Worst to First Jerseys: Calgary Flames

In Featured
Dec 16th, 2019

As we go through the 2019-20 season, we’ll be updating all of the Worst to First Jersey posts every Monday, as almost all the teams in the league have unveiled new jerseys since their original posts. We’ll start with the ones most needing updating and work our way through the league. Today, it’s time for the Calgary Flames to get updated.

Also, a huge thanks to SportsLogos.net for the images (unless otherwise noted) and NHLUniforms.com for the jersey references. 

Calgary has been relatively consistent with its overall brand since moving over from Atlanta in 1980. The logo has not changed in the almost 40 years since it first appeared on the ice, aside from adding in a black outline in 1994. And while the jerseys have always been a mixture of yellow, red, white and/or black, they’ve done some tinkering with them that makes a list like this completely necessary.

Here’s how this works: I’ll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Flames 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 Flames, there’s 7 different jerseys/eras. And we’ll start with the worst one:

7. 1995–2000 Home & Away Jerseys

As mentioned earlier, Calgary is very different from most teams in that their logo has never changed and their colour scheme has always been predominantly red and gold, so some of the conversation in this post will be about the details of the jerseys.

And in this jersey, the change in the details from other iterations is pretty obvious. I’m all for not always following conventions and trying new things, but I’m not sure what the designer was thinking – or what their blood-alcohol level was at – when they designed this.

The piping along the bottom of the jersey inexplicably comes angling straight up towards the logo and then bluntly stops. It feels like it was just slapped there with no purpose. If you’re going to try something different or innovative, make sure there’s a reason for it. But this just looks ridiculous and out-of-place.

The other problem is the crazy amount of stripes happening on the sleeves and base of the jersey. For example, on the white jerseys’ sleeves, it goes yellow, white, black, white, and all different widths, on a red background.

The one thing that this jersey did have going for it was that this is one of the first designs to break the mold in terms of typography and fonts used. Very few teams back 1995 did not have the the standard angled-corner fonts/numbers. The following year, Calgary (along with Anaheim and LA on their third jerseys, and Washington, on their regular jerseys) tried something new as well. In that sense, this jersey was a bit of a trailblazer.

Jersey Recommendation: #16 Stillman. Why? He was with the Flames almost exclusively while they wore this jersey, and was a relatively solid producer at that time. Get it in the reds.

6. 1998–2000, 2003–06 Third Jerseys, 2000–03 Away Jerseys

Third jerseys are a bit of a mixed bag in the NHL. Some are excellent brand extensions for the team and well thought-out. Others, well, not so much. These are pretty middle of the road as third jerseys go.

The alternative logo is cheesy and terrible (read: very ’90s). Everything that’s good about the Flames’ logo – its simplicity and relative elegance – is destroyed by a red-eyed fire-breathing dragon (or sorry, a horse, which makes even less sense). But whatever you like or dislike about the logo itself, there are issues with the jersey as well.

More: BTLNHL #13: Calgary Flames

A lot of team in the late-’90s and early-’00s decided to start pushing out black jerseys, like the DucksSenatorsSharks, among others, including the Flames. The problem I have with black jerseys is that then the two dominant colours on the ice is one team in black and one team in white, which is boring, especially when you have a beautiful clean canvas like an ice surface to work with. There’s a reason why the longest-lasting coloured/dark jerseys in the game are not black. To be fair, when black is one of the team’s main colour and balanced with a supporting bright colour in a good measure – like Boston or Pittsburgh – it can look damn good.

So I’m not crazy about the logo or the black base of the jersey. The piping of the jersey, or the V-shaped red bar along the bottom with the yellow stripe is certainly more minimal than the previously-ranked jersey, and it works pretty well, but I’m not convinced it looks great against the black. I know that it’s probably the best colour combination that will work with the team colours and against the black jerseys, but as you’ll see later on, it works a lot better on a red or white background.

It’s even worse that this jersey became the Flames’ main road jersey for three seasons from 2000-03. When the NHL switched to the road jerseys being white for the 2003-04 season, this (thankfully) again became merely the third jersey and was worn less than usual.

Jersey Recommendation: #22 Conroy. Like Stillman with the previous jersey, he was with the Flames almost exclusively while they had this jersey, and aside from Iginla, probably their best producer at the time.

5. 2013–16 Third Jerseys

The latest addition to the Flames’ jersey library unfortunately replaced the use of their superior original jersey (more on them later) as a regular alternate. When these first jerseys were announced, I flip-flopped. At first, I didn’t like them, then I gave them more credit and liked them, and now, after time has passed, I’m less inclined to give them a good rating again. In design, that’s the scientific way of concluding they’re pretty mediocre. There’s as many bad elements here as there are good.

More: HbD News: New Calgary Flames’ Third Jersey Announced

The good? They’re attempting to make a larger connection to the city of Calgary, though the use of Calgary Stampede-esque script lettering. Having adopted the ‘Flames’ moniker from Atlanta when they moved cities in 1980, this was the first opportunity to play on Calgary’s cowboy persona, although they had other (and better) options they were considering as well.

