Worst to First Jerseys: Anaheim Ducks

In Featured
Feb 3rd, 2020

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 Anaheim Ducks to get updated.

Also, a huge thanks to SportsLogos.net and NHLUniforms.com for most of the jersey images and references. 

The Ducks have been in the league for over 25 years now, and haven’t always be the poster child for excellence in design aesthetics, as they came in during the ’90s which saw some of the worst designs (logos and jerseys) ever to grace the league. The bar wasn’t set high for a corporate-schlocking team owned by Disney, but they’ve still had a hard time jumping over it since their inception…with some notable exceptions, of course.

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

9. 1995–96 Third Jersey

C’mon, was there really any doubt which jersey would take last place? The Wild Wing is not only the worst jersey the Ducks have worn, it’s one of the worst NHL jerseys ever. It’s not even a “so bad, it’s good” kind of thing.

That being said, I honestly wouldn’t mind owning one of them some day, because it’s so unique within the scope of NHL jerseys. The problem is, it’s definitely not unique within the scope of minor-league hockey jerseys, which often introduce bizarre, off-the-wall, non-traditional jersey designs. Anaheim was obviously tempted to do the same but it’s better to keep that stuff in the minors.

The main problem with the jerseys is indirectly related to design: corporate schlocking. At the time of this jersey, the team was the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, owned by Disney, named after a Disney movie and featured a Disney-esque logo. Then they came out with the Wild Wing jersey, with Donald Duck on steroids bursting out of the ice wearing a Mighty Ducks jersey. It’s the closest thing that the NHL has ever coming to advertising on a jersey. Did you know they were making D3: The Mighty Ducks during the season, which featured them wearing Mighty Ducks uniforms? Convenient.

But while they were advertising their movie, they also threw out almost every traditional aesthetic of a hockey jersey. The shoulder yokes are circular instead of rectangular. The fonts are almost illegible at far distances, using an open and thin script-like font. I feel sorry for the guys calling the game when these jerseys were worn. Also, the stripes that are on the jersey don’t match at all, with purple and white on the yokes, white-eggplant-white-teal-eggplant on the sleeves, and just white on the bottom.

The team’s actual logo is relegated to the tiny shoulder patches and on the jersey of the duck on the jersey. #HockeyJerseyInception

And it’s also the first to feature the Ducks’ odd obsession with throwing as many stripes as humanly possible on specific areas of a hockey jersey (more on that later), with the sleeves featuring five stripes on each. As if the jersey wasn’t visually crammed already.

Sorry Wild Wing fans, it’s a bad jersey with no redeeming qualities. Like a bad duckface, it’s a total fail. Luckily, it only lasted one season.

Jersey Recommendation: #26 Sillinger. There’s no photo-evidence for him ever wearing this jersey, but this was Mike Sillinger’s only full season in Anaheim, and he holds the NHL record for most teams played on (12) and times being traded (9). So his number on a jersey featuring a migratory hockey player seems fitting.

8. 1997–2000 Third Jerseys

After the failed Wild Wing experiment, the Ducks went back to basic hockey aesthetics with their new third jerseys, going back right into the ’70s and ’80s with the bands of colour stretching from cuff to cuff. But like those sticky wall hooks, doing the cuff-to-cuff thing is not so easy to pull off.

And Anaheim certainly didn’t succeed. The big mistake was going with 4 different bands of colours: gold, eggplant, grey and teal. The results are predictable – overbearing and, like Wild Wing, uniquely odd.

Also unique and odd is giving the third jersey both a home and away treatment, something that has not been done before this, or since. Some teams have had four different jerseys through a season (like Vancouver this season, for example), but not a complete alternate home and away jersey.

It works better in some ways on the white jersey, as the brightness of the rest of the jersey allows for a break from all the colours being crammed down your throat. I like using white in all of my designs because it automatically gives a sense of contrast to what you’re looking at. The teal jerseys have absolutely no lightness to them, with the grey, teal and eggplant blending together, lacking any distinct contrast aside from the white numbers. It’s just too much.

