Worst to First Jerseys: Ottawa Senators
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 Ottawa Senators to get updated.
The Senators are the only team that has the honour of existing in two completely different eras of the NHL, with a 60 year gap in-between. Well, I guess the Winnipeg Jets are in that group too, but with only 15 years in-between their incarnations, it pales in comparison to Ottawa. Is there anyone who played for the original Senators even still alive? Not sure, and although the original Senators have absolutely nothing to do with the current Senators franchise aside from their name only, I decided to throw their jersey in the mix as well.
Here’s how this works: I’ll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Senators 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 Sens, there’s eight different jerseys/eras. And we’ll start with the worst one:
8. 2000-07 Third Jersey
There’s much to gripe about with these jerseys, so let’s get right into it.
First, the colours. I know the accent colour on these jerseys are supposed to be considered gold, but it’s looks like what you put on a specific type of sandwich. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re going to really own the colour like the Predators do, but if you’re going for gold, pull from the Penguins and, like Danny Ocean, go for the Vegas gold. See, better already. The gold the Sens use here looks tacky and even though it’s the same colour on their logo, this is – thankfully – the only jersey in their history that uses the colour in the design. I’m guessing that’s on purpose.
Other than the golden mustard, many teams in the league had a fling with black jerseys during the late-’90s and early-’00s, although they seem to be making a bit of a minor comeback (see: Hurricanes, Sharks, Lightning, for examples), which is detrimental to the visual aesthetics of the game. Why? Because hockey is a game played on a sheet of white ice, with white boards, and one team wearing predominantly white uniforms. If the other team just wears black, it makes everything pretty monochromatic. Me, I like splashes of colour that the home team puts on. Watching the Leafs against the Red Wings, for example, looks more exciting than watching the Kings play the Sharks. When you have a nice clean slate of white ice to work with, add some colour to it.
Second, this instance of decorative piping just doesn’t work. Carolina uses it too, but in a more subtle way that works quite well. Los Angeles did it for a while with text along the bottom of their jerseys. Also, the Atlanta Thrashers’ jerseys had an almost identical pattern on their jerseys, and when you’re copying the Thrashers for pretty much anything, you know you’re doing something wrong. With the decorative elements there, the contrast of black on gold is too high and creates more of a distraction than an accent, taking away from what should be the main focus on any hockey jersey: the logo in the middle. The best jerseys are the ones the compliment the main crest rather than compete with it.
I’ve never been that big on this logo of theirs either. But, I won’t go into that here (see “More” below). Also, the font for the names are a big chunky and stoic. I’m not sure what font it is, but it’s not a great font for a contemporary hockey jersey.
• More: BTLNHL #21: Ottawa Senators
Jersey Recommendation: #6 Redden. Just like these jerseys, they held onto him maybe just a bit too longer than they probably should have. During this era though, he was also their best defensemen.
7. 2008-11 Third Jersey
There’s been many third jerseys in the NHL and, as many as there have been, very few of them could actually be considered a successful jersey design and even less have survived for very long. The Sens are obviously no different with two of their third jerseys taking the last two spots on this list. And like the previous one, there’s a few different things wrong with this jersey too.
First, the crest. For some reason, in 2008, both the Lightning and the Senators decided to start using their nickname on their jerseys instead on the logos. Was this done is collaboration with each other, or did they just have the same terrible idea at the same time?
Having text on the front of your jerseys is not a new concept – the Rangers have made their jersey iconic by doing just that – and Pittsburgh and Colorado (among others) have both played around with it over the years, but the Senators and the Lightning were the first to use their nicknames. “Sens” is slightly less ridiculous than Tampa’s “Bolts“, but it’s still a concept that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“Sens” is not exactly an iconic nickname for a team when the team’s name is Senators, especially in hockey. You can basically predict any hockey player’s nickname by shortening the last name and adding an “s” or a “y/ie”. Alfie. Spezzy. The teams work the same way. Avs. Nucks. Philly. Pens. So, it’s not exactly a creative thing to emblazon on the front of your jersey. About the only team in the league that could get away with it is the Habs, and they’re not about to change their jersey anytime soon.
