HbyD Roundtable: Reverse Retro Jerseys
Monday was proof for all hockey jersey fans out there that 2020 hasn’t been a complete disaster. We were treated to 31 new jerseys being unveiled all at once, and we thought it was the perfect opportunity to kick off another roundtable with the entire HbyD crew. So me (John), Ally, Kris, and Dave all digitally gathered to discuss all of the new threads the NHL teams will be wearing next season…whenever that happens.
The Reverse Retro Concept
John: Okay, let’s give this thing some structure. How about we kick things off with our thoughts about the whole Reverse Retro concept in general. How do we feel about that?
Kris: I love the overall concept of the jerseys. It’s a forward-thinking idea from the NHL and Adidas and very much inline with where we are today in terms of team branding and merchandise sales. Safe to say they’ve paid attention to the success of the NBA and Nike and how they’ve handled the City Edition uniforms over the last couple of years.
However, I think these are far better than the NBA alternates as they take a fresh spin on a team’s retro look/logos/color palette, etc., whereas in most NBA City Edition jerseys there’s no real connection for any of the design elements to that team’s current (or former) branding, sometimes leaving you to guess which team you’re watching if you aren’t a connoisseur of uniform releases. Reverse Retro could probably be better described as Remixed Retro, as many of the iterations have done a good job of combining or modifying different elements as opposed to simply changing the color schemes.
At a first initial, quick glance of all the jerseys from this morning’s release I’d say about 80% of them are really good, 10% are OK and only 10% are a solid “no thanks.”
Dave: Agree with you Kris, “retro” is really hard to apply to the more recent teams like VGK and even Arizona, Columbus, etc. My initial reaction is mixed too. Some really awesome ones (the Avs Nordique mash up, Jets) and some head-scratchers (Coyotes, Ducks) some sublime real retro ones (Whalers, Kings) and a few stalwarts that really don’t look much different at all (Flyers, Redwings, Bruins). Overall, good or bad, still a really fun series to review and to look forward to seeing on the ice!
Ally: Remixed would’ve been such a better positioning. “Reverse” almost sounds like it’s being inverted or opposed somehow, when most just pull elements or directly replicated older sweaters.
John: I have some conflicting thoughts about these in general. I agree, it’s nice to see Adidas and the NHL embrace the fun that Nike and the NBA were having with their multitude of jerseys for each team and playing around with the concepts. I’m all for that, and I think for the most part, the NBA/Nike has done a good job in experimenting and seeing what works and what (definitely) doesn’t work in basketball jersey design.
In that vein, for the NHL/Adidas, there’s not a huge amount of experimentation going on here, or anything that really pushes the conversation forward in terms of hockey design. Adidas has been really successful when resuscitating old jerseys and designs on their new template. They generally look really great, and I’m sure they sell well, and I’m sure this new batch of jerseys (mostly) will too, which is what’s most important to the teams during this money-strapped time for the league.
But to me, the majority of them just don’t add anything really interesting to the conversation. It’s simply nostalgia. I can’t help but judge these by how much they enhance the team’s brand as much as the general aesthetics of them. Damn, I’m a curmudgeon.
Ally: Ah, the age old debate of “is it actually good, or is it just nostalgic?” Maybe I’m cynical too, but of course everything comes back to money or they wouldn’t be making them. But some I think do a really nice job of “remixing” retro elements, particularly the Avs, Bruins and Rangers. Others just feel like nostalgia pimping (looking at you, Ducks and Coyotes…)
John: Yeah, aesthetically, I really love some of them, and to some degree, that’s all that really matters. But others just don’t make sense to me as to why they even really bothered, other than a nostalgic cash grab. I promise I’m not going to be all doom-and-gloom going forward.
Kris: With 31 teams releasing all at once there were bound to be stinkers…especially when immediately compared against some of the best ones.
John: Should we jump into one of the divisions? How about we start out west?
Dave: For me, the clear winner will always be the Kings purple masterpiece with the Oilers a strong second.
Kris: Agreed on the Kings. Hands down winner of the Pacific and easily in the top 3 overall. A great combo of the purple and gold fused with the Gretzky era logo and jersey design. Oilers is a very simple color swap, but man it looks good. It really pops.
