Worst to First Jerseys: Boston Bruins

By Ally Koss
In Ally Koss
Jun 15th, 2020

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 Boston Bruins to get updated.

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

Hey readers, Ally here 👋🏻, taking a quick break from mask coverage to rank the sweaters of my favorite team. Having been in the NHL for nearly a century, the Bruins have worn a lot, and I mean a lot of different jerseys over the years, yet have rarely strayed from the traditional template of black and gold waist stripes and a spoked-B on the chest.

Here’s how this works: we’ll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Bruins have ever worn. Homes and aways will be lumped into the same category (so, more of a jersey “era”) and small changes (like slightly changed positions of piping for example) will be excluded, for everyone’s sanity. Third and special event jerseys, like the Winter Classics, will stand on their own, so let’s take a look through the nineteen(!) main design changes throughout Bruins history and see which ones rank highest.

19. 1995–2006 Third Jersey

Ok, so I know I’m going to take a lot of flack from fellow Bruins fans on this one, but the smokey the bear jersey has to be ranked dead last. Taking out the nostalgia factor and looking solely at the aesthetics, these are really the perfect example of why the 90’s were one of the most cringe-worthy decades for design.

Being an Original 6 franchise, the Bruins have one of the most classic-looking logos in the spoked-B that’s gone virtually unchanged since the early 1900’s. This alternate jersey is the only time the Pooh bear has made an appearance on the front of a Boston sweater, and probably for good reason. The bear logo looks more like a stock vector image than a sports franchise’s logo, and the zig-zag trim, well, you get it.

Jersey Recommendation: #14 Samsonov. Drafted just seven spots behind Jumbo Joe Thornton (damn, that puts time in perspective!) in 1997, Samsonov was arguably the player to define the Pooh Bear era for the Bruins. With a career high 75 points in the 2001 season, it’s not uncommon to spot fans still sporting these around TD Garden.

18. 1925–26 Jersey

Why, might you ask, does this barber striped turtleneck top the Pooh bear jersey? The stripes are a LOT, so let’s just get that out of the way, but keeping in mind that the Bruins wore these in 1925, we have put the design in context of the times.

Now despite having way too many stripes, the logo on the front of these is the small shining moment, one that was short lived, but brought back for the 2016 Winter Classic. By 1925 standards, these were probably pretty stylish, but it’s probably for the best that this design stayed deep in the last century.

Jersey Recommendation: #3. Lionel Hitchman owns the only retired number from the 1926 team, and was just the second player in North America to have his number hung in the rafters. Hitchman is the only acceptable choice if you’re going to sport the brown and yellow barber pole sweater.

17. 1940–44 Alternate Jersey

These minimal jerseys aren’t this low down the list because their design is offensive or anything – in fact, it’s refreshingly simple compared to other ones we’ve discussed so far. It’s just that it’s so off-brand for the Bruins, a definite anomaly of a vast jersey library spanning almost 100 years.

Almost all of the jerseys through this list will have a similar aesthetics weaving a needle throughout the Bruins history. This jersey is where all that intricate needlework went off-course. The only element bearing anything resembling a traditional Bruins jersey is gold and black.

Jersey Recommendation: #10. Bill “Cowboy” Cowley played almost his entire NHL career with the Bruins, with his most prolific seasons wearing these jerseys.

16. 1936–48 Jersey

Like the previous entry, this jersey is a bit of an anomaly for replacing the team logo on the chest with the player’s numbers, with the classic varsity “B” relegated to a shoulder patch. It makes the 1936 Bruins jerseys very innovative – being one of the first teams to either have the numbers on the chest or have a shoulder patch – but also very non-traditional for a hockey jersey, looking more like a football jersey.

But the striping pattern is classic, strong, and consistent – and also closer to a classic Bruins aesthetic – so there’s no points subtracted for those.

Some elements changed over these seasons. There were gold numbers from 1940–48, and an all-black shoulder yoke from 1936–39.