So now that I’ve beaten that one issue to death, what else is happening with this jersey? Well, there’s still the issue of the black jersey that I talked about above, which I won’t go into again.
Other than that, the piping on the jersey is unconventional, inconsistent, and completely erratic. The Senators were one of the handful of teams that tried to revolutionize hockey jersey aesthetics when the Reebok Edge jerseys were introduced in 2007. These pipings follow the new contours of the jersey rather than classical hockey conventions, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the ones of this jersey go overboard, with the giant fang-like red points in the front, to the super-thin red and white stripes along the base of the jersey, to the wavy lines on the sleeves below the numbers.
The most maddening thing is its inconsistency, looking more like a garbled mess rather than having a coherent strategy…much like most of the projects on The Apprentice. And much like Donald Trump’s hair too actually.
Jersey Recommendation: #5 Lee. Pretty much the only name on the roster during these years that can’t be shortened into a nickname.
6. 1997–99 Third Jersey, 1999–2007 Home/Away Jersey
Another third jersey falling to the bottom of the list! But, one that’s obviously a little better than the others and became their home jersey for 8 seasons. This makes me looks like I’m not a fan of any third jerseys, but (spoiler alert!) that’s just not true. There’s some beautiful alternate jerseys that have been worn over the years. The Blues and Wild all have beautiful ones, but too often a third jersey seems to be a license for the team to go ape shit with their designs. This one isn’t nearly as bad as some others, but again, it’s unconventional in some not-so-great ways.
Of course, the main feature on this jersey is the very organic black and white stripes running around it. I like that it actually embraces the idea of movement and speed, which are two aspects that epitomize the game of hockey. This also has a much more consistent pattern than the previous jersey I talked about, but I’ve never been a fan of anything taking away from what should be the main focus of any jersey: the team logo.
The NHL is somewhat unique among the four prominent sports leagues in North America (NBA, MLB and NFL) in that it’s the only one that prominently displays the team logo on their jerseys. The NFL puts them on their helmets, the NBA usually makes them small and puts them on their shorts, the MLB puts the full team logo nowhere on their uniforms. It’s one of the things I love about hockey aesthetics that they do this, giving the logo a prominence that almost no other sport gives.
Using black stripes with white outlines on these jerseys creates a high amount of contrast that diminishes the overall impact of the logo by becoming the main feature itself.
That being said, I like the movement it gives the jersey and, for all of its waviness, it’s actually quite a simple design, without anything else to complicate it. But the relatively randomness of the motions– and thicknesses – of the lines don’t help it out.
Jersey Recommendation: #18 Hossa. Probably the player with the most pure skill on the team during this time, and as him jumping from Atlanta to Pittsburgh to Detroit to Chicago has shown, he likes a lot of movement as well.
5. 2007–present Home & Away Jerseys
The current jerseys are by no means a traditional hockey jersey (which doesn’t preclude it from being a good thing). When the Adizero jerseys were introduced in 2017, the Senators oddly kept their design elements that were more based on the contours of their Reebok Edge jerseys, creating something that’s oddly sparse, but complex at the same time.
The sparsity comes from the elimination of any extra design elements. There are no stripes along the base of the jersey. There’s no extra non-uniform stripes on the sleeves. There’s no big swash of colour going across the front of the jersey.
And while the black and white/red stripes that are there are all uniform in both their general shape and thickness, there’s a level of randomness to their placement and contours. The red chunks of colour on the sides of the jerseys – like a freshman at a prom – just sits on the sidelines awkwardly. The chunks of black, red, white on the sleeves seems to initiate a pattern of some sort that isn’t repeated anywhere else on the jersey. The black under-sleeves add so much contrast (especially on the white jerseys), it commands more attention that anything else on the jersey.
And while the Reebok-era jerseys at least had some movement and curves to it, they removed all of that for the Adidas jerseys, turning them into chunks of colour that don’t seem to serve any purpose.
Basically, they tried something new for a hockey jersey design when Reebok re-designed them, which created something with some interesting movement, then removed that completely in 2017, exposing the design for what it is: odd, unconventional, with random chunks of colour.
