HbyD Breakdown: Adidas Team Classics Jerseys
Following the popularity of the league-wide Reverse Retro jersey series, Adidas came back strong with a limited set of retail throwback sweaters titled “Team Classics,” slightly re-imagined fan favorites from six teams’ histories.
“Team style in the NHL never stands still,” the Adidas product pages state. “These adidas NHL Team Classics jerseys are time capsules from the rich heritage of your favorite club.” Adidas dove into the depths of nostalgia for four active and two now-defunct franchises to bring back beloved jerseys with new AEROREADY technology and modern detailing.
While these jerseys are for fan purchasing only (meaning we won’t actually see them on the ice), it may be a hint at what’s to come in the next round of Reverse Retro sweaters, which Adidas has announced will return for all 32 teams.
NEWS: The NHL #ReverseRetro program by @AdidasHockey is set to return next season, per @icethetics.— NHL News (@PuckReportNHL) January 25, 2022
The program will once again involve all 32 teams with new designs, with some reportedly “bending the definition” of the Reverse Retro. 👀
Podcast link 👇https://t.co/q2W0HPzaMC pic.twitter.com/gO8uYrUAMP
Let’s take a look at each of the Team Classics designs and how they stack up to their original inspirations. (And special thanks to SportsLogos.net for all of the jersey images!)
Golden Seals (1970-1973)
First founded as the California Seals, the Golden Seals joined the NHL as one of six expansion teams in 1967 before being relocated to Cleveland in 1976. Before the Sharks’ teal arrived in the Bay Area, it was the Golden Seals’ green and gold, aligned with the color palette of their hometown Oakland A’s.
The Team Classics reboot is nearly an exact replica of the road jerseys worn by the team from 1970 to 1973. The extended yellow shoulder yokes have a slightly slimmed down white trim, as well as a modernized collar, but the rest stays true to the original, from the elbow and waist stripes, to the white collar lacing.
Green is a very underutilized primary color in the NHL, presently being worn only by Minnesota and Dallas, as the simplicity of the Seals’ sweater is one that holds up even fifty years later. The logo on the other hand… while the typography screams nostalgia, as John put it:
“The designer who created it was either the nephew of a friend of the cousin of the boyfriend of the aunt of the owner’s daughter who just got out of design school (and would have been extremely cheap), or had no clue what they were doing. Or both.”
The chaotic Bauhaus lettering aside, this was a great retro-looking jersey that Adidas did justice in bringing back to life.
Pittsburgh Penguins (1967-1968)
The Penguins have worn many jerseys and color schemes since their inception in 1967, but Adidas opted to revive the team’s inaugural jersey (truly inaugural, as they only lasted that one season) for the Team Classics collection. Before the introduction of Pittsburgh gold in 1980 and Vegas gold in 2002, the Penguins brand palette consisted of a unique powder and navy blue combo.
While controversial among fans and jersey enthusiasts, a powder blue sweater took the top spot in the Penguins edition of our Worst to First ranking, with the OG baby blue coming in eighth. From John’s ranking:
But the icy baby-blue! Personally, I love it. It makes sense for a team called the Penguins and it was completely unique for the league in 1967, which was expanding to more than 6 teams for the first time since 1942. It would have looked strange and exciting and new, as it looked when Pittsburgh rolled the colour out again for the inaugural Winter Classic in 2008, as it still looks today.
Like with the Golden Seals, Adidas stayed very true to the original design, just shrinking the letter forms a bit to help with the crowding across the front of the original.
Personally, I love the powder blue and hope the team brings an iteration of this back for their next Reverse Retro. Their latest third jersey borrows this typography with more modern striping and the Pittsburgh gold color palette, but I’m hoping to see something more like the team’ past Winter Classic jerseys make a return to the ice soon.
San Jose Sharks (1991-1998)
The 90s are alive and well, baby! Nearly identical to the throwback heritage jersey the Sharks wore during the 2021 season, Adidas now gives us an even more authentic look back at the inaugural sweaters worn by the Sharks during the 1991-92 season.
Terry Smith, who designed both the Sharks’ original and revamped logo in 2007, shared about his process during an interview with us:
When the Sharks first started, there were different groups doing different things. We had been commissioned to work on the mark while they were trying to figure out names and other stuff. We did a bunch of different concepts, including one that was more of a caricature – some people might call it cartoony… At the time, there was only one hockey team (the LA Kings) on the West Coast, when the Sharks started playing. This was a very different market and fan expectations were very different… So, this was very virgin territory and it needed a logo that the fan base could rally around.
