Worst to First Jerseys: Colorado Avalanche
This instalment of the Worst to First Jerseys features the Colorado Avalanche. If you’ve never seen this site before, we talk about branding and design in hockey and we’ll be doing the jerseys for the rest of the league over time (and have done over half the league so far), so stick around and check them out.
The Avs, for only existing less than 20 years in the NHL (not counting their life as the Nordiques of course) have had pretty good success: multiple division, conference and league championships with star players and goaltenders. But what about their jerseys? Do they stand up to the high bar their play has set for the franchise? We’ve already decided that the logo isn’t really that great compared to the rest of the league, but maybe their jerseys will do the franchise justice?
Here’s how this works: I’ll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Avs have ever worn. Homes and aways will be lumped into the same category (so, more of a jersey “era”) and I won’t worry about small changes (like slightly changed positions of piping for example). Third jerseys will stand on their own. And I’m focusing on the jerseys only, not the entire uniform. The jersey images are compliments of the fine people over at nhluniforms.com. For the Avs, there’s five different jerseys/eras. And we’ll start with the worst one.
Also, if you see an italicized link (like this one), it’s leading to an image that may help you visualize what I’m talking about, or I’m making a visual joke and/or (semi-)relevant cultural reference. If the link isn’t italicized, it’s going to a different article.
5. 2001–07 Third Jerseys
We start with the first third jerseys that Colorado ever wore, the worst the Avs have ever worn. I completely understand the appeal of having the sloped lettering going across the torso of the jersey. The Rangers have been pulling it off since their inception in the 1920s and have turned it into their iconic look, to the point where it looks strange if they wear anything other than that (like they did in the ’70s and ’90s/’00s). And it also looks just as strange when other teams try to copy it.
Let’s call a spade a spade. The Avs copied the Rangers. You can call it “inspired by”, or “paying homage to”, or whatever you want, but at the end of the day, they copied the Rangers iconic look so they could have a historic-ish (since the Avs don’t really have a history to draw from) third jersey and make money selling it. It’s lacking in creativity. Pittsburgh (who have an incredibly sordid jersey history) tried it for 5 seasons in the ’90s, and then it ended. These jerseys also lasted only five seasons. That’s the general shelf life for bad jerseys.
But that’s not the only reason these jerseys drop to the bottom of the list. That striping pattern along the base of the jersey is pretty horrendous, as well as being totally inconsistent with the striping on the sleeves. The human eye is always naturally attracted to wherever is the most contrast, and having a very high contrast black/white combination, separated by thin strips of blue, automatically will divert the eyes down to the bottom of the jersey. That’s fine if you want to draw people’s attention to your sugar lumps, but on a hockey jersey, it just distracts from what should be the main focus: the crest on the chest. It leaves the eyes not knowing exactly where to look. Not to mention, that’s also a lot of stripes down there.
And then the sleeve striping decides to throw in a different striping pattern…and adds event more stripes. The middle burgundy stripe – and the fact that the cuffs are kept burgundy instead of black like the bottom striping – helps lower the contrast, but there’s 7 stripes on there! Black, blue, white, burgundy, white, blue, black. It’s way too complicated, unnecessary and distracting. I haven’t seen something so distracting attached to the number 7 since Star Trek: Voyager.
They put laces on there…so that’s good.
The use of a non-traditional jersey colour on a historical design (essentially trying to create something new within the framework of traditional hockey aesthetics) is definitely a noble effort, but it comes off looking uncreative and over-designed at the same time. It just becomes a strange combination, so it sits here at the bottom of the list.
Jersey Recommendation: #21 Forsberg. This is not a slight against Forsberg at all, giving him the worst jersey on the list. Rather, it’s impossible to make this list without recommending a Forsberg jersey, one of the greatest players to ever lace their skates during the ’90s and ’00s, and the Avs simply have too many great players with too few jerseys.
4. 2009–present Third Jerseys
Given what I said about the previous third jerseys, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise what’s ranked second worst on the list. But this one gets the nod above the last-placed jersey for a number of reasons.
First the heavy and obnoxious striping at the bottom of the jersey is removed completely, ensuring that the focus of the jersey is on the word “Colorado”. Removing those stripes also makes the jersey look more modern and differentiates it from its Rangers’ cousin in a more positive way. The striping on the sleeves is, while very similar to their burgundy third jerseys we just discussed, a little more consistent and, as such, less of an eyesore for having 5(!) distinct stripes in there.
But, seemingly to compensate for removing the bottom stripes, they added in shoulder yokes, slapped some logo patches on there and…added pit stains. Not cool. This is one Reebok Edge jersey fad that I’ve never been able to understand – adding in patches of darker colour right where the pits are. Colorado isn’t the only team to have done this. Buffalo does it. Calgary does it. But Colorado does it with a colour that’s nowhere else on the jersey except on a single sleeve strip and around the letters/numbers. It makes no sense and just look like a pit stain. Gross.
The shoulder yokes are not bad, because they clutter the top of the jersey a bit, but that’s minor complaint really.
The best thing about this jersey is the use of that steel blue as the main jersey colour, which is completely unique within the NHL. Sure, there’s tons of blue jerseys, but adding a new tone of blue to the conversation helps set the Avalanche apart from the other blue-jerseyed teams substantially. Honestly, it looks great on a jersey and on the ice. And again, the laces are a nice touch.
