For NHL teams, third jerseys are huge cash cows. That’s because gullible hockey fans (like myself) will go out and buy the third jersey replicas the day they are released, even though they already own their teams’ “regular” jerseys.
On top of that, historic franchises (like the Rangers or Maple Leafs) can change up these third jerseys every couple of years—or whenever they need a fresh infusion of cash—without being accused of “messing with tradition.” Because, hey, they’re just the third jerseys, right?
Well, there is an upside to this type of cash grab: it brings a little more creativity to NHL uniform designs.
Teams are more likely to take risks with third jerseys because they know that, if people hate them, they can change them after a couple seasons. Sometimes, the results are not good. But sometimes they are.
Since this is the first weekend of the NHL season—a time for hope and optimism—I’m going to focus on the positive today and bring you a list of the 9 best third jerseys you will see in the NHL this season. Maybe I’ll bring you the worst third jerseys another day—after the shine of the new season rubs off a bit (after a couple more career threatening concussions).
9. Columbus Blue Jackets
For the longest time, I thought everything about the Blue Jackets’ branding was stupid. That’s because their original jersey’s featured a freaking bug on the front, giving the distinct impression that the “Blue Jacket” was some kind of take on “Yellow Jacket”—you know, like the wasp that’s the mascot of Georgia Tech sports teams. Of course, “Blue Jacket” is actually a reference to Columbus’ rich Civil War history. Eventually, the franchise wised up, realized the bug logo was kind of confusing, and changed up their designs. Then they came out with these sharp third jersey’s featuring civil war cannons to really drive the point home: history, not bugs. (Good work, Columbus.)
8. San Jose Sharks
Personally, I think San Jose’s regular unis are among the best in all of pro sports, let alone hockey. So if I were a Sharks fan (and I’m not), I wouldn’t even want to see a third jersey. However, if a third jersey they must have, this one is pretty good.
The designers were smart and followed the most important rule for hockey uniforms: less is more. The Sharks’ alternates don’t have any of that silly piping down the front, or swooshing panels under the armpits. It’s just crest, arm stripe, lace-up collar. Like feng shui on a shirt.
7. Colorado Avalanche
There are two types of uniforms in the NHL: classic and modern. The Red Wings’ simple sweaters epitomize the former and, for a long time, the Avalanche’s regular sweaters have been the standard-bearers of the latter. However, more recently the Avalanche have added a classic design of their own to their arsenal of sweaters. And with it they prove that, basically, when it comes to designing uniforms, they can do no wrong. (I especially like the tricolor striping on the sleeves.)
6. Pittsburgh Pengins
Most people probably don’t realize that Pittsburgh’s original 1967 uniforms were navy powder blue—and that an actual penguin was nowhere to be found. In fact, the famous skating penguin was not introduced until 1969; however, the uniforms didn’t go from blue to black until 1980.
The good-looking third jersey Pittsburgh will be wearing this season is very similar to those 1969 models. The only difference is that the powder blue and navy blue have swapped places.
5. Washington Capitals
In evaluating the NHL’s third jerseys for the purposed of making this list, one of the things I was decidedly not looking for were nice-looking jerseys that are merely throwbacks. My thinking was, yes, they may be awesome, but they’re not really “alternatives” to the regular jerseys since they’ve been worn previously. So I said I wouldn’t include any such designs.
Then I decided to make an exception for the Washington Capitals because their throwback third jerseys are just so much better than all the nonsense they’ve been wearing on a regular basis for the last 15 years. So I guess that makes me a flip-flopper. Maybe I should run for office.
4. New York Rangers
The Rangers’ third jersey’s (introduced for the 2010-11 season) don’t really deviate too far from their traditional, iconic sweaters. But then, I think that’s the beauty. The diagonal lettering reads “New York” instead of “Rangers,” the blue is darker, and the red is deeper. Not much a difference, but damn do they look good.
And no, that is not Luke Wilson. That’s former captain Chris Drury.
3. St. Louis Blues
The Blues may never be able to shake the ignominy of this awful monstrosity (easily one of the worst regular uniforms in the history of the NHL). However, this sharp third jersey has helped them put their awful past behind them.
2. Minnesota Wild
I’ve never liked the Minnesota Wild’s primary logo and uniform design. I know it’s irrational, but the fact that their colors are green and red—Christmas colors, for God’s sake—really pisses me off. And don’t get me started about that panther silhouette/wilderness vigniette crest.
So when I heard they were coming out with a third jersey a couple years ago, I thought “oh Lord, here we go.” Then they revealed the jersey, and I was dumbfounded. I think it’s totally awesome.
You’ll notice that they’ve removed red as a primary color and emphasized the yellowish off-white—that, I think, was the most important move they made. However, I also really love to vintage-looking “Minnesota” script across the chest. Add to it the bulky stripes and the lace-up collar, and Minnesota finally gets a hockey jersey worthy of their love for the sport.
Normally it would be a pretty big gamble for a team with Chicago’s heritage to mess with their uniform design. Luckily, Chicago got a free-pass to test a new jersey when they got to hose the Winter Classic a couple years back. People loved the jerseys they wore that day so much, the team decided to make it permanent.
Smooth move, guys.