Worst to First Jerseys: New York Rangers
As we go through the prolonged 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 New York Rangers to get updated.
For a team that’s been around for over 90 years, the Rangers have had remarkably consistent jersey designs. It’s helped create the allure of the classic Blueshirt, the second-most iconic jersey in all of sports. Other teams have tried to suck from the teat of that iconicism for themselves (Pens, Avs, etc), but it always looks like a pale facsimile compared to the original. But wait…there have been other jerseys the Rangers have donned. Some good, some bad, and even some without the diagonal “Rangers” across the chest.
Here’s how this works: I’ll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Rangers 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 Rangers, there’s nine different jerseys/eras. And we’ll start with the worst one.
9. 2014 Stadium Series Jersey
If you ever want to take a classic and iconic jersey and then strip away all of its charisma and charm, this is a good place to start. It’s not the worst Stadium Series jersey by far, but as a Rangers jersey, it’s hard to think of another that’s worse.
Of course, some of these were imposed by the league, as they mandated a template for all seven teams participating in the 2014 Stadium Series to follow. The angled sleeve-stripes that, while replicating a pattern from a jersey later-on on this list, are an awkward mixture of super-thick and super-thin stripes, especially since the outside stripe doesn’t extend all the way to the cuffs (like their aforementioned other jerseys did). It’s too complex given the relative minimalism of the rest of the jersey, making the whole thing look inconsistently designed.
And then there’s the angled sleeve numbers and, of course, the chromed-out “New York” on the front. The fake chrome looks bad on a logo, but on lettering like this, it looks even more ridiculous.
Another one of the great things about the Rangers white jerseys are the charismatic stripes on the shoulder yokes. They’re fully removed on this jersey and replaced with a simple navy blue shoulder yoke that’s angled-off at the ends. Again, it’s not necessarily a bad look, but it’s certainly not a Rangers look. Certainly not as much as this Rangers look.
And finally, they went with the dark navy blue here instead of their more iconic royal blue and it just comes out flat on a predominantly white jersey with very little red on it, making the whole jersey look more mono-chromatic than it should. The Rangers jerseys have been many things, but they’re not monochromatic.
Jersey Recommendation: #67 Pouliot. He had a goal and an assist in the two games against the Devils and Islanders, and 2014 was his year with the Rangers. So…mediocre and around for only a year. Sounds like a perfect fit for these jerseys.
8. 1976–78 Home and Away Jerseys
This jersey represents the only time throughout their entire existence that the Rangers wore their primary logo on their jersey. And it just looks damn weird.
• More: BTLNHL #12: New York Rangers
It doesn’t help that this represents the most dramatic reimagining of a Rangers jersey in their existence, compliments of then-coach/GM John Ferguson, who wanted a more updated and modern look to the jerseys. They lasted as long as Ferguson did as coach – just 2 seasons.
Immediately after Ferguson was fired, they switched back to their previous jerseys and Ferguson took the identical jersey design to his next job: the Winnipeg Jets.
Hockey jerseys are generally unique in that it’s the only major professional sport that displays the team logo prominently on the jersey’s front. So, it really speaks to the power of the traditional Rangers jerseys that it’s strange to see the Rangers logo displayed there.
Back to design…what makes this jersey drop near the bottom is not only the very un-Rangers aesthetics, it also just looks dated. And the main reason it looks dated is because of the piping/striping on the jersey. The simple, straight red and blue lines (or red and white on the blue jerseys) are an aesthetic born from the late ’70s and ’80s, and the solid two-stripe is not something you regularly see in hockey at all. The North Stars did it for a while, but very few others. Other teams either have one solid stripe (like the Red Wings, for example), or the 3+ stripes (like the Bruins, for example). I’m not completely against that look, but there’s no question it dates the jersey.
The solid band of striping, from cuff to cuff and over the shoulders, is not regularly used either. Only a few teams (like Colorado, Philadelphia and the Jets) use that style today, and in almost all cases, it’s not a solid line but has some curves to it. Other jerseys that have had this particular feature is the Maple Leafs from 1970 to 1992, and the NHL itself, in various All-Star jerseys. It only helps make the jersey look more dated yet.