Jersey Recommendation: #5. Dit Clapper holds many distinctions: a retired number, Hall-of-Famer, a career-long Bruin, first NHLer to play 20 seasons, named an All-Star at both forward and defense. So it’s easy to give him the added distinction of being in your jersey collection.

15. 2010 Winter Classic Jersey

The Bruins have played in three Winter Classics, the first coming in 2010 when they hosted the Flyers at Fenway Park. The jerseys were somewhat of a hybrid with a modern cut and a retro color palette, also using a vintagey spoked-B, which oddly was a logo the team only used for one season in 1948-49.

• More: The 2019 Winter Classic Jersey Countdown

Of the three, this is definitely the weakest of Boston’s Winter Classic looks, as it lacks either the modernity or the nostalgic charm to evoke much of anything. Ranked 24th of 26 in the 2019 Winter Classic jersey countdown, its awkward shoulder yokes and visual identity crisis bump it down towards the bottom of the all time Bruins list.

Jersey Recommendation: #16 Sturm. Maybe seems like an odd choice as far as big name Bruins go, but how can we not forget the iconic photo of #16 scoring the overtime winner?

14. 1955–67 Home Jersey

In 1955, the Bruins introduced a gold home sweater alongside its black counterpart (which were relegated to alternate jersey status) with striped sleeves that reflects some of the earlier jersey designs. The more contemporary shoulder yokes and sans-serif spoked-B in place of the varsity-style B provide a bolder aesthetic leading into the era of the “Big Bad Bruins.”

• More: BTLNHL Finals: Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

These are the jerseys that the 2010 Winter Classic ones were heavily based on, but with the more classic B-spoked logo. The ones pictured above have very inconsistent striping widths, with these looking like tie-strings around the waist, or something like that, but these jerseys went through a few different iterations through this era: thicker and more stripes from 1955–57; even more from 1957–59; then these were used from 1959–67.

Jersey Recommendation: #14. Ok, so I may be biased as a Northeastern alum, but Fernie Flaman—the 14-year Bruin, former captain and Hall of Famer—would be a great pick to honor with this iconic sweater.

13. 1995–2007 Home & Away Jerseys

The less offensive albeit more boring sibling to Smokey the Bear, the Bruins’ primary jerseys from 1995-2006 rank a little higher than their ultra-90’s counterpart. The sans-serif spoked-B on the chest provides a cleaner look to these jerseys, along with the classic striping around the waist, but what bumps these down to the 12 spot are the panels extending down from the shoulders and all the way down the sleeves.

Teams like the Flyers still do this today, but the styling of these feels dated, particularly with the horizontal stripe cutting it off at the elbow and Pooh Bear shoulder patch. Terrible? No, but these certainly left a lot of room for improvement.

Jersey Recommendation: #77 Bourque. After changing his number to 77, but before departing for Colorado, this era was one to remember for Ray Bourque in Boston, so what better way to commemorate it than with this sweater?

12. 2016 Winter Classic Jerseys

For the 2016 Winter Classic against Montreal, the Bruins went back to their roots with a modern twist. The vintage elements on this jersey like the felted logo, crewneck sweater collar and detail stitching on the lettering were fused with the team’s modern black and gold color palette, but while the retro touches give a richer and more authentic feel, the hybrid of old and new still feels a bit disjointed.

• More: HbD Breakdown: Bruins’ Winter Classic Jerseys

From the 2016 jersey breakdown:

Despite some really cool details on the jersey, which are fantastic, it still feels like a missed opportunity. Change the black to brown, and then you’ve got something that’s both really cool, nicely detailed and actually looks historical. With black, it automatically looks like something that’s straddling both modern and old design without really succeeding in being either.

That being said, these were an improvement over the 2010 Winter Classic jerseys and had some really nice design elements, but ultimately, they weren’t nice enough to crack the top 10.