While the OG Shark is beloved by both San Jose fans and design nostalgia enthusiasts alike, the logo’s positive reception didn’t start that way:
Let me say this first: the league hated the first logo. They despised it. If you go back and look at the early write-ups, they use words like “childish”, “boorish”, “amateurish”. They were saying “how could you guys do this? This is awful.” It was very counter-culture when it came to hockey.
Unlike the heritage jersey that modernized the collar and other design elements for the Adizero style, the Team Classic iteration stays true to the v-neck and lighter teal of the original. And honestly, after taking the top spot in our Sharks Worst to First ranking, why fix what ain’t broke?
Los Angeles Kings (1966-1969)
Another fan favorite (I mean, I guess that’s why Adidas made them, right?) is the Kings’ purple and gold era that lasted until 1988 when the team rebranded to a black and silver palette.
Coming in second in our Worst to First ranking behind only the beloved Gretzky-era sweaters, John notes the simplicity, unique palette, and balance of complimentary colors really working in this jersey’s favor:
The simplicity of it is actually pretty gorgeous… Simple, effective and – because of the intensity of the colours – it doesn’t need anything else – anything more would be detrimental (except maybe some white, as mentioned earlier). And the colours are distinctive in the NHL, with no other team ever having this colour scheme and it’s unlikely any other team will for a long time (if ever).
While the team made a small tweak to this jersey in 1969, adding white piping around the numbers, I’m glad Adidas chose to revive the original, as the cleanliness feels quite timeless and lets the details in the logo shine.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2001-2007)
Well, this run of glowing reviews and upbeat commentary had to come to an end eventually, right? I’m not sure what’s more shocking, that Tampa made their debut in the league with these D3 roller hockey get ups, or that they lasted for FIVE YEARS!? Now I know nostalgia is a powerful drug, and after all, that’s what Adidas is banking (literally) on with this whole collection, but let’s take a moment to separate out our reflections on youth from an objective design critique.
Now Tampa has had a rough, and I mean ROUGH history when it comes to uniforms. A quick scroll through our Worst to First ranking, and the first three alone could make you lose your lunch. The fact that these are third tells you about the quality of five through eight, but for now, let’s focus on the Team Classics reboot.
Despite the uber-90s vibe of the typography and alternate logos on the sleeves, there are actually a couple of shining moments in this jersey. If we look at the structure of the jersey itself, removing the brand elements, it’s actually quite nice and timeless. The bold striping along the waist and cuffs balance nicely with the white shoulder yokes, something Adidas captured nicely in the new jersey.
The Miami Vice-style font and deep v-neck are unfortunate distractions that could be modernized for something like a Reverse Retro version, perhaps even swapping out the blue and the black, but hey, they won their first Cup in it, so this look will always hold a special place in Tampa fans’ hearts.
Quebec Nordiques (1979-1980)
Last but not least, perhaps the most popular defunct brand behind the Whalers, Adidas opted to bring back the the true OG Nordiques sweater. Colorado’s Reverse Retro paid homage to their franchise’s roots, using the Nordiques’ logo in Avalanche maroon and blue, a concept that was extremely popular among Colorado fans, and per Colorado Hockey Now, sold “through the roof.”
While enthusiasm for the Reverse Retro sweaters may have spanned across the entirety of the U.S. and beyond, fans in Quebec City will surely appreciate this return to the logo and brand’s original roots and color palette.
As John mentioned in his BTLNHL Vintage analysis, the igloo was derived from the French term for “Northerners,” a nod to the climate, as well as Quebec City’s annual Winter Carnival. The hockey stick transforming the igloo shape into an N is both clever and dynamic –– everything you’d want from a timeless team logo.
• More: BTLNHL Vintage: Quebec Nordiques
Adidas’ revamp of the classic logo kept the authentic feel of the original with a few cleaned up elements. The collar was modified to a true v-neck instead of the original flattened point, and the red piping around the igloo seems to have been thickened to match the visual weight of the white, but overall, the Team Classics version stays true to the original Nordiques look and feel, just as it should be.