Top 5: Alexander Mogilny Jerseys
Name any Russian NHL star…Ovechkin, Federov, Malkin, Khabibulin, Bure, Vasilevski…and the list goes on. They can all tip their hat to the first defector who paved the way: Alexander Mogilny. Back in April Sportsnet debuted a mini-documentary on the defection of Mogilny from the Soviet Union to play in the NHL. It’s a fascinating and very “Jason Bourne-eque” look at everything that went into getting Mogilny to Buffalo in 1989. If you have a spare 20 minutes or so, I’d highly recommend checking it out.
For all of Mogilny’s accomplishments on the ice he has a tendency to be overlooked as an all-time great. In 990 career games he averaged more than a point per game. He’s a member of the Triple Gold Club (Olympics gold medal, World Championship gold medal and Stanley Cup), and he was also the first Russian NHL captain and the first Russian NHL All-Star.
And while he didn’t make it into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year, it’s time he finally stops getting overlooked, and we’ll honour him the best way we know how: through jerseys.
Along the way Mogilny sported a variety of classic jerseys. Let’s start with #5 on the list:
The Canucks completely overhauled their look roughly halfway through Mogilny’s tenure in Vancouver. In 1997 the red, yellow and black was ditched in favor of the grey, maroon and blue tones. Since the early 1970’s the Canucks have had a rich and varied history when it comes to their overall team brand, something they did a good job of celebrating this past year as part of their 50th anniversary season.
From color palette and logos, to typography and jersey design, they’ve spanned the gamut over the past 50 years. This time period though, from the late 90’s to the mid 2000’s, is easily the most forgettable. At least Mogilny was traded to New Jersey before the navy/maroon gradient debacle of an alternate jersey arrived in 2001.
Coming in tied at the #4 spot are two all-time classic jerseys: the Leafs and Devils. The rationale for these not being higher on the list pretty much parallels our Curtis Joseph rankings last year for his #5 spot that had the Leafs tied with the Red Wings.
• More: Top 5: Curtis Joseph Jerseys
Association: Mogilny signed a 4-year free agent deal with the Leafs in 2001. After a strong first couple of seasons his tenure in Toronto ended with injury and then the NHL lockout. So, when thinking of Mogilny’s career, Toronto is not high on the list for anyone that isn’t a Leafs fan. Additionally, during his time the primary home and away jerseys pale in comparison to the vintage-inspired alternate white jersey. It was a re-imaged classic that eventually gave way to the modernized version the Leafs wear today.
Now, a solid argument could be made for ranking the Devils higher on this list. From the early 90’s to the late 2000’s the Devils entire uniform set is basically a clinic in bold, simple design that is amazingly effective. When you look at each individual element (striping, shoulder yokes, color palette, etc) it’s all pretty straight-forward, but the sum of the parts is most definitely greater than each component on its own.
It’s a very well-balanced execution of a classic hockey jersey and overall uniform design. Consistent striping from the sleeves to the body, paired with nice contrast throughout and the superb “NJ” logo makes this one an all-timer.
Talk about contrast. In terms of jerseys – for as “meh” as Mogliny’s time in Vancouver ended (call back to #5 on our list), it sure started out looking sharp. It seems the further in the rear view mirror the black, yellow and red of the “flying skate” uniforms have become, the more they are revered.
We talk a lot about nostalgia here at HbD and how it shapes our perceptions of design and jerseys. This is a prime example. Even though Mogilny arrived in Vancouver after their Stanley Cup run in 1994, the greatness of the mid 90’s Canucks with Linden, Bure and McLean have made that era of jerseys synonymous with success. The uniqueness of the logo and the striking color palette overshadow its flaws. The affection for these jerseys hit an all-time high as they once again hit the ice this past season as part of the 50th anniversary of the franchise.
Even if you nit-pick the logo itself and call-out that legibility is a bit of an issue, it’s hard to argue with those solid black versions flying down the ice. It was bold and it looked intimidating, two solid characteristics by pretty much any uniform standard.
Hands down the best NHL All-Star jersey of all time and I’ll debate anyone who says otherwise. These old school beauties had everything working for ‘em. Another example of effective design through simplicity.
The retro orange and black NHL logo is big and proud, complimented nicely by orange trim and star accents. The jersey also benefited from the ‘93 centennial Stanley Cup patch, which is great entirely on its own. The full uni has a unique look that was representative of the time period, but has also held up very well over the years. You could take this exact design and put it on the current Adidas Adizero template and it would look spectacular.
The NHL attempted to modernize this look for the 2017 All-star game in LA, but the current NHL logo and the different Kings-inspired color palettes had those iterations falling short. With the past two All-Star games utilizing some pretty bad monotone/ghosted team logos on the chest rather than the NHL logo, the simple greatness of these ‘93 jerseys is magnified even more.
Bonus side note: In this photo, Mogilny and fellow Russian and future teammate Pavel Bure are also sporting some truly magnificent gloves from hockey brands of yesteryear. Mogilny rocking Easton in the blue and gold of Buffalo and Bure with Koho’s in the black, red and yellow of Vancouver. Peak ‘90s glove styles.
You guessed it, the top spot goes to the Buffalo Sabres. Once again the influence of a player’s best years have a definite impact on the perception of how they look in any particular jersey.
As mentioned in the intro of this article, in 1989 #89 arrived on the NHL scene after a unique exit from the Soviet Union by way of Sweden after the World Championships. Mogilny scored his first NHL goal a mere 20 seconds into his first shift…and the rest as they say is history. With all that being said, it’s easy to look good in these particular jerseys because they’re quite simply a classic, well-designed home and away jersey set.
The white jersey is particularly great, with thin striping in royal blue and gold as well as the blue shoulder yokes trimmed in gold. The chest features one of the more unique logos in any sport by way of including visual representation of both the city and team name.
The Sabres have had a unique history of team branding, from dramatic shifts in color palette to a rather infamous logo, this particular era has always been a favorite of not only Buffalo fans, but hockey fans in general. Fans for years and years have clamored for a return to the royal blue and gold. Finally, as part of the 50th anniversary season of the franchise, it was announced they will in fact be reutring to this look next season. Proof that good design always wins…even if it takes a while. Rejoice!
Overall, Mogilny had a very aesthetically pleasing career in terms of jerseys worn. From all-time classics, to staples of timeless design, along with a few in-betweeners thrown in for good measure. His speed and goal-scoring skills were fun to watch. So, a tip of the hat goes out to a groundbreaking player who had a major impact in the history of the NHL.