But otherwise, there’s little to complain about, but also little to get excited about. The jerseys are solid and simple, bordering on boring. The blue is a nice lighter blue than the previous-discussed jerseys. The red works as an accent. The typography is surprisingly unique, using a Helvetica-esque sans serif instead of the traditional chopped-off angled look.
In the end, it’s okay, but it just doesn’t look like a Rangers jersey.
Jersey Recommendation: #77 Esposito. When you think of Phil Esposito, it’s probably in a Bruins jersey. Or maybe a Blackhawks one. But probably not a Rangers jersey, and especially not one with the Rangers logo on the front. But he did wear these, right in the middle of his tour with the Rangers. And when I see these jerseys, Esposito is the only person I can picture in them. Get it in the whites.
7. 1996–2007 Third Jerseys
The Rangers haven’t had many third jerseys in their existence, because when they do have one, they’ve generally stuck with it for a long time. But time did not make these jerseys age as well as their others. The white ones were used for one season, 1998–99, while the blues were used in the seasons before and after.
I know there’s a general love for these jerseys…maybe because it’s the only time that a logo has been featured on the chest of a Rangers jersey that isn’t their primary logo. It’s more modern, it’s different, and it’s fully detached from any historical ties to other jerseys in the Rangers cannon, making it a more acceptable departure. Plus, it was an irregularly-worn third jersey and didn’t replace the iconic jerseys.
But let’s be serious, these are not great jerseys, and it starts with the alternate logo. People love the Lady Liberty, but it’s very much a product of ’90s design, albeit a bit more structured and refined than some other designs we’ve seen from the era…but the styling isn’t that far off from the Kings’ Burger King logo.
The Statue of Liberty itself is a great representation both of New York and the idea of a Ranger, and the execution is excellent, but then it’s unnecessarily bulked up with multiple outlines: white, then red, then a beveled grey (and then blue on the white jerseys), turning the illustration into a mess. The “NYR” is nicely-styled but awkwardly forced to fit into the shield.
As for the actual jersey, the introduction of grey into the palette is one colour too many, making it a unwelcome distraction and shifting the focus away from their always-classic red, white and blue. And the blue has turned to navy which is not as visually exciting as their classic royal blue.
The sleeve striping is certainly a more modern approach, using angles, very narrow stripes and different-coloured cuffs to add some visual contrast in there. And while it doesn’t necessarily hold up with where today’s jersey design is heading, it’s at least minimalist enough to balance out the addition of the grey.
So, the entire jersey is an exercise of what a non-traditional, modern Rangers jersey may look like…as long as you look at the back. Instead of fully embracing this modern look, they went with the traditional curved nameplate and drop-shadowed numbers that they’ve used for years, making it an awkward departure from the rest of the jersey. It’s a really strange inclusion that creates a visual reminder of what Rangers jerseys usually look like, and that this one doesn’t look like that.
Jersey Recommendation: #99 Gretzky. He’s worn some truly awful jerseys, some of the worst we’ve seen, and this is not one of them. But like Esposito above, when I think of these jerseys, he’s the first image I have of a player wearing it for some reason. Get it in the less-common whites.
6. 1946–47 Home & Away Jerseys
There was a very short time – one season actually – where the Rangers featured both text and numbers on the front of their jerseys, in a style resuscitated by the likes of Dallas and the Islanders which resulted in some of the most-despised jerseys in either franchise’s history.
These I despise less, partly because the precedent of the Rangers having text on the front of their jerseys instead of a logo is already well-established. But, throwing in the player numbers as well removes it from the general visual vernacular of hockey jerseys, looking more like traditional basketball jerseys.
But outside of that, the jerseys – or sweaters, in this case – are quite nice: simple and well-balanced. The striping pattern of red and white is consistent and perfectly offsets the otherwise dominant blue sweater.
It’s an odd divergence from what was a very consistent jersey history for the Rangers, and one that lasted only one season. Its existence is generally unknown to most hockey fans, and probably even a good amount of Rangers fans.
Jersey Recommendation: #1. Chuck Rayner was the Rangers’ goalie during this season, playing 58 of 60 games, and we always like to give the goalies some love here at HbD. Plus, if you’re somehow going to get your hands on this jersey, having a big #1 on your chest just looks good.