John: Totally agreed on the Kings and Oilers. For me, those are the clear-cut winners from this division. The Kings using classic colours on a classic jersey from a different era exemplify the cool direction this whole concept could go in. For the Oilers, it’s nothing totally different from what they’ve worn before, but like you mentioned, everything just works, the colours really pop.
Ally: I don’t know, the Oilers look nice, but it feels lazy. Same goes for the Islanders – both perfectly fine jerseys, but they’re lacking the same retro flair that the others evoke.
Dave: The clear losers are the schizophrenic Coyotes cut and paste and the Ducks WTH designs.
John: I get the nostalgia around the Ducks/Coyotes jerseys, but those are objectively awful. They were terrible designs in the ’90s, and they still are today…and they’ll probably sell better than the rest of the division combined.
Kris: I may be in the minority, but I’m actually kinda liking the Coyotes version. Another one where the color switch is better than the original. The purple works better than the original dark green. As a franchise they seem to be slowly working back to Kachina vibes full time, so this is in line. That style screams Arizona too. I also dig the lizard logo on the shoulder….which in reality actually makes no sense to have a secondary logo of a totally different animal than your team name. But hey, it kinda works.
Ally: The scenery around the waist feels really cheap to me. The black and white Kachinas were so perfect, this feels gimmicky.
John: I totally agree that the purple is better than the green (looks more like a night sky than a peyote terror-scape), but it just looks like a bad 8-bit video game jersey for me.
Kris: Nailed it.
Dave: I lived in Arizona for two decades and their pro sports teams in general have a constant search for identity, changing things on a regular basis. I think it’s part because most Arizonans move there from somewhere else and there has always been a search for national credibility, almost a cultural identity crisis.
John: Yeah, that’s a good point, it seems to go throughout all their pro teams. The exception may be the Cardinals, who have been fairly steady, at least with their logo?
Dave: For me, the Anaheim “Duck Mask” version really pushed the envelope when it came out. For them to totally ignore that one is a shame.
Ally: I was really hoping they’d return to the Mighty logo in eggplant and teal. It would’ve brought the same nostalgia factor but been way more appropriate for 2021 than the wild wing monstrosity.
John: Also, why is Wild Wing smashing out of green sludge instead of ice this time around? (Feel free to ignore me, I’m just being needlessly nit-picky).
Dave: Agree on the Wild Wing comment. Forced for no good reason.
Kris: Some things are just better left in the past. That was a one season experiment for a reason.
John: The one I really don’t get is the Flames. It’s essentially the exact same jersey they had in the ’90s (horse head on a black jersey with angled stripes), but just the blocks of colour at the bottoms removed. Like, what’s the point? Aside to sell jerseys?
Dave: The Flames horse reminds me of the recent Silver Knights branding a bit.
Kris: For the Canucks, the gradient is actually way better than the original. The blue to green just works better than the previous navy to red.
Dave: Disappointed in the Canucks choice. Looks like it was thrown together at the last minute. For a team with such a rich history of great jerseys it seems a huge lost opportunity.
Kris: Yeah, my Canucks note is related to the gradient only, ha.
Ally: The gradient actually looks better in execution than I expected, but that’s relative, of course.
John: I’m not a fan of the Canucks one either, especially when, as Dave mentioned, they had better and more interesting options in their jersey library. I would’ve loved a Flying V in today’s colours, for instance, but instead it’s a boring gradient.
Kris: Even a flying skate in today’s colors might have been interesting…
Dave: Agree, total lost opportunity! There’s such a wide range of good versus bad in this whole series, it makes you wonder if the top designers were working on some teams, and they left the others to the interns!
John: The teams always have a say in the jersey too. And with that comes with the whims of the owners/GMs and their subjective tastes. Unfortunately, those type of insights rarely ever come to light.
Kris: For Vegas, they should have combined this one with the recently released gold jersey. Keep the gold and use this star on the chest.
John: It’s nice to see them Vegas finally embrace the red part of their brand that has always seemed like a superfluous afterthought everywhere else. But I totally agree, it doesn’t feel very much like them. This is more of a if-Vegas-was-in-the-Winter-Classic type of jersey.
For the Sharks, it’s nice to see San Jose’s OG logo again. Take away from the overdone outlines and it’s a better one than what they have now. And the grey works given their original colour scheme and how it’s balanced out with the white and black. Would’ve liked to see more teal though.