Jersey Recommendation: #37 Bergeron. Welp, I was at this game, and saying that it was one to forget would be an understatement. With Marchand suspended, and Pastrnak and Krejci out of the lineup, looking back at the line combinations, it’s no wonder the Bruins got steamrolled. There’s really no “good” jersey to pick up from this game, as the lone goal scorer was Matt Beleskey (assisted by Adam McQuaid and Ryan Spooner, hell yeah!) but when in doubt, go with the perfect human, Patrice Bergeron.

11. 1924–25 Jersey

It’s often said that the original is always better than the remake, and that probably holds true of the 2016 Winter Classic jersey and its inspiration, the OG 1924-25 sweater. It’s the most classic of classics, which is why it beats the rest of the jerseys discussed so far, despite not having a ton of visual interest to critique.

Given some of the more cluttered striped jerseys of the Original 6 era, the simplicity of the single waist stripe and double stripes around the elbows looks really clean and surprisingly modern given that these were created almost a century ago. The logo was a great jumping off point to tweak for the 2016 Winter Classic jerseys and to set the tone for the next 100 years of the Bruins brand. For serving as a great building block, this one cracks the top 10.

Jersey Recommendation: #4. With 23 points in 30 games played (for context, second on the team counted for 8), you have to go with centerman Jimmy Herbertsnot the biggest name in Bruins history, but certainly the most successful in this sweater.

10. 1955–57, 1959–65 Third Jersey

With the 1955 introduction of a gold home sweater alongside, the black jersey received a new design and then was relegated to third jersey status. With striped sleeves that reflects some of the earlier jersey designs, the more contemporary shoulder yokes and sans-serif spoked-B in place of the varsity-style B, the jersey represents a bolder aesthetic leading into the era of the “Big Bad Bruins.” The 1955–57 versions had a simpler striping pattern on them.

Jersey Recommendation: #1. Terry Sawchuk isn’t generally remembered as a Bruin, but statistically speaking, 1956–57 with Boston was his best season with a .920 SV%. And we tend to like goalies around these parts.

9. 2019–present Third Jersey

Adidas pulled elements from Bruins jerseys past like the heavy block B and gold and white stripes, and paired them down to modernize the look. The gold collar follows that of the 2019 Winter Classic (more on those coming up!) yet feels similar to the fan favorite men in black thirds. This fusion of jerseys from throughout history could have easily gone awry, but luckily Adidas remembered Coco Chanel’s famous advice of taking one thing off before you leave the house and kept things minimal, classic and clean.

• More: HbD Breakdown: Boston Bruins Third Jerseys

When a jersey is this simple, there’s not a whole lot to complain about, which really isn’t a bad thing in this instance. Are there areas for improvement to give this thing some more pizazz? Sure, but overall it’s a sharp looking uniform that will stand the test of time.

Jersey Recommendation: #63 Marchand. It’s time to give that-guy-everybody-hates-until-he-plays-on-your-team some love. Starting his career as an agitator and emerging as one of the best players in the league, Brad deserves a spot in your library.

8. 1967–74 Home & Away Jerseys, 2006–07 Third Jersey

A nice evolution from the previous decade, laces and thinner stripes were added to the jerseys in the mid 1960’s for a complete redesign around the league’s expansion. It feels far more modern than anything previously worn in Boston, but there’s still some room for improvement here.

The sleeve striping on these is nice, as it feels less clunky than in previous designs, but the shoulder yokes and piping are awkward, which keeps this jersey from ranking higher.

Jersey Recommendation: #4. No one better than Orr to go with for this sweater. Hard to argue against the greatest defenseman of all time playing the best hockey of his career, but honorable mention to #9 (Johnny “Chief”) Bucyk as an equally honorable choice.

7. 1926–32 Jersey

As I mentioned in the 11 spot, the original is usually better than any imitation, replica or remake, and in the case of the Bruins’ 1926 sweaters, that’s almost true. The template that inspired the beloved 2019 Winter Classic jerseys, these were the sweaters the Bruins wore when they won their first Stanley Cup in 1929.