Other good things about these jerseys? Dropping the Canada and Alberta flags from the shoulders. They’re not only not Canada’s team, they’re not even Alberta’s team, but more on that later. What it was replaced with was an alternate logo that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten much play in their branding. I like the creativity shown in design of the patch, but it has a very distinct ’70s feel to it, looking like the bastard love-child of the old Oakland Seals and Colorado Rockies logos. However, it’s something unique to the Flames, creating a tight design that fits with the colours and brand.

Also, although the black shoulder yokes are a little aggressive, having them squared off along the hemlines of the jersey is a modern touch that works with these jerseys.

So, what’s wrong with this jersey? The striping, though better than what they currently wear, is still overdone with black-white-yellow-black stripes of inconsistent thickness. And for some inexplicable reason, it doesn’t wrap fully around the sleeves. Also, having a smaller version of the logo unless the “Calgary” script feels forced and crowds the front of the jersey unnecessarily.

Back to the shoulder yokes…the way they come to a point in the fronts on the jersey is so incredibly cheesy. If you’re not sure why, click here. If they’re trying to subtly mimic a cowboy shirt, kudos for trying, but come on. For one, it doesn’t come across when the players are wearing them on the ice. For two, they’re not cowboys, they’re hockey players. The next step is going full sheriff. And everybody knows you never go full sheriff.

Also, not sure about those white numbers either. Specifically, it’s the inconsistency with the black “Calgary” on the front, and then the white numbers on the back. It’s also inconsistent with their current regular jerseys. So, there’s as much to like and there is to dislike here, so it gets a mediocre rating.

Jersey Recommendation: #24 Hudler. Another player that was with the team almost exclusively during the life of these jerseys. Plus, he was the Flames’ leading scorer for two of those three seasons.

4. 2007–present Home & Away Jerseys

When the NHL introduced the new streamlined Reebok Edge uniforms in 2007, some teams just kept the same design and made it work with the new shape, some teams took the opportunity to redesign their jerseys to complement the new shape, and still other teams decided to radically change the idea of hockey jersey piping and trace the new contours of the jersey with colour.

Calgary fell into the last grouping. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it’s more that they combined this new style with the traditional style with mixed results.

The first thing I really like about the jersey, though, is the use of the laces at the collar. It gives a nod to the history of the game in a subtle but meaningful way, making the it look traditional, no matter when it was actually designed. Love it. This is also the first inclusion of the black logo on the red jerseys in this countdown, which I like better than the white logo on the red jerseys that the team has also had. The black logo seems to provide a bit more contrast and makes the logo stand out much more against a sea of white. I wasn’t always a fan of the black logo, but it’s better than the alternative.

Just a side note…there are only 5 teams in the league that actually change the colours of their logo on their home and away jersey right now: St. LouisTampa BayTorontoVancouver and, of course, Calgary. That’s neither positive or negative, just a common issue for any logo where it’s predominantly (or completely) one colour. Any of the other teams with logos like this (like Detroit, for example), just outline the logo to make it work.

Now to get to my point about the piping on the jersey — there’s just too much happening. The biggest complaint is that the stripes on the sides just come to a dead-end along the hemline. As a counter example, the stripes on the sleeves make sense – looping around the arms – so there is no real beginning or end to them. Plus the striping is still too excessive, with black, white, yellow and red and/or black stripes, but at least the sleeve stripes makes sense.

These Adizero versions are still an improvement over the previous iterations, with a single thin stripe (red on the away whites, black on the home reds) that runs from the bottom of the jersey, and then curves around some pit stains, and then just stops, like a half-cooked spaghetti strand.

Then there’s a couple more stripes added to the bottom of the jersey. At least they’re connected to something, but they’re so small and feel like a heart-hearted attempt to have a more traditional hockey jersey piping along the bottom, so they feel unnecessary.

And, while I may get some grief for this, I’m not a fan of having the Canadian and Albertan flags on the shoulders. Their inclusion seems strange and distracting. The red Canadian flag works well enough from an aesthetic standpoint, but the predominantly blue Albertan flag doesn’t fit at all and looks more like an advertising for something. Plus, the Flames are neither the only team in Canada or Alberta, so slapping the flags on there seems a bit presumptuous.

Overall, it’s not a bad-looking jersey, but like a young male with too much money to sink into his car, there’s just too much piping happening.

Jersey Recommendation: #13 Gaudreau. The current heart, soul, and leader of the team deserves his number on your jersey. Get it in the black-crested reds, but the new ones, without the black spaghetti strand.

3. 2011 Heritage Classic Jersey

Image via ClassicAuctions.net

Some may think that these jerseys were too much, but for a game like the Heritage Classic, they were completely spot on. I remember watching the game on TV and thinking that the Flames actually looked like they had pulled a Biff Tannen, stolen the DeLorean, and went back to the 1920s to play a hockey game. It was really cool to watch.

These jerseys are a tribute to the old Calgary Tigers professional hockey club from the ’20s, using identical striping patterns and similar colours, but just changing the Tiger on the front to the Flames’ logo. Yeah, it’s a little bit Ronald McDonald, but within the context of playing on a sheet of white ice (outside) they’re bold and stand out dramatically.