Kris: Sharks is in the “meh” category and so are the Flames.
Ally: I love that the original logo came back, but man it was a missed opportunity to go back to the teal with gray stripes.
Kris: Agreed on the original sharks logo, love it. Something about the striping pattern on that old (and now new) jersey I’ve never really liked.
John: Yeah, the curved lines I was never a fan of either. This new iteration of the jersey overall gets a “yeah, sure” from me.
Kris: Ha, “yeah, sure” is an excellent adjective for that.
John: Okay, before we move on to the next division, how much a winner, a loser, and a dark horse favourite for this division?
Los Angeles Kings (unanimous)
Anaheim Ducks (Ally, Dave, Kris)
Arizona Coyotes (John)
Dark Horse Favourite
Arizona Coyotes (Kris)
Edmonton Oilers (Dave, John)
San Jose Sharks (Ally)
Ally: I absolutely love the Avs/Nordiques one. Probably the best of all 31 in my opinion. I’m sure I’ll take heat from Nordiques fans for that.
John: I really like it too, and I agree, I’m not sure how Quebec City residents would feel about all this. My only issue with the Avs/Nords is that I wish there was more blue and less burgundy.
Dave: Agree with you that the Avs could use a little more blue.
Kris: Avalanche is clear winner in this division. one of the elements on the bottom trim being blue would have been great.
Ally: Funny enough, I really dislike the logo color swap on the Minnesota jerseys, despite that I love the Colorado one. I really like that they went with the North Stars color palette, but the Wild logo just looks odd to me in yellow and green.
Dave: I really like the Wild in the Northstars green and gold colors. I’d love to see that be their permanent colors.
John: I’m torn on the Wild jerseys. I really like the design and the classic bright yellow/green combo, but that’s just such a North Stars look for me, I find it initially jarring to have it on the Wild logo. It doesn’t necessarily look bad at all, it’s just…jarring. But, it’s a nice, bright jersey with lots of colour.
Dave: Might be my bias in missing the old North Stars team that is clouding my judgement here!
John: I don’t blame you for that! I wish they would’ve gone with the North Stars logo, but maybe management/ownership doesn’t want that look at all?
Kris: Something about the Wild logo in that color scheme just doesn’t work, agree with you there.
John: The Blues one, for me, is just trash. A red jersey for the Blues doesn’t make any sense, but aside from that, it’s an awful original design and they did their best to make it that much worse by making the primary colours all stand out equally. It’s visually jarring, it’s a bad design, and it makes no sense. Probably the worst of all the Reverse Retro jerseys imo.
Ally: I don’t know if I’d say it’s the worst, but it’s up there, for all the reasons you said.
Dave: I’ve never been a big fan of the red/orange dominant Blues look and so this one leaves me cold.
Kris: The Blues should have ditched that red idea….even keep that 90’s design and gone with two-tone blue and navy would have been a unique take on that design
John: Yeah, totally agree on that…two-tone blue with some yellow elements would’ve been 100% better.
Dave: Good comments. Blues lose.
John: Can we talk about how you can’t even see the Stars’ logo?
Ally: Dallas definitely has a contrast issue. I wish they went dark green. I think that’s the issue with Minnesota too, while less severe, the dark green made for better contrast.
John: That’s a good point. Maybe Minnesota does just need a bit of something dark in there.
Dave: For me Dallas is the biggest yawn, just a blah design.
Kris: Yes, that Stars logo will be impossible to see with the reflective light silver on white.
John: Also with the Stars, I’m not sure why they didn’t go with a different colour above or below the stripes, as they did with the original black/green jersey. I thought for sure it was going to be green/white, but…just white? With white/silver letters? Doesn’t make sense to me.
Dave: The Preds are kind of subject to the “we haven’t been around long enough to have a retro look” issue, and it seems like a mail in.
Kris: Nashville isn’t interesting at all, and just looks like a regular retro.
John: I actually had to look up Nashville’s jersey history since I thought they already had something exactly like this, but no, this design was always on a blue jersey. So, I guess it’s true to being a “reverse retro”, but I agree, just isn’t that interesting.