A vast improvement from the barber pole jerseys that preceded them, the white stripes were removed from the sleeves, giving the brown a more prominent place in the brand. The logo on the front got a bit of a facelift as well, making this uniform worlds better than anything that came before it.

Jersey Recommendation: #1. Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson, ranked 21st in The Hockey News’ top 100 goalies of all time, was an integral part of the Bruins’ first ever Stanley Cup, making the Hall of Famer a worthy player to represent with this sweater.

6. 2007–present Home & Away Jerseys

Now the Bruins have made some small tweaks to their jerseys since 2007, most notably with Adidas taking over the NHL contract from Reebok, but the overall bones have stayed the same, and that’s a very good thing. Ranked 2nd in our top 5 black jersey countdown:

The colour palette is very strong, aggressive, and energetic…and nobody pulls it off better than the Bruins, specifically their latest iteration of it, with the gold and white shoulder yokes and stripes framing what is one of the best logos in the league. The striping on the sleeves and jersey bottoms are classic and consistent, and among the best examples of classic jersey design out there. Balanced, visually impactful, and full of intensity, these jerseys are among the best in the league.

• More: Top 5: Black NHL Jerseys

So how, might you ask, does a jersey that ranks so high across all black jerseys ever not even crack the top five in Bruins history? Call me biased, but the Bruins have a lot of great sweaters in their 90+ year history, so while these are without a doubt some of the nicest and most timeless jerseys currently in the league, there are five others from the team’s history that are even better.

Jersey Recommendation: #33 Chara. The Bruins captain hoisting the Stanley Cup in these jerseys is one of the most iconic images in recent Bruins history, and Big Zee’s #33 will definitely (or at least should) one day be hung in the Garden rafters with other Bruins greats.

5. 2008–16 Third Jersey

I’ll probably take some heat for ranking this jersey in the top five, but it’s truly one of my favorites in recent Bruins history. The “back in black” look is always popular with Boston fans, and the omission of waist striping on these makes them super slick without becoming practice jersey-esque (looking at you, Tampa).

I’m also a big fan of this alternate logo. While admittedly less iconic than the spoked-B, this modernized take on the original bear logo brings the right amount of gold into the design while keeping the stealthy look of the all black. Because who doesn’t love a nice all black jersey, right Gritty?

Jersey Recommendation: #91 Savard. I’ll try not to cry while writing this, but Savvy was truly one of the Bruins greats whose career was cut far too short. Once a Bruin, always a Bruin, and this era of Bruins hockey is the perfect one to represent #91.

4. 1974–95 Home & Away Jerseys

With the Bruins still being third jersey-less after the Adidas takeover, my stance is that these beauties from the 70’s should be brought back in some capacity as an alternate. As we just established, the “back in black” look sits well with Bruins fans, and it’s really hard to find anything wrong with these sweaters.

I personally love this iteration of the spoked-B, as the sans-serif font choice feels heavier and more traditional than the current version. Another element on these that makes me want to lobby for its return is the ever polarizing crack crazed bear shoulder patch (hey, we have merch for that too!). While there’s no case where I’d ever support this being on the front of a jersey, it’s beloved wackiness makes it perfect to sneak onto the shoulders of such a timeless looking sweater like this one.

Jersey Recommendation: #30 Cheevers. The pioneer of goalie mask art and one of the most beloved Bruins goaltenders of all time. Now excuse me while I go search the internet for a #30 jersey from the 1970’s…

3. 2019 Winter Classic Jerseys

Remember #7? Well, this time the original got shown up by this classic-yet-contemporary Adidas jersey from the 2019 Winter Classic. By far the best Winter Classic jersey the Bruins have worn, I love this design for a number of reasons, both at a high level and a detailed one.

