennial Classic looks as well. And even though the logo remains classic, the white base and gray striping is too bland to support the iconic mark.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets
Things are trending up in terms of color, at least. This take on the Blue Jackets’ 2000 jersey recalls the franchise’s original logo and places it in the middle of the club’s first try at a primarily red jersey. The base color and striping is good, but somehow the logo just looks too busy and cartoony.
23. Boston Bruins
If you like tradition with your retro reverses, this one will probably be a bit higher. It reinvents the team’s classic white jersey that was worn by the likes of Cam Neely and Ray Bourque when the Bruins battled for the Stanley Cup in 1988 and 1990. The white goes yellow and the bear head logo shoulder patch arrives.
22. New York Islanders
We admit it: We’re a bit conflicted here. A lot of list-makers have panned this one because it’s basically bereft of change from what already exists. And we don’t disagree. But considered on its own merits. It’s still a beauty and honors the start of the Islanders’ dynasty that yielded four straight Stanley Cups.
21. Buffalo Sabres
This color change-up on the Sabres’ black and red alternate jersey from 2000 was chosen from more than 50 design concepts. It flips those colors to the current blue and gold mix, which is fine. But considering the classic look Buffalo wore in its first decade in the league after arriving in 1970, a better pick was out there.
Nos. 20-16: Panthers, Sharks, Devils, Capitals, Canadiens
20. Florida Panthers
John Vanbiesbrouck. Scott Mellanby. Plastic rats being thrown onto the ice. Ah, the good old days of Panthers hockey from the mid-1990s. This jersey wakes up the echoes from the franchise’s 1996 run to the Stanley Cup Final, including palm tree-inspired graphics and pointed stripes on the sleeves.
19. San Jose Sharks
We got really close to falling head over heels for this one but decided instead to keep it a casual infatuation. This look resembles the Sharks’ first crack at a third jersey from 1998, with an introduction of a stylish gray as the base color along with black, white and teal accents.
18. New Jersey Devils
The Devils fully embraced the reverse retro spirit and made a wholesale change, adopting green as a primary jersey color for the first time after it had only been used previously as a complement. The red honors the mythical Jersey Devil for whom the franchise is named, and the green represents where it resided.
17. Washington Capitals
A franchise only briefly removed from a 2018 Stanley Cup championship merged its successful 1997 run in terms of logo and lettering with the colors worn by the title-winning bunch two seasons back. Close your eyes and imagine it modeled by Olaf Kolzig and Peter Bondra.
16. Montreal Canadiens
Fans of a certain vintage will remember the 1976 origins of this jersey, worn by a team that won four consecutive Stanley Cups to close out the decade. The base color red is swapped out for blue here, which does more harm than good. However, it’s tough to improve on a classic.
Nos. 15-11: Lightning, Canucks, Rangers, Blackhawks, Blues
15. Tampa Bay Lightning
We arrive in the top half of our list with a celebration of the two most successful seasons in Lightning history. The logo walks things back to Tampa Bay’s first championship in 2004, while the base color blue is a tribute to the look displayed for Cup No. 2 this past summer.
14. Vancouver Canucks
Let’s face it, the Canucks are a franchise with a sometimes suspect jersey history. But this one shows real progress. The original 2001 look from which it borrows was primarily red and blue, but this one’s blue-green mix is reflective of the team’s existing color variations.
13. New York Rangers
It’s hard to argue with the Statue of Liberty. The Rangers have brought her back for the first time since 1996, though the overall package has been updated with an all-blue sleeve while maintaining numbers with a drop-shadow effect and silver accents.
12. Chicago Blackhawks
Attention, Montreal. If you’re going to make changes to a classic old uniform, make them worthwhile. The Blackhawks did so, and they made the league’s top dozen with a variation of a white design worn for nearly 20 years across the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The base color change to black is very effective.
11. St. Louis Blues
This is another team that properly took part in the reverse retro fun. The Blues barely miss the top 10, and we do mean barely, by flipping the red from the bottom to the top in a recall of 1995. It wouldn’t take much to convince us this deserves a promotion. If only Wayne Gretzky had stayed for another season.
Nos. 10-6: Kings, Maple Leafs, Senators, Flyers, Avalanche
10. Los Angeles Kings
When it comes to blending two distinct eras of a franchise, it’s hard to do better than what the Kings pulled off here. The logo that was emblematic of the silver and black Gretzky years is retooled with a Forum blue and gold color treatment from the team’s original designs in the 1960s and 70s.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs
Another Original Six franchise, another challenging design endeavor. The Leafs pull it off with a unique mix of a logo from 1969-70 and the striping employed a season later. Elsewhere, the use of gray is a continuation of the silver that was part of the franchise’s Centennial Classic gear in 2017.
8. Ottawa Senators
Something old. Something new. The Senators employed a bit of both here, blending much of the jersey they wore upon returning to the NHL in 1992 with a striking red base that brings things forward to the franchise’s modern-day rebranding.
7. Philadelphia Flyers
Joining the Florida Panthers in mid-1990s nostalgia are the Flyers, who revive the look worn by a team that included the league’s MVP in Eric Lindros (1994-95) and won itself an Atlantic Division title and a first seed in the Eastern Conference the next season. The Panthers laughed last, beating them in the playoffs.
6. Colorado Avalanche
If you put together a list and this one was No. 1, we’re perfectly content. It’s an ideal blend of the past and present, the igloo logo and fleur-de-lis were staples of Colorado’s predecessor, the Quebec Nordiques. The fleur-de-lis is in the Avalanche’s maroon color, and the white base mimics the snow in both locales.
Nos. 5-1: Wild, Knights, Oilers, Jets, Hurricanes
5. Minnesota Wild
Some designs are a tweak on what’s been done. And others are way better than anything that’s preceded it. This is a case of the latter. The Wild’s existing logo gets a makeover with the colors of Minnesota’s previous team, the North Stars, in green and gold. The numbers are in drop-shadow, too.
4. Vegas Golden Knights
It’s a pretty daunting task for a team with fewer than five years of NHL time to fully embrace a reverse retro project, but the Golden Knights pulled it off superbly. Vegas honored the minor league teams that preceded them in the desert, including the International League’s Las Vegas Thunder in 1995.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Boy, that Gretzky fella got around, no? Well, for those who don’t recall, he began his NHL career with the Oilers in 1979—also the franchise’s first season after moving in from the WHA, and this jersey is similar to what he wore back then. The orange shoulders appear for the first time on a base color of white.
2. Winnipeg Jets
The second of two WHA exports, along with Edmonton, still playing in their original cities—though the first incarnation of the Jets moved to Phoenix years ago—Winnipeg blends looks from its initial 1979 jerseys and updates it with the 21st-century Jets colors.
1. Carolina Hurricanes
Did someone say WHA?
The Hurricanes reach back to one of the sport’s all-time great logos and adopt the design of the since-relocated Hartford Whalers from their first NHL run in 1979. The primary gray base is a wonderful blend of the Whalers and Hurricanes in terms of colors, and let’s not forget the whale shoulder patch.
Simply the best.