Dave: The Blackhawks jersey is slick and reminds me of the circle type that the Penguins used and should have gone with for this.
Kris: The Blackhawks one is fine, nothing crazy or groundbreaking. Probably one that doesn’t impress in photos like this, but will end up looking really good on the ice with a full uni.
Ally: Similar to Edmonton, it’s a nice jersey, but nothing that feels super nostalgic or rich to me.
John: I’m never one for black jerseys, but there’s a good amount of red in here to balance it out. And I’m glad they went with one of their classic logos too. Nothing groundbreaking, but a solid design/jersey.
Kris: I also really like the Jets. I think that color combo works very well and the grey being such a dark shade of grey helps the other elements pop.
Aside from Colorado, the rest definitely fall in the “meh” category for me.
Dave: I do like the Jets in gray, which is unusual because I typically don’t care for gray in sports jerseys.
Ally: See I love that Jets logo, but I can’t get behind the gray.
John: Yeah, the Jets’ grey is an odd choice. I don’t hate it, but I think a lighter grey (like the Sharks) may have been a better option here? The whole thing (dark grey, navy blue) just feels like a grey cloud.
Kris: So looks like i’m the only one digging the Jets, eh? For me it’s #2 in this group behind the Avs.
Dave: I’m with you Kris, I like the Jets. The gray says aircraft to me in addition to liking the look.
John: I think another stripe or something with the lighter tone of blue would’ve really helped the Jets ones. It’s something really different and interesting for the Jets (and I totally agree about the aircraft connection), but I just feel like it needs something.
Dave: Can see your point there John.
John: Okay, are we all done with the Central? Let’s do the best/worst/dark horse thing…
Colorado Avalanche/Nordiques (unanimous)
Dallas Stars (Dave)
St Louis Blues (Ally, John, Kris)
Dark Horse Favourite
Chicago Blackhawks (Ally, John)
Winnipeg Jets (Dave, Kris)
Ally: NJ and NYR are the big winners for me. Biggest missed opportunities feel like the Isles and Pens, where I would’ve loved to see the fisherman logo / baby blue make a comeback
John: The Isles are all on Lou hating fun.
Ally: Even keeping the navy but doing a wave stripe would’ve been a little bit of fun (as a treat).
John: But that would be fun, and Lou forbids it.
Dave: Islanders missed out on the fisherman for sure.
Kris: We can all agree that the Islanders just chose not to really participate in this idea, right? It’s the worst of em all. Nothing going on here that’s really any different. Definitely would have been cool to see a modern take on the Fisherman logo.
Ally: Isles and Oilers felt like total cop outs. Like they forgot to make something…
Dave: I can just hear the design conversation… “what’s the deadline, and we still have how many left to do??”
Ally: I sneaky like Washington too, even though there’s a lot going on
Kris: I agree with you on the Caps. Not sure why I like it, but I do.
John: The Washington jersey design looks way better in red/white/blue than the teal/black/bronze from before, but I still don’t like the design, especially the inclusion of “Capitals”. Some experiments are just best left on the cutting room floor.
Kris: Yeah, I’ve never been a fan of words in the bottom striping….we’ll get to Buffalo later.
Dave: Whalers of course will always be unbeatable for me. Don’t mind the gray at all.
Kris: Agree on the Whalers, Dave. That logo can’t really ever go wrong, plus the whale logo on the shoulders. It’s the best in this division for me.
Ally: I’d have preferred white to gray, but the whale tail and pucky logos are chef’s kiss.
John: Anything that brings back the Whalers logo I’m happy about. I’m not crazy about the grey, but I don’t hate it either. For me, it’s the winner of this group despite (like Colorado) feeling more like a cultural appropriation than going into the current franchise’s library.
Kris: Devils, Flyers, Pens and Rangers are all pretty good, and also pretty much expected executions of this concept.
Dave: I like the NYR liberty design and colors, although the sleeve striping is a bit anemic. Pittsburgh is the biggest disappointment in this division. Like Vancouver, they ignored some rich historical designs that could have been awesome. The Devils looks very Christmas to me, which is meh. Flyers is classic cool.
Ally: I just wish Pittsburgh went back to powder blue if they were going that route.
John: That would’ve been fantastic!