The boldness of this jersey is drawn from it’s simplicity. The stripes are single and solid gold bands, without the striped maypole madness of some of the other versions I’ve already talked about. There’s a little bit along the bottom, to follow the contour of the jersey, and while it’s a bit thin, it’s a solid colour again and sets it off well. Even the white logo works (more on that later) in this case because, being on a gold background it can be outlined in red and stands out so much better.

Unfortunately, it also just wouldn’t work as a regular jersey. It was made for the Heritage Classic and to look old-fashioned and historical. Outside of that context, it wouldn’t work nearly as well – looking dated and not reflective of the speed of the game today.

Jersey Recommendation: #34 Kiprusoff. He earned a 4-0 shutout of the Canadiens at the 2011 Heritage Classic, so it’s a natural pick to honour probably the best goalie the Flames ever had.

2. 2000–07 Home Jerseys, 2003–07 Away Jerseys

These jerseys combine a lot of the good things happening in all of the other versions. First of all, it uses the black C on the red jerseys as opposed to the white one which, as I’ve stated before, makes the logo stand out a lot more and gives the jersey a more aggressive tone to it.

Second, it’s much cleaner and, aside from the 1980–94 jerseys, the most minimal jersey they’ve had. It works in a lot of ways. The piping is a little unorthodox, but it’s minimal enough to not be overdone like some of the other Flames’ jerseys. It’s the same as the piping from the era’s third jerseys (with the flaming horse head), but it works a lot better on the red jerseys than the black ones, using black as an accent rather than the main colour. And like the black logo, it makes everything stand out a little better.

It works really well on the white jerseys as well. The piping on the red jersey probably doesn’t need the extra thin white stripe, but that’s a small complaint at this point. I’m not crazy about the italic font that I’m not crazy about and they kept the flaming horse heads as patches on the shoulders.

The main issues goes back to the unorthodox striping, which has come to define a specific era in jersey design rather than transcend the era. Now, with a few years in the distance, it looks a bit dated and awkward again. Which is sad because these were probably the best example of this type of striping.

Jersey Recommendation: #12 Iginla. Arguably the best player to ever wear a Flames jersey, and he came within inches (centimetres? millimetres?) of raising a Cup in these jerseys. Get it in the reds.

1. 1980–94 Home & Away Jerseys, 2009–2013 & 2016–present Third Jerseys, 2019 Heritage Classic Jersey

It’s the jersey so nice, they just keep coming back to it. And updating the Flames’ jersey rankings now allows me to right the wrong of having these ranked third before.

In terms of the piping, these jerseys are classic. Simple, strong and well-constructed, especially on the white jerseys. On the red jerseys, the piping at the bottom is a little bit too thick, but nothing that minor changes wouldn’t fix. I like the lack of a shoulder patch on the red jerseys, and the white jerseys would be better if they removed the big red blotch on their shoulders. Those are small complaints however.

The reason the Flames keep bringing this iteration back as a third/heritage jersey is because they’re simple, they’re stylish and they’re bold and aggressive jerseys, fitting for a game of hockey. The flip side is that the red jerseys have a distinct lack of contrast. The regular Flames’ home jerseys have the black logo and introduce black into the piping. This red jersey has neither and it’s to the detriment of the logo, which neither has the same amount of pop and aggressiveness as the white jerseys, and – mixed with a yellow outline – ends up blurring rather than defining the details of the logo.

But as we saw in the recent Heritage Classic, those whites are *chef kiss*.

I’m not saying the white-on-red is awful, but it’s just the one thing holding this jersey set back from absolute greatness. The red is bold, it’s brash and stands out on the ice excellently, and this is the only Flames jersey that has raised the Stanley Cup, which instantly makes it look better.

Jersey Recommendation: #9 McDonald. The iconic moustache mixed with the raising of the Stanley Cup makes this selection obvious. He won the Cup in the reds, but get it in the superior whites.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

6 Responses to “Worst to First Jerseys: Calgary Flames”

  1. Anthony Matteo says:

    I completely agree. Their vintage uniforms are their best by far. The current duds they wear really suck and just don’t feel like Calgary Flame uniforms. The black just does not work.. Shocked they have gone with them for so long. (Did love those garrish looking original heritage classic sweaters. Something about them is really cool)

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  4. Kristian Gustafson says:

    The “C,” when done in black, always makes me think of a tree stump that’s been yanked out of the soil. When you’ve successfully rendered your logo through the years in red, yellow, AND white, why would you bother designing an ugly black flame?

  5. […] • You’d think that you can’t really mess up the Flames’ jerseys, but … yes, you can. (Hockey By Design) […]

  6. Zack says:

    I truly find the black off putting. The white looks right to me. It’s got that searing, white-hot heat thing going for it. And then the red of the jersey being so damn red, nothing else is like that. The home and away play off each other well because they aren’t just opposites of one another: the white one allows the red and yellow accents to peek out and the red jersey seems perpetually energetic and dynamic.

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