Having replaced the original bear logo with a felted varsity-style B (we’ll get more into that one in a moment), the stripes, shoulder yokes and logo all have a really nice weight to them that give this a bold and traditional feel on the cut of a modern day jersey. From our Winter Classic jersey breakdown:

Adidas did a really nice job of keeping the essence of the original sweater while adding enough of the modern touches that Neely spoke of to bring this jersey into the 21st century. The collar is perhaps the most noticeable difference, with the addition of the gold neckline intersecting the chest stripes, along with streamlining of the gold stripes along the waist.

• More: HbD Breakdown: 2019 Winter Classic Jerseys

The second reason I love this jersey is because of the attention to detail. The rich textures, shamrocks inside the collar and single-layer typography keep this jersey clean yet interesting, which is really everything you can ask for. No complaints here if the Bruins opt for some variation of this as a permanent third jersey.

Jersey Recommendation: #88 Pastrnak. The Bruins first goal scorer of the game delivered a celly worth buying a jersey over. For that matter, honorable mention to #52 Kuraly and his fishbowl, who would also be a great jersey pickup to commemorate this game.

2. 1948–55 Home & Away Jerseys, 1955–67 Away Jerseys

Take a deep breath, logo nerds. 1949 saw the introduction of the Bruins’ all-time best spoked-B and a new take on the varsity B sweater (see, I told you we’d get to it) that are together pretty drool-worthy. Despite the awkward shape of the shoulder yokes and striping underneath on the white sweaters (see 2010 Winter Classic for reference), these as a set are so classic and clean, that there’s hardly anything to pick apart.

• More: Top 5: Milt Schmidt Jerseys

On the black jersey, I love the letterman-style B paired with the bold stripes, a look that really set the tone for the Bruins style and brand we know today.

Jersey Recommendation: #15 Schmidt. One of the most legendary players to ever wear the spoked-B, this iconic sweater is the perfect pick to pay homage to such an iconic player.

1. 1932–36 Jersey, 1991–92 Third Jersey

If the 1929 and 1949 sweaters had a baby, it would probably look something like this. The 2019 Winter Classic jersey has many similarities to this one, most notably the varsity B logo, which as Andrew Harrington from Adidas pointed out to us, both teams went with a revamp of the sweaters from their first Stanley Cup-winning seasons, but the Bruins opted to swap the logo because they felt the 1929 crest would have been too similar to the 1924 crest they wore in the 2016 Winter Classic.

As a result, the 2019 Winter Classic jerseys appear as somewhat of a hybrid between these and the 1929 designs, which if you ask me, is the perfect combination. The B logo is prominently featured and sturdy-looking with stripes on the hem and elbows that appropriately match its weight. I actually prefer the white sleeves with elbow striping, versus the fully striped sleeve Adidas went with, so this design truly is like the best of both worlds. Everything about this just feels balanced and effortless, which is how every successful jersey should be. The 1932–33 version is also the last time the Bruins prominently featured brown on their jersey.

Jersey Recommendation: #2 Shore. One of the most renowned Bruins defensemen of all time, which is tough when you’ve played for the same franchise as Bobby Orr.

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

11 Responses to “Worst to First Jerseys: Boston Bruins”

  1. Lobster says:

    1981-1995 Bourque/Neely era not on the list at all??

    • Ally Koss says:

      They’re so similar to the ’77-’81 jersey that they were just rolled together. The changes were so minor, we just treated them as the same jersey era.

    • Steve says:

      You missed 1969-1976, which I remember as their absolute best.

  2. Hattrick says:

    I disagree with most of the list. The 2010 Winter Classic jerseys, listed at 13, are easily top 5 for me. 95-06 should be last, although not much of a drop from their current 12th. 49-51 should be much lower, and their current jerseys to me are the best, with 77-81 #2.

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  5. […] • Ranking Bruins jerseys, from worst to best. Ally Koss apologizes for ranking the “Smokey the Bear” jerseys last. That apology prompts this question: are there people who ever liked those unironically? [Hockey By Design] […]

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  7. Paul says:

    Number 8 is the best of all time

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