Dave: Yes, that would have made it better for sure! The Pens diagonal type treatment (Rangers rip off) is a really lazy design solution for me in this system.
John: I’m not as big of a fan of the Rangers personally. The logo is so needlessly-heavily outlined and never liked the “NYR” font (or the jagged-edged alternate logo on the shoulder patches). But, the rest of it just feels empty as they minimized it even further from the original design. Almost like a practice jersey feel to me.
Kris: Columbus is a no for me. Something about the big white shoulders/sleeves on top of the red seems odd and unbalanced.
John: Not to mention that having “blue jackets” wear red jerseys is a bit odd, but I totally agree, it’s clunky and inconsistent. Nothing horribly offensive at all, but just odd.
For the rest of them, NJ looks good, but damn, that’s a lot of stripes. Nice to see them finally have a green jersey. Totally agree about Philly. It’s fine. I don’t mind it at all, but it’s nothing to get excited about. Sounds like a lot of “yeah, sure”s in this division.
Kris: Interesting that 6 of the 8 out of this group are unveiled with the captain’s C shown on the jersey. I wonder why. It only applies to one player, not the entire team. For the Pens and Caps with diagonal elements it really kinda throws things off visually. Now that I look back, almost all show the Captain. Another very random observation – is it me or do all of these appear to be more baggy in terms of fit? The regular adidias jerseys appear to have a slimmer cut when you see promo photos of fans wearing them. Maybe I’m crazy, just sayin.
John: Okay, let’s do our Metro rankings…
Carolina Hurricanes/Whalers (Dave, John, Kris)
New Jersey Devils (Ally)
New York Islanders (Ally, John, Kris)
Pittsburgh Penguins (Dave)
Dark Horse Favourite
Philadelphia Flyers (Dave, John)
Washington Capitals (Ally, Kris)
Ally: The Bruins and Habs did great on these. Nice interpretations of otherwise really classic (and close to their current) designs. The others, not so much…
John: Yup, the Bruins jerseys are great. Nothing that strays too far from their brand, but a nice collection to their library.
Kris: Boston is well done. Nice to see yellow take a dominant role.
Dave: Always like the Bruins classic look which would be my second favorite here. The Sabres win this pretty weak division for me. None of the others hold much interest or strike me as exciting. I’ll call this the “Interns Division”!
John: I’m not a fan of the Sabres. The “butter knives” are not a great primary logo (would’ve rather switched the buffalo head logo that were relegated to the shoulder patches), and the text in the striping is a total no-go for me. But, the royal blue is nice!
Ally: My thoughts exactly.
Kris: The Sabres should have just ditched the “Buffalo” word mark at the bottom…would have drastically improved those. I know it was an element of the previous version, but if we’re taking liberties on some that shoulda been a liberty taken.
Dave: Going back to the Habs, the design is clean, but I’m having trouble with the dominant blue. It all comes back around to an overall discussion of team branding and how much straying is good.
Ally: I felt similar on the Habs. Really nice looking jersey, but it loses the iconic red.
Kris: Yeah, I’m torn on Montreal. If you look at that jersey and don’t know the red version exists, then it’s really great. But just knowing the iconic greatness of the red version exists, it kinda detracts from this one. Will be curious if they wear red or blue pants with it.
Dave: I’m pretty old school (I’m sure you all figured that out by now!) and it bugs me to turn on a game or highlights and not be able to tell what teams I’m looking at!
John: I don’t mind the Habs ones so much as it goes with the concept of the series overall, and ‘bleu’ is as much of their brand as ‘rouge’. It’s hard for them too since they’re never strayed from their jersey design in, like, 100 years, but this is a good one for them.
I actually really like the Senators jersey, as it seems like what they should’ve had from their very beginning. It’s not super adventurous or innovative at all, but it just looks like a solid jersey and better than anything else that didn’t feature the “O” logo.
Ally: That logo is just so dated to me. It could’ve used a refresh to give it some visual weight, but it looks very amateur (although I do like the jersey itself).
John: 100%. Not crazy about the logo either.
Ally: The Red Wings are a tough one, because their jersey is so hard to touch, but it’s so very practice jersey-esque.
John: Totally agree. I think Detroit just totally missed on these as they’re about as unexciting as they get. I liked their Centennial Classic jersey, with the silver accents, but making that the only accent is a mistake here.