But, in some ways, the teal jersey works better because the use of a grey stripe on the bottom of the jersey balances out the heaviness of the stripes at the top of the jersey just a bit more, where the white jersey is missing that. Of all the cuff-to-cuff striped jerseys in the league, all of them have bands of colour somewhere else as well to balance it out.

So, while both the home and teal have some qualities that make it better than the other, instead maybe they’re both just kind of sucky. Like a bad vacuum cleaner, it sucks enough to just barely get the job done, but doesn’t suck enough to be considered good. Or did I just get the sucking analogy reversed? Either way, it’s another fail for the Ducks.

Jersey Recommendation: #31 Hebert. The starting goalie for the Ducks during these years put up some decent numbers, but like the jersey, left town in 2000 and was never seen in the NHL again. Get it in the white. It’s marginally better and actually lasted a year longer than the teal.

7. 2014 Stadium Series Jersey

It’s tough to do orange well. One way to not do orange is to just include nothing else but orange. You know what other hockey-related object that’s completely dressed in orange and is often meant to refer to ineptitude and uselessness in the sport? Yup, a pylon. So why would you dress up like one?

• More: HbD News: Stadium Series Jerseys Announced for LA and Anaheim

These could be mistaken as practice jerseys, or even worse, orange pyjamas. But the practice jersey comparison is more relevant, as they often have a single solid colour underneath the pits and down the sides of the jerseys. The only thing differentiating these jerseys from practice jerseys are sleeve stripes and numbers. Of course, you’d need to slap a couple ads on the jerseys, but those could be mistaken for the shoulder patches. Basically, it looks a bit ridiculous and needs other elements to make it work. Textbook example of less not always being more.

Then there’s the chromed-up logos, which are garbage. Only Lou Lamoriello had the good sense to not allow the Devils to use them during the 2014 Stadium Series. Fake chrome does not cool make. Especially on these jerseys, because when you mix some sort of mangled skeuomorphistic logo with a flat design on the jerseys, it’s not going to look good.

As for the OC shoulder patch, from a design standpoint it fits with their branding and alternate logo and all, but c’mon, don’t call it that.

There’s other issues, like the slanted numbers on the sleeves, but those were NHL-mandated choices so you can’t fault the Ducks on that one, although it’s certainly not helping this jersey climb up this ranking anytime soon.

In short, it’s too minimal to be considered a good jersey, and the other details just continue to drag it down. Kudos to the Ducks for trying an orange jersey and venturing from their standard black homes and white roads jersey pairing.

Jersey Recommendation: #10 Perry. He scored the winning goal in the game against the Kings, 2:45 into the first period. Or you could go for a #1 Hiller jersey, who shutout the Kings, and has some of the best buckets ever worn by a Duck goalie.

6. 2003–06 Third Jersey

Anaheim’s first two stabs at third jerseys were pretty bad failures. When they came back with another third jersey just three years later, it was obvious they learned a few more tricks and improved their designs. Considering the Mighty Ducks weren’t sold off by Disney until 2005 (two years after these jerseys came out), it marks the first time that there wasn’t a Disney-specific influence on the design at all. I guess considering a new Mighty Ducks movie hadn’t been made in about 6 years (for good reason), it seemed less necessary to advertise for one.

But these jerseys still broke the mould for hockey aesthetics in that they are the first in the modern era to introduce a script font onto the jersey, drawing from traditional baseball aesthetics and/or from very historic 1920s-era hockey aesthetics (with the baseball-esque letter patch on the shoulders, I’m guessing they were looking at baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates rather than hockey’s Pittsburgh Pirates). Either way, it was the first time this generation of hockey fans saw something like this. It has since been copied by teams like Minnesota (most successfully) and Calgary.