They’re also the first (and only) Avs jerseys to not have curved nameplates, which is a personal choice, but I like it better straight. All that gives these jerseys the nod above the previous third jerseys.
Jersey Recommendation: #29 MacKinnon. This kid’s got skill and a Calder Trophy already to prove it. It makes sense to have the future of the franchise wearing their most recently designed jersey.
3. 2007–present Home & Away Jerseys
The Avs were one of the teams that went for a full jersey redesign once the Reebok Edge jerseys came into effect in 2007. It wasn’t a massive change from their previous jerseys – same colours, same typefaces, etc – but the striping changes to reflect the new hemlines in the Reebok jerseys. In a basketball-esque move, the sides of the jerseys were made a different colour from the rest of the jersey, instead of any striping along the bottom. The super-narrow black-and-white/blue-and-grey stripes that were used on their Avalanche’s original jerseys now outlined these sidebars of colour. The shoulder yokes remained the same, aside from taking out their zig-zaggetyness. That’s a word, right?
Like I’ve already said about the previous jerseys, the black and white stripes on the burgundy jersey makes too high of the contrast.
Following the hemlines from the collar to the bottom was something a few other teams did as well (like Edmonton, Atlanta and Florida, for example), with mixed results. These Avs jerseys actually turned out better than some of the other ones, but all of them cause a serious problem for other reasons.
The Cs and As for the captains and alternates end up going right over the hemline. Is you’re using a typical strong typeface for the letters, it’s not so big of a problem. If you’re using a very stylized typeface like the Avs do – where the C looks more like a computer icon than a letter – it ends up looking awkward and incredibly busy when placed right over top of the striping.
Aside from that, the curved shoulder yokes are fine, but I’ve never personally been a fan of the full shoulder-to-cuff yoke, and even less so of the curved kinds, but the unique burgundy/steel-blue combination – and the lack of strong contrast between those two colours – helps alleviate that issue. And yokes always work better on white jerseys, so it’s a small complaint on those as well.
These are not bad jerseys at all. Lots of things to like, but just a few things keeping it from the top of the list.
Jersey Recommendation: #92 Landeskog. The latest captain and leader of the Avs, and unquestionably skilled. Aside from the third jerseys, he’s never worn anything in the NHL other than these. Get it in the whites…but pretend it’s from his rookie season and skip adding the ‘C’.
2. 1979–95 Home & Away Jerseys
Surprise! The Nords, of course, never played in Colorado, but obviously it’s the same franchise, and when you’ve had names like Sakic, Foote, Forsberg and Ricci (all well known Avs) play for Quebec, you’ve got to include this jersey as well.
And what a jersey! It didn’t change much over the 16 seasons that they were worn in the NHL. Simple. Iconic. Unique, in the sense that they were the only team to wear a lighter sky blue, drawing from Quebec’s provincial flag. It’s almost too minimalist: the only stripes are on the ends of the cuffs and the bottoms, but it’s balanced somewhat by the use of fleur-de-lis (also on Quebec’s flag) – a unique, detailed and complex design element.
There’s not much to hate about with this jersey, except from the extreme minimalism of it. But, 1995 would’ve been the final season for these jerseys even if the Nords hadn’t moved to Denver, as they were planning on changing the logo and jerseys to these horrible monstrosities. If that logo doesn’t scream bad ’90s design, then I’ll start wearing my clothes backwards.
So, thank you Denver, for saving us from those logos/jerseys. The NHL owes you big time.
Jersey Recommendation: #19 Sakic. He was the captain of the Nords before they moved and one of the greatest players and leaders of his era. He’s also the leading scorer in the franchise…by far. Wear this jersey to games in Denver and, I promise, nobody will question your fandom. Get it in the blue.
1. 1995–2007 Home & Aways
I toyed with the idea of having the Nords jerseys placed here, but like me trying to do yoga, that’s just bad form, especially on a site dedicated to the Avs. But, there’s another consideration: legacy.
Championships will make almost anything bad look better. Or anything merely good look fantastic. There’s a reason why the Original Six logos and jerseys are never changed – their iconic and have won more Cups than anyone else. And Colorado, which hasn’t even existed for 20 years yet, has more championships than teams that have been around for more than double that amount of time.
And they won them wearing this jersey. Yeah, it’s a little bit too typical ’90s design with the zig-zag stripes. And there’s still those high-contrast black and white stripes. But at least the shape of the stripes makes sense because of the mountain that’s on their jersey. It also adds movement and strength to a jersey that’s left pretty simple otherwise.
Could it be better? Sure. Is the design a bit dated now? Yup. But their current jerseys aren’t better than this one, and these jerseys have done this (twice), which no other jerseys on this list have.
Jersey Recommendation: #33 Roy. Sakic already (deservedly) got the Nords jerseys, so the best jersey that the Avs have worn goes to the best goaltender to wear an Avs jersey: Roy, who joined the Avs mid-way through their first season and led them to the Cup victory. Get it in the burgundy.
Note: If you’d like to know more about the stories behind the design of the original Avs logo and jerseys, we did an interview with the designer, Daniel Price, which you can read here.
We Need Your Help for an Avs Poster
What do you think is the biggest goal scored in Avalanche history? Or, what’s the most memorable play-by-play call made for a big Avalanche goal? Let us know in the comments below and it could be epitomized as a poster similar to these ones, available at the Hockey By Design store.