But, their dark jerseys aren’t black! Red is much better as it adds some colour to the blank white of the sheet of ice they play on. And at least there’s a level of minimalism to the jerseys that bumps it above the third jerseys we’ve already discussed.
Jersey Recommendation: #11 Alfredsson. Although the team may have had other players with more pure skill than him, Alfie was the heart of the Sens and their franchise player (nearly) until the end, and their best years so far (and trip to the SCF) was while wearing this jersey. Get it in the Reebok-era reds.
4. 1992–99 Home & Away Jerseys, 1999–2007 Home/Away Jersey
The modern era originals comes in at number four on the list with – after the previous batch of jerseys we’ve talked about – a more classic hockey jersey. It’s got the two solid thick lines along the bottom of the jersey and three solid thick lines along the sleeves, and then the logo right in the middle. Simple, iconic, classic.
And maybe that’s the problem. It’s pretty nondescript and unmemorable. There’s nothing necessarily that bad with it, but there’s nothing that great either. Well, okay, there’s a couple things bad with it…
One thing that is necessary in design, especially when dealing with a jersey or a uniform, is – not ironically – uniformity. I talked about it briefly for the #7 jersey on this list, and it’s happening here again where the piping on the sleeves is not the same as what’s at the base of the jersey. The two solid stripes don’t match up with the three stripes on the sleeves, either in pattern or the width of the stripes. It’s a bit awkward. You know what’s really awkward? When you realize your fly’s open.
Also awkward? Putting the numbers on the sleeves right overtop of the stripes. It’s cluttered and unnecessary. Move the stripes down a bit and the numbers up and there’s no problem anymore.
The white jersey lasted much longer than the black ones, which were replaced by the ones rated at #6 on this list, featuring a new alternate logo for several years, which eventually became the main logo. The black jerseys are the weaker of the two because of the über-thick white lines against the black that, again, create so much contrast that it distracts the eye. They wore a slightly different version from 1992–95 which doesn’t have those thick white stripes, and it works better.
Again, it’s not a bad jersey at all, and obviously better than the other jerseys I’ve already talked about. But, there’s nothing that really stands out about it either as being great. So, it’s pretty much in the perfect spot of being right in the middle of the pack, here at #4.
Jersey Recommendation: #7 Cunneyworth. The first few years were tough years for the Senators, but Cunneyworth had a decent few seasons with the Sens and was their first multi-year captain. I have a feeling some of the other players from the era (Bonk, Daigle, Yashin, etc) wouldn’t be as well-received. Get it in the black version without the white bars on the sleeves.
3. 1917–31 Jersey
The jerseys (or sweaters, as they were more commonly referred to back then) from the original incarnation of the Ottawa Senators look strange and intense for modern hockey aesthetics, but given the context of the time, these are pretty sweet looking jerseys.
The stripes, though intense, are not unusual for the era. Back then, the jerseys were loud and full of stripes, so these Sens jerseys fit in very well. And for the time, they’re one of the best jerseys that were worn. Comparing them, though, to the modern era is a bit more tricky. They stick out like a sore thumb and, until 1929, didn’t even show a logo anywhere. It was just a bunch of stripes with a number.
Note: Other versions of the same jersey had various crests on them though, including, as mentioned, a large “O” from 1929–34. Other patches were all alarmingly boastful crests calling themselves “World Champions”, celebrating their Cup championships in 1921, 1922 and 1927, essentially reminded all the other teams they played that season how much they sucked.
But the thing I like about these jerseys that the current Sens had a hard time figuring out is the uniformity of the stripes. In terms of colours, too, they chose the strongest colour combination you could have: red, black and white. It’s implies dominance and aggressiveness; and when matched with the strong simple lines of the stripes, it’s an imposing jersey. Personally, I think it’s an awesome design, but doesn’t get higher on this list because it’s out-of-place with modern hockey aesthetics.
Jersey Recommendation: #8. Frank Finnigan, the Senators’ captain from 1930–33, is the only number officially retired by the team aside from Daniel Alfredsson. Another option is #5, Cy Denneny, who was one of the most dominant wingers in the league during the time, scoring 36 goals in 20 games during the 1917–18 season.
