April 20, 2012

Original Six: Ugliest NHL jerseys of all-time

By Jesse Connolly

Throughout its storied history, the NHL has produced some of the most iconic jerseys in all of sports. From the timeless look of the Chicago Blackhawks to the famous Spoked-B of the Boston Bruins, a number of hockey sweaters have been and always will be cherished by the masses. Unfortunately, especially in the past few decades, some of the league’s marketing gurus have been responsible for some of the cheesiest and most hideous designs ever to be donned by any professional athlete. We now present you with the ugliest jerseys ever worn in the NHL:

6. Gone fishin’ 

New York Islanders (1995-97)

Since way back in 1849, Gorton’s has been cranking out fish sticks and the like for the seafood-loving masses. For more than three decades, their slogan has encouraged consumers to “trust the Gorton’s Fisherman.” The New York Islanders trusted him so much that they made him part of their primary logo in 1995.

Shy of a few small alterations, the Isles’ jerseys remained exactly the same for more than two decades after joining the league in 1972. For whatever reason, they thought an angry-looking spinoff of the iconic fisherman could lead them back to glory. New York went a combined 51-91-22 during his two-season run before tossing the fisherman overboard.

5. Dismal desert duds

Phoenix Coyotes (1996-2003)

They say that if you break a mirror, you’re cursed with bad luck for seven years. Apparently if you move a hockey team from Winnipeg to Phoenix, you’re forced to wear a jersey that’s as ugly as sin for the same amount of time.

That’s exactly how things went for the Coyotes, whose jersey only leaves us asking question after question. Why so Aztec-like? Why so many colors? How come the dog — excuse me, coyote — looks like he’s starring in an animal rendition of “Phantom of the Opera”? Were these actually seen on national TV? And most of all, who on earth actually thought these were a good idea?

4. Abominable Bolts

Tampa Bay Lightning (1996-99)

Tampa Bay’s alternate jersey in the late 1990s was a meteorological mess of epic proportions. Retail outlets who dared sell them should have been kind to all potential buyers and attached a sea sickness warning to every sweater.

The first blunder the Bolts’ duds made was yellow lightning adorning the bottom half of each sleeve. The rain drops streaking around the team’s logo were astoundingly amateurish. Taking the cake, however, was the abandonment of striping at the bottom of the jersey, which was replaced by a dizzying drawing of a freakin’ wave. Thankfully these monstrosities were tossed out to sea after three seasons.

3. What the quack?

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (1995-96)

As if naming an NHL team the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim wasn’t offensive enough, the franchise’s first alternate jerseys — used solely during the 1995-96 campaign — should have resulted in every last member of Disney’s executive board being thrown in prison for both animal cruelty and crimes against humanity.

Departing from their logo of a duck-billed goalie mask, Anaheim went into full-fledged cartoon mode with some sort of RoboDuck bursting out of the ice, creating one of the least intimidating sweaters ever made. Throw in the cheesy font on the back and it’s no wonder fans and the players themselves begged the team to retire this wildly corny creation.

2. Nasty-looking ’Nucks

Vancouver Canucks (1978-85)

While most will think of the fictional Mighty Ducks whenever anyone mentions the Flying V, Canucks fans likely will bow their heads in shame, overcome by repressed memories of a sweater that put the “V” in vomit.

In the late 1970s, Vancouver abandoned its blue and green colors in favor of black, red and yellow, which came together to form a v-shaped concoction that seemed to hang from the shoulders in a gown-like fashion. The team’s logos were inexplicably placed on the sleeves, while bright yellow replaced the traditional clean, white look on their home jerseys. How these existed for so long is one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

1. Repulsive retro

Montreal Canadiens (2009)

Some said they looked like men’s beachwear from the 19th century. Others insisted they looked like prison garb. Many were reminded of old-school, spinning barber poles. Whatever the case may be, the Canadiens’ centennial sweaters — unveiled in 2009 for one game against Boston to pay homage to their 1912-13 team — were universally ridiculed by the masses.

The red, white and blue stripes were simply dizzying. Worst of all, the logo was a maple leaf (already belongs to someone else, no?). If ever there was a throwback jersey to place in a time machine and send back from whence it came, this was the one.

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconolly@hockeyjournal.com