The results are mostly good. The laces on the front – which I generally always like – accentuate the historical-ness of the scripted crest. The removal of the teal colour altogether shows a refinement to the overall brand that’s a step in the right direct, keeping the grey and eggplant colour. I have nothing against teal, but if you look at some of the most recognizable brands in hockey (Leafs, Habs, Bruins, etc), they have one or two colours and that’s it.

But I have a few complaints. One, the choice of black as the main colour of the jersey. Hockey is a game played on a clean sheet of white ice and the game is always, aesthetically, more enjoyable to watch when there’s a good splash of colour out there. Black jerseys playing against white jerseys on white ice is about as boring as you can get. They could have swapped the black and eggplant around. That would have been pretty sweet (roughly Photoshopped).

Two, the eggplant band of colour along the bottom is too thick. It works fine for the front of the jersey because the crest is so wide and short, but on the back, the entire jersey is crowded with the numbers and nameplate on there as well. Just a little thinner would have been great.

Three, as the Ducks jersey library goes, it’s relatively bland and feels very off-brand. Of all the Ducks jerseys, it’s the most un-Duck-like. And probably the most forgotten of all the jerseys on this list.

Jersey Recommendation: #35 Giguere. Arguably the best goalie to ever wear a Ducks jersey gets a mention here. A Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner for the Ducks, he deserves to be honoured by being placed on your back.

5. 2015–17, 2019–present Third Jersey

The Ducks delved into their hockey history to resurrect a logo and then changed elements of it to fit with a modern aesthetic. The much-loved Disney duck mask makes a comeback, but instead of eggplant and teal, it’s orange and beige. And that’s a major problem.

I have no idea what makes the Ducks’ organization think that orange and beige is an acceptable colour combination to use, but it just doesn’t look good. Like, ever. The vibrancy of the orange overpowers the beige to the point when it looks like dull vomit. It just accentuates what beige usually is perceived to be: boring.

• More: HbD Breakdown: Avalanche and Ducks Third Jerseys

On all their other jerseys since 2006, they’ve kept the orange and beige separated and minimal, so you never notice too much how bad it looks together, but this jersey is the only one to really dial that combo up a notch. And the hockey sticks on the logo bring in yet another shade of beige. Because apparently you can never have too much beige mixed with orange.

But, this being Anaheim’s second attempt at an orange jersey, it’s definitely better than those Stadium Series pyjamas jerseys already discussed. Those were overly simplistic, but here, with more stripes and other elements, it’s a little more balanced.

But some of those additional elements also don’t work. For example, I also have no idea what makes the Ducks’ organization love erratic striping so much. The pattern at the bottom of the jerseys (white, black, beige, black) actually has consistent and well-executed lines, and it mimics the nice pattern that the original Mighty Ducks jersey had, the same one that this jersey pays homage to. So, that makes sense. But then the sleeves are just a clusterfuck of different thicknesses of lines and colours, seemingly without much thought put into it. It’s painful to see such an ordered pattern mixed with such a non-sensical one on the same jersey. If you’re going to be inconsistent, at least be consistent about it.

Also, the Stadium Series has spawned a new place for design opportunities on hockey jerseys: the collar. For better or worse. The Kings added two crowns representing their two Cup wins. The Avalanche added “5280”, reference the amount of feet in a mile. The Ducks? They added “Anaheim”. So yeah, why even bother if you’re not going to do anything interesting with it. That one’s a definite fail.

While it’s definitely a much better stab at an orange jersey for the Ducks, there’s way too many mis-steps to rank this higher up the list. And it’s hard to see it as anything other than an attempt to sell more jerseys by badly and lazily resurrecting a much-loved old logo and slapping different colours on it.

Jersey Recommendation: #67 Rakell. Just for the sole reason that he was born in the same year that the original version of these jerseys were used: 1993. Well, that, and that he’s one of the best players on the Ducks right now.