Dave: I think the silver striping in Detroit’s design is a nice touch. But is it really retro?
Kris: Detroit is “meh” for me. Looks like a cool practice jersey.
Ally: The Leafs feels like such a miss too, that logo is just awful, especially when their other jerseys are all so nice.
John: I agree. I’ve alway thought the straight cuff-to-cuff shoulder stripe looks dated, but making them grey just makes it look dirty and losing its impact. The logo also looks oddly big on the jersey and the kerning/leading on the logo is inconsistently atrocious. The overall design is just uninspiring too, and totally basic.
Kris: The Maple Leafs looks like what someone might find in back alley sports store overseas….it kinda just looks like a knock-off jersey to me. The logo version is a mish-mash of previous ones right? Did the Leafs ever use that logo with that type treatment/font?
John: They did use that logo, from 1967–70, but this new one has been slightly revised.
Kris: Learned something new about the Leafs logo history today.
Ally: I thought the same thing about the Leafs, logo looks like a total knockoff, it’s strange. Chris Creamer tweeted a photoshopped version with the actual old logo and it looked worlds better.
John: We’re ignoring the state of Florida!
Dave: Ignoring the state of Florida is something the NHL should have done when expanding… (okay my Canadian/cold weather U.S. city bias slipped out!)
John: I’m sure Tampa Bay particularly would have something to say about that. They’ve now won 2 Cups since Canada won their last one.
Ally: SHOTS FIRED!
John: And I’m Canadian!
Dave: LOL! Like I said, bias slipped out! If you print that nobody will ever read my stuff again…
Ally: That Lightning logo… the typography is just… I can’t.
John: Yup, absolutely. Just terrible. But the jersey looks better in blue than the original black! And at least they didn’t pull an Anaheim and try bring back that awful rainstorm jersey.
Ally: I actually like Florida’s though, it’s nothing to write home about but it’s well designed and balanced.
John: I agree, it’s one of my low-key favourites. True to the era, but better balanced.
Kris: I agree on the Panthers – well executed, simple color switch, but it works.
John: The only thing I might say is that it needs some white in the shoulders somewhere, to balance the thick white stripes on the sleeves/bottom.
Dave: Yeah, I just can’t get too excited much about the ones in this division. Nothing I feel like I would want to add to my collection. In some ways, this division has four of the iconic original 6 teams in it which have stayed true to their identities over the years, so a major retro design treatment is a stretch for them. Maybe that’s a good thing?
Kris: Great point. Some iconic teams in here that have evolved very little over the last…like 100 years.
John: I’d say that two were mostly successful (Bruins/Habs) at pushing the boundaries a bit and adding something positive to their overall brand and jersey library, but knowing where to stop. The other two (Leafs/Wings) just missed the mark: too bland and/or too off-putting.
Kris: Totally agree.
John: Okay, let’s do the rankings for the Atlantic!
Boston Bruins (Ally, Dave, John)
Florida Panthers (Kris)
Buffalo Sabres (John)
Tampa Bay Lightning (Dave (tie))
Toronto Maple Leafs (Ally, Dave (tie), Kris)
Dark Horse Favourite
Buffalo Sabres (Dave)
Florida Panthers (John)
Montreal Canadiens (Ally, Kris)
John: Before we go, how about a best and worst overall ranking?
Carolina Hurricanes/Whalers (Dave)
Colorado Avalanche/Nordiques (Ally)
Los Angeles Kings (John, Kris)
Anaheim Ducks (Ally)
Dallas Stars (Dave)
New York Islanders (Kris)
St Louis Blues (John)
John: Any final thoughts on the jerseys?
Dave: Overall, love the concept but feel like aside from a few winners it’s kind of a thud.
Kris: I think I like the overall concept more…the good ones outnumber the duds. Plus, releasing all in one day and having the whole league participate is cool. Like with all things jersey design this will have plenty of “to each their own” vibes. Plus, it’s all about that…💰
And not to be too cheesy…but there’s a ton of bad crap happening in the world right now. I for one have thoroughly enjoyed dissecting these with you guys. Any jersey news is good news to me! We’re spread across North America, but have found a connection in this…so that’s a win in my books.
John: True that. 🙌