5. 2010–17 Third Jersey
The Rangers second third jersey experiment went somewhat the opposite direction of their first one. Instead of trying to go for a modern approach, they took a more classic approach, but with just a small touch of modern aesthetics.
For striping, these have the same red/white stripes that their more iconic blue jersey has, but it’s simplified with a single thick red stripe and thiner white stripes on both sides. And it’s consistent across the jersey, from the sleeves to the bottoms. It’s nothing flashy, but it works, and balances out the more dominant blue nicely.
The white is “antique” white, which is a nice touch that adds a classic feel to it. The blue is a darker navy blue, similar to their other third jerseys, which I’m not crazy about as it doesn’t have as much visual impact on the ice, but it works better on these third jerseys.
The lettering on the chest is simplified and, while meant to be more classic, has a much more modern feel to it. Simple condensed sans-serifs are all the rage, didn’t you hear?
Overall, it’s a modern faux-vintage take on a Rangers jersey. It has the classic Rangers elements, but modified enough to make it stand on its own. It’s a good jersey, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to what’s to come.
Jersey Recommendation: #30 Lundqvist. Probably the best Ranger of the modern era, and one of the best goaltenders on the planet until recently.
4. 2012 Winter Classic Jersey
Winter Classic jerseys are usually a chance for teams to dive into their jersey library, dust off a classic, and bring it back into the light for one game. For the Rangers, that’s more problematic since they’re essentially wearing their classic jerseys already.
So, they created something that just looked old, but was a comparatively brand new design that still fits within the Rangers historical design aesthetics. And they did a really fantastic job of it too.
It also represents the only time other than 1976–78 that they wore their main logo on their chest. But on a better-designed jersey like this one, it doesn’t look as odd. It helps that it was a one-off jersey, especially given the context of the Winter Classic as well.
The piping is great, alternating between the red and blue. And while the sleeves don’t have the same pattern as the bottom/shoulder yokes, it’s a combination that works as a faux-historic element. That is, there’s a kind of perfection in that imperfection, again, given the context of the nature of the Winter Classic. Plus, I really like how the shoulder stripes mirror the bottom stripes. Placing that same pattern on the sleeves would’ve made for a more mundane design overall.
And it’s the shoulder striping that gives it a classic Rangers feel more than anything. Essentially, the jersey isn’t an exact replica of any of their past jerseys, but it looks like it could be, and that’s helped by the logo, which is an updated replica of their original logo from the ’20s and ’30s.
Jersey Recommendation: #71 Rupp. He scored 4 goals in 60 games during the 2011-12 season, and two of them came in the Winter Classic. The guy loves the outdoors apparently. Another option is #19 Richards, who scored the winning goal.
3. 2018 Winter Classic Jersey
For a faux-classic Rangers jersey, they pretty much nailed it. The modern aesthetics mixed with historical aesthetics that give an even stronger faux-retro look than their 2018 Winter Classic opponent Sabres’ jerseys, and those are great too in their own right.
The closest comparison to jerseys that they’ve worn in the past is the 1926–27 jerseys from their inaugural NHL season. It has the same striping patterns, but the element that ties it the closest to their original jerseys is the typography: a white condensed sans serif in their traditional sloped style. The very next season they switched to red letters, and it hasn’t really changed much since.
I would’ve preferred they go with their more traditional royal blue rather than the darker navy blue, since it almost comes across as black. But it’s less of an issue because of the other elements on the jersey. The darker navy blue adds a little more contrast to the bold amounts of white and red stripes, giving them more impact and vibrancy.
And damn, those stripes actually look really good. Their boldness and thickness reminds me of vintage hockey jerseys where stripes were sometimes the *only* feature on the jerseys. It also somehow reminds me of those old NY Americans jerseys, but obvious not as crazy.
The finishing touch – and key differentiator from their inaugural jerseys – is adding their trademark red and white stripes at the shoulders which bumps up the intensity. They push the envelope just enough to give it a historical touch without going completely overboard. It can be a delicate balance.