2. NHL100 Classic Jersey, 2018–present Third Jersey
This is where the modern Sens’ jerseys start going right.
The “O”, is deceptively simple and iconic: it’s a call to the historic era of hockey (which clings to the rafters in Kanata despite the modern and historic Senators franchises having as much in common as the Philadelphia Quakers and Flyers), where having a simple letter on the chest was more commonplace, probably because there were very few teams. But Ottawa is lucky…they can own the “O” as much as they want, at least until the NHL grants a franchise to Omaha.
It also mimics their original franchise’s jersey with the black and white chest stripes, but allowing it to live in the modern aesthetic by limiting it to just the two consistent stripes.
But it’s hard to talk about these jerseys without comparing them to the modern versions that they are a variation on, which (spoiler alert) are better. These NHL100 jerseys specifically introduced the silver stripe to the chest, switching the heritage-white (aka light beige) to actual white, changing the O from black to silver, and removing the additional stripes along the bottom. All of this further modernizes the design…partially to its detriment, because the primary charm of those jerseys were their historicity. Now it doesn’t look particularly historical, or particularly modern.
The silver stripe makes a visual connection to the Ottawa Silver Seven, which is what the Ottawa HC was referred to before they were the Senators. That’s a nice touch, but it seems at this point more like a happy accident than an intentional inclusion.
It’s a nice jersey, but there are changes from the #1 jersey that keep it at #2.
Jersey Recommendation: #65 Karlsson. Although his departure was less than ideal, he’s still very easily the best defensemen that Senators have ever had. And he deserves some recognition for spending what appears to have been his best years as a member of the Senators. Plus, he was the first star at the NHL100 Classic, picking up an assist.
1. 2014 Heritage Classic Jersey, 2011–17 Third Jersey
See? I don’t hate all third jerseys. These don’t technically constitute a ‘set’ of jerseys, as the white one is a one-off for the Heritage Classic, and the other is their third jersey, but as you can see, they’re essentially reverses of each other, so let’s just go with it.
These jerseys are pretty much a perfect balance of historical and contemporary aesthetics to create a set that actually makes sense for a team, instead of just an exercise in increasing jersey sales.
There’s tons of things to like about this jersey, including bringing back the large “O” on the chest. In the entire history of the NHL, only one other team city has started with an O – the Oakland Seals from 1967–1970. And the only other team that could lay claim to an O in any capacity is the Oilers, and their logo/jersey is too iconic to mess with. The O belongs to Ottawa. It’s a simple, logical and iconic brand extension for the franchise.
It also connects to the Senators’ historical jersey with the use of stripes going across the chest. Yes, I commented earlier about how this is a problem on previous jerseys, but the stripes are solid and straight, and with something as simple and iconic as an “O”, it works. And hell, Montreal has been getting away with it for years.
The stripes are not as loud and obnoxious as the historical jersey because of the reduced repitition of it. Plus, the two thick stripes were used previously along the bottom of their original modern era jerseys, so it has a foot in modern hockey aesthetics as well. It’s repeated at the base of the jersey with the exact same thickness as what’s on the sleeves (or as best as can be because of the rounded bottoms of the jersey). The stripes on the chest are thicker than the others, but it’s still two equi-thick lines, so it works. And as we saw with previous NHL100 Classic jerseys, the bottom stripes help keep the jersey from looking too modern.
Yes, these jerseys can be considered black (which, by now, you know I’m not a fan off in general), but with the dominance of the stripes, there’s enough colour and pattern being prominent in the jersey that it doesn’t take over the entire jersey. On a clean sheet of white ice, it’s still a decent splash of colour. And in this case, white is a colour since it’s more of a cream, or if it were a paint chip, I’d call it Heritage White, or Dirty Snow, or something stupid like that. Again, it adds a touch of the historical to the jersey which I love.
All in all, this is an awesome jersey and the epitome of what a third jersey can do to build a visual brand for any team. Go buy one now!
Jersey Recommendation: #19 Spezza. The long-time Senator and former captain spent his best years as a Senator and personifies this era of Ottawa’s franchise as much as anyone else.