4. 2018–19 Third Jersey

Leave it to Anaheim to take one of the most beloved, fawned-over, nostalgia-drenched jerseys in the history of the league…and fuck it up. They already have one of the worst jersey sets in the league thanks to awful colour combos, unnecessary and cloyingly inconsistent striping, and now they’ve managed to ruin their historical jerseys as well.

• More: HbD Breakdown: Anaheim Ducks Third Jersey

I know. “Oh, tell us how you really feel.” And yet, it’s ranked as the fourth best jersey they’ve worn. If that’s not an indictment of their library in general, I don’t know what is.

While trying to create a modern and exciting update to their original jerseys (spoiler: more on them later), almost every change imposed on these new jerseys have diminished the lustre, appeal, and nostalgia that made people love the originals so much. From inconsistent striping, to the odd choice to black as a base, they should’ve just stuck with the cleaner version that worked originally. Where to start?

The added shoulder yokes just weigh the jersey down by adding too much visual complexity, especially with a stripe thrown in, for whatever reason.

The black base makes the multitude of stripes heavier with contrast and more distracting (and also is the only place aside from the collar where purple exists). And the stripes are now inconsistent (as Anaheim seems wont to do).

Making the teal on the sleeves a stripe rather than a block of colour to the cuffs also makes the stripes more distracting.

Then they throw in orange in the logo, and beige on the shoulder patches, which looks odd and inconsistent with the rest of the jersey.

And yet, it’s still ranked fourth. Mostly because it draws on nostalgia and has a better colour palette of teal, eggplant, and black than beige and gold. Even though the striping is made worse by its use of colour and inconsistencies, it’s still more minimal than what they’ve used at other times in the past.

Player Recommendation: #17 Kesler. 2018–19 was the last season Kesler played, maybe for his career? While he was a great player for the Ducks when he first joined them, he’s a shadow of that player in latter years. Just switch “jersey” for “player” in that sentence, and you’ll see why he’s a great analogy for these jerseys.

3. 2010–14 Third Jersey, 2014–present Home & Away Jerseys

You know it’s bad when these jerseys are this high up the list. With the 2005 selling of the Ducks away from Disney, the ‘Mighty’ was rightfully removed, leaving only ‘Ducks’. Not the most vicious or graceful animals to be considered for an NHL team (but the Penguins aren’t the most graceful things either, at least on land), but at least it was no longer attached to a bad movie series. The jersey designs matched the move away from the amateur into the something more fitting of the NHL.

• More: HbD News: New Ducks and Blues Jerseys

It’s a bit of a toss-up with these last two jerseys as to who should be first. They both have their redeeming qualities, but neither are perfect. The use of the former alternate logo (and now their primary logo) on this jersey is a definite plus. The main reason the Ducks ranked last in my BTLNHL Countdown was because of their former primary logo (and now their alternate logo) works so poorly on the jersey, which is essentially the main thing it was designed for. The webbed-D on this jersey stands prominently on the chest and is more simplistic and easily recognizable than the full “Ducks” logo.

But, this jersey ranks fourth because this is more about the jersey design than the logo design. The big minus here though is the extreme multitude of of stripes happening on the sides and sleeves of the jersey, all with varying widths and colours. You can say there’s six stripes on each side: orange, black, gold, white, black then orange. From front to back, that would mean 11 separate stripes. On both sides, that’s 22 stripes. Add in the sleeves (6 on each), that’s 34 stripes. That’s just stupid. Remember the Canadiens’ barber-pole jerseys? That had less stripes. I think most zebras have less stripes.

The white jerseys are the inferior of the pair, with those black shoulder yokes weighing the whole jersey down by creating too much contrast and visual weight at the top.

I’m almost talking myself out of ranking the jersey this high, but really, that’s the main gripe with this jersey. Aside from that, the jersey is solid. The font used for the numbers and nameplate is distinctive and, unlike Wild Wing, is clearly legible. The thin orange line on the black jerseys forming the shoulder yoke is subtle and adds more colour to the jersey.