Speaking of balance, those heavy, bold stripes are balanced by the relatively simple letters and numbers on the jerseys, using the standard cut-cornered sans serif that’s common in sports jerseys. But these also have a lot more character than your standard sports jerseys by using a unique condensed version that looks pretty authentic to their inaugural jerseys.
But it’s also the lack of outlines around the numbers and letters (also authentic to their inaugural jerseys) that give a much needed element of simplicity to the jerseys, just toning down the stripes everywhere else. And the details on those letters…so nice!
The only mis-step is the alternate “N.Y.” logo on the upper corner of the jersey, bringing in an element that doesn’t add anything other than extra noise. If you remove the patch altogether, it makes the jersey better.
I love that patch as a holder for the captaincy “C” and “A”s – and the felting and stitching are really great – but including it on every jersey is completely unnecessary.
Jersey Recommendation: #10 Miller. Obviously, J.T. Miller is no longer with the Rangers, but with the Winter Classic-winning goal, to go along with an assist and a first star, it’s not a bad choice at all.
2. 1978–97 Home & Away Jerseys
This is not quite the classic Blueshirt, although it’s very close. There’s a subtle but important difference in these jerseys that just doesn’t work as well.
The white jerseys, however, are very nearly identical to what they wear now and have for years in the past. And I’m not sure how they did it, but that striping on the shoulder yokes is masterful. It’s there, but not obnoxious or overpowering, unlike some other teams that have tried it. It’s simple but complex at the same time. Maybe it works so well because it’s not a logo on the front, but rather just the lettering. Whatever it is, it works. And the consistency of the striping across the jersey that’s, again, both complex and simple is fantastic. And the bursts of blue and red give so much movement and impact to a white jersey that many other teams just don’t attempt.
And they’re smart enough to realize that the shoulder yokes wouldn’t work on the blue jersey, but otherwise making it an exact replica of the white jersey but with the white and blue reversed (minus the cuffs).
The drop-shadowed lettering is synonymous with the Rangers as well, and while I probably wouldn’t like it on any other team’s jersey, I really don’t mind it here.
Why? Because legacy and nostalgia can have a big impact on people’s feelings about design in general, and while I’m generally also not a fan of text on the front of jersey in lieu of the team logo, I could never imagine the Rangers wearing anything but. That, and the drop-shadow…it’s their look, they own it, and they’d be stupid to drop something like that.
Jersey Recommendation: #11 Messier. One of the best Rangers of all-time, and he was wearing this jersey when he broke the 50-year drought in 1994. An extremely strong case could be made for #2 Leetch as well, probably the best defensemen to ever wear a Rangers jersey. Get either in the blues, because they’re unique to this era.
1. 1926–46, 1947–76, 1997-present Home & Aways
The difference between these jerseys and the 1978–97 jerseys is predominantly the bottom striping on the blue jerseys, which have a bottom white stripe that extends to the bottom of the jerseys and removes the in-between blue stripes. The blue stripes are also removed on the sleeves.
Not a major change, but it does affect the look of the jersey. It adds just that additional bit of minimalism and unique character that transforms a fantastic jersey into one of the most iconic in the history of hockey. It balances out the predominant blue without competing with it, as the 1978–97 do.
And that royal blue. It just looks so slick on the ice.
For the white jersey, the sleeve and bottom stripes are slightly thinner and more compact than the 1978–97 versions, which is an improvement for the same reasons as the blue jersey: it’s a little bit quieter and balance doesn’t compete as much with the rest text on the jersey.
There have been numerous small variations of the blue jersey through the Rangers’ existence, from the lighter blue and white letters of their inaugural season, to the ’40s having slanted letters, to straight nameplates on the back. But the overall concept and general design has remained untouched throughout almost the entire 90+ years of the Rangers existence, which is a rarity these days.
And for good reason. These are about as beautiful as they come, and I hope they last another 90 years.
Jersey Recommendation: Given that these jerseys have been worn for 70+ seasons…you have a plethora of worthy options. #2 Park. Or #9 Bathgate. Or #16 for Frank Boucher. Or #93 Zibanedjad if you want to stay modern. Take your pick. And take your pick of either the whites or the blues…they’re both great.