Jersey Recommendation: #15 Getzlaf. The current leader of the Ducks, and probably for the rest of his career, at which point he’ll probably retire as the highest-scoring Duck ever. Nobody personifies this era more than Getzlaf. Get it in the superior black jersey.

2. 2006–14 Home & Away Jerseys

Ugh. How did these get so high? I really don’t like the logo that’s being used for reasons I’ve already mentioned (tldr: the proportions look awful on a jersey). There’s still a few too many stripes for my liking, but it’s obviously better than the current jersey set. The stripes also rise a little too high, especially on the back, crowding the numbers.

But compared to the rest of the jerseys on this list, these are all relatively minor gripes. I like how they continued the tradition established by the original jerseys of having the stripes on an angle, but modified it to make it more of a swoop than a straight line, adding more movement to the lines. It gives a little bit more character to a jersey that’s otherwise quite minimal. Plus, it evokes the idea of a duck’s wings or a duck’s flight.

It would be nice to have slightly more orange in there, but this was back before Anaheim really played up the Orange County aspect of their brand. On these, it makes more sense to add more orange, or just eliminate the thin orange lines altogether.

Still, it’s a decent jersey and, with a few alterations, could even be higher on this list. It’s doesn’t hurt that they won a Cup wearing the jersey either.

Jersey Recommendation: #8 Selanne. Or #27 Niedermayer. Whoever you consider to be the true leader of the Ducks during the Brian Burke era, when Anaheim became the first team to bring the Stanley Cup to California (or anywhere west of Denver for that matter). Get it in the white.

1. 1993–2006 Home & Away Jerseys

Even with more corporate schlocking happening here, at least these jerseys are well-designed and have become so iconic and beloved (despite their small flaws), it’s hard not to rank this as the best jersey the Ducks have ever worn.

I know I may be in the (vast) minority with this, but I’ve never been a fan of the original Mighty Ducks of Anaheim logo on these jerseys. I was just slightly too old to find any redeeming value in the Mighty Ducks movie franchise and, as an angsty teenager, thought corporations were a horrible evil laying waste to our society and Disney was at the top of that heap: rewriting history and turning tragic stories by historically-renowned authors into sing-along tripe. But those are my issues. I’ve grown up since then, and in the time that’s passed, Pixar has saved Disney from becoming an animation afterthought by actually writing unique stories and creating good movies for them, and I now realize that Disney has also financed some great movies that they would never slap their name on.

But that doesn’t mean I like this logo any more than before. It’s pretty cheesy, with an angry Donald Duck goalie mask over a criss-crossed (“make you jump, jump”) set of hockey sticks. It screams Disney, and it’s just more corporate schlocking.

Logo aside, I like the relative simplicity of the jerseys and the attempt to do something a little more unique and different with traditional hockey aesthetics by tilting the stripes slightly to create something a little more visually dynamic. Doing something like this evokes a sense of movement, and that’s one of the defining characteristics of hockey: continuous and powerful movement.

The problem is, however, the lines are tilted slightly too far. What happens is that you get unnecessary overlap on the back of the jerseys with the numbers and it creeps up really close to the logo on the front. It makes things feel crowded, overly-complicated and generally messy. I get that the lines were meant to flow into the contours of the sleeves of the jersey, but nobody plays hockey like a scarecrow with their arms out like that, so there’s not much point in doing that if it negatively affects the design overall.

What would it look like with a slightly less-drastic angle? Much better.

But overall, it’s a good jersey with unique colours (eggplant was pretty non-existent in the league at that point, and San Jose had just popularized a slightly-bluer teal colour) and pushing the boundaries of jersey design in positive ways. Quirky and unique in a good way? These Ducks are starting to learn how to fly.

Jersey Recommendation: #9 Kariya. Aside from their Cup win, Kariya wearing this jersey and going to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals is the first defining moment for the franchise. When I picture this jersey, I only see it being worn by Kariya. Get it in the white.

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

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