The NHL and Adidas partnered to release their new “Reverse Retro” jerseys, which will be utilized throughout the upcoming season. While awaiting word on when the 2020-21 season might start, we can anticipate what these sweaters will look like on the ice.
Here, I’ve ranked the Reverse Retro series jerseys, from the worst of the worst to the best of the best. These rankings were based on how well the jerseys captured the history of the city/franchise, color usage and utilization, and overall jersey concept.
31. Detroit Red Wings
Coming off a 17-49-5 season, the Red Wings put even less effort into their Reverse Retro jerseys than they did on the ice. The arm bands on the sleeves were a nod to the 1930’s road uniforms in terms of style, and silver banding made for a non-traditional color usage, but the overall jersey feels uninspired. Sometimes, minimalism is a good thing in jersey design, but these jerseys were a big swing and a miss.
30. New York Islanders
The Islanders Reverse Retro reveal feels like when your high school buddy wanted to copy your homework, but changed it up every so slightly to try to convince the teacher it was different. The Isles’ only difference here is a slightly different shade of blue. There was some hope New York would in some way utilize the “Gorton’s Fisherman” concept, but no such luck could be found. The use of the classic Islanders logo was a nice touch, but with only slightly more effort than Detroit, the Isles’ Reverse Retros were underwhelming at best.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto’s Reverse Retros get a slight edge over Detroit and New York for having a more defined design. The blue and white piping on the sleeve was a better use of color and style, but the oversized logo feels clunky and out of place. Toronto’s jersey changes through the years haven’t brought much in the way of change, so there isn’t much differentiation to use as a base. With a chance to do something different, Toronto stayed relatively unchanged. Much like the Leafs on the ice, these jerseys make an early exit from this list.
28. Edmonton Oilers
Another jersey design that didn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the rest of the team’s jersey history (and with similar color schemes as the Islanders to begin with), the Oilers sweater, from a visual standpoint, does look great. The crisp white design with orange yolk on the shoulders is a good look, but the similarities to other Oiler’s jerseys throughout franchise history is too great to merit a higher spot on this list.
27. Nashville Predators
Aside from the “bold in gold” aesthetic, the big miss for me is the skull and sabertooth on the shoulder patch, something I’ll affectionately refer to as the “Dead-ator.” For a franchise seeing their championship window closing, the lack of “life” in this Reverse Retro is a gross metaphor for their playoff performances of late.
26. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets’ jerseys are darker than the Winnipeg skies in January. Winnipeg did a great job acknowledging the history with the logo, but with the franchise’s color history, both as the Winnipeg Jets in the 1980’s and 90’s, the Atlanta Thrashers throughout the 2000’s, and the modern iteration in 2011, the wide color palette potential was sadly limited. The light teal trim around the shoulder lettering is the closest thing to a different color, but it’s so subtle, you’ll miss it if you look too quickly.
25. Dallas Stars
Dallas opted to return to the subtle star design around the jersey’s torso, a great nod to the style of sweater they wore during their 1999 Stanley Cup win. Unfortunately, there are a few big points where Dallas gets dinged. The silver on white is a great concept, but green trim to stylize the font would’ve shot the Stars near the top of the list. The heavy white base around the torso seems like an abandonment from their traditional green sweaters. Lots of potential left on the table with this design.
24. St. Louis Blues
Did the Blues change their name to the Reds this offseason? St. Louis’ jerseys were a throwback to their mid-to-late 90’s designs, but with the red and blue color patterns reversed. The trumpet insignia on the sleeve would’ve earned the design major points if it were the front crest, but the relegation to shoulder decal is a step backward. Unfortunately for St. Louis, the Reverse Retros end on a sour note.
23. Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia has one of my favorite color schemes throughout the league, but their Reverse Retro feels like a better fit for their AHL-affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, or the Anaheim Ducks’ orange alternates. The sleeve wrapping is an interesting look, but the torso of the jersey keeps things similar enough to end up in a lower spot on the list. Credit where it’s due: the white trim around black font is an eye-catching design choice, and the Flyers nailed the detail work.
22. Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina fans and hockey history buffs may be surprised to see Carolina so low on the list. The Hartford Whalers jerseys are one of the most iconic in hockey history, and when they moved to Carolina in 1997, part of that jersey history was lost. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with these jerseys, it’s a bit odd for Carolina to claim Hartford’s color and logo designs (with modern updates) without acknowledging the history in Raleigh. After all, Carolina won the Cup in 2006, and these jerseys don’t acknowledge that. Carrying the waist pattern from the 2006 sweaters in Whalers colors would’ve been a big ratings boost, but until Carolina utilizes their own history and stops relying solely on the Whalers for nostalgia, they won’t crack the upper echelon of this list.
21. Boston Bruins
The Bruins scored points on their Reverse Retros by keeping a similar design to their late 80’s/early 90’s uniforms with a more modern color scheme. While the gold is slightly different than the traditional team colors, the intensity of color stands out. The bear on the shoulder makes for a nice allusion to the early history, where the insignia was on the front of the jersey until 1932. Overall, a clean look for a team that has kept their jersey concepts relatively consistent throughout the franchise’s existence.
20. Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning fans got their wish with the “victory stripes” element. Similar to Boston’s Reverse Retros, Tampa Bay opted for a modern color scheme with an early history element, matching stylewise with the jerseys they wore when Manon Rhéaume broke the NHL gender barrier. The Lightning patches on the shoulder could’ve used a touch more of a darker color to accent, but overall, a great jersey reveal for the defending Cup Champions.
19. Montreal Canadiens
Montreal did an excellent job of acknowledging their early history with their Reverse Retros. The inversion of their color design is simple but effective, differentiating from the traditional bright red or crisp white concepts. Using a slightly different shade of blue than on their regular uniforms helps make the new design look sleek and polished. The Habs didn’t overly complicate their design, but still found a way to make their blue jerseys look better than Toronto’s.
18. San Jose Sharks
San Jose gets major credit for bringing back the classic logo. Where they lose me is with the grey torsos. The grey dulls down what otherwise looked like an excellent concept. The accented sleeves are a sharp design, but overall, this jersey epitomizes “Don’t love it, Don’t hate it.” They didn’t muck it up, but didn’t stand out. Failing to use black trim on the nameplates to make the lettering pop costs them, too.
17. Ottawa Senators
Ottawa returned their classic logo, and the red body is still a solid choice for their jersey history. While relatively simple in concept, one underappreciated touch is the numbering on the elbows. What will ultimately make or break this jersey will be the helmet and glove color pairings. Thankfully, the Senators avoided the horizontal stripes of their first iteration, utilizing only jersey styles from their return in 1992 onward for this design. Anything else would’ve been an eyesore.
16. Vegas Golden Knights
The concept of “Retro” for a franchise which has only existed since 2017 is admittedly bizarre, and it feels wrong to put such a franchise in the top half of this list, but the Golden Knights found a way to design a quality jersey anyway. The regal red body of the jersey is a bold step forward, as red as so far been limited to an accent in Vegas’ sweaters. Keeping the “V” along the waistline is another nice touch, and crossing swords on the front make for a superb logo crest. I’m excited to see how it looks on the ice, but my initial reaction is that the Reverse Retros are better than either of their main sweaters.
15. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks appear to have split the fanbase with their Reverse Retros more than most other teams, but for my book, there’s a lot to like here. The gradient design acknowledges both the early 2000’s pattern with the mid 90’s “slash” across the midsection. The classic blue and green color scheme gets a modern update, and the classic Orca logo gets a thumbs-up from me. If they pair these jerseys with white gloves, they could jump into the Top 10 on my list.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh made a statement in their jersey design, as the only team to spell out the club name across the front of the sweater. Diagonal lettering was the calling card of the first Penguins jerseys in their inaugural season, and again in the early 90’s for the Lemieux-era Cup runs. While a touch of baby blue somewhere on the jerseys would have been a nice touch, Pittsburgh did an above-average job on their Reverse Retros.
13. Anaheim Ducks
The Quack is Back! Wild Wing has returned on Anaheim’s Reverse Retros, something many fans of the 1995 concept were hoping for. Anaheim’s utilization of the teal and eggplant colors was an excellent aesthetic choice, but the font chosen for the nameplate takes them down a peg. It looks disjointed from the rest of the jersey, especially with the slanted sleeve coloring. Most of the uniform is streamlined and stylized, but the nameplate font throws things off. One other minor detail that was missed would’ve been to have Wild Wing wearing the same jersey, instead of the all-white jersey he’s currently sporting.
12. Florida Panthers
Florida made the outstanding decision to bring the pouncing Panther back to the jersey design, and returned to their blue-bodied sweaters of the mid-2000’s. The white wrist gauntlets are my only real complaint here. Gold trim is a winner, the palm tree logo on the shoulder patch is back to stay, and they left the “broken stick” panther on the drawing room floor.
11. Chicago Blackhawks
One thing that stood out in Chicago’s Reverse Retro reveal was how they shied away from showing the front of the jersey. The video featured almost tried so hard to avoid showing the crest that one couldn’t help but notice. We won’t get into the logo/name controversy here (that’s a topic for another day), but few teams can pull off the black-torso jerseys better than the Hawks. The red shouldering with white trim is a design Chicago hasn’t used before, though variations on that them have been, with color inversions. The Blackhawks jerseys are regularly considered among the best in sports, and while these sweaters continue a great tradition, their ranking at #11 isn’t through any faults with their design, but because, for me, 10 others were better.
10. Calgary Flames
Welcome back, Blasty! The late 90’s/early 2000’s figurehead, Calgary’s fire-breathing horse completes the look, a striking contrast to the all-black body design. Adidas could have gone with the simple flaming C logo, but similar to a few other mascots that have made their way onto the Reverse Retros, they made the right choice saving that for the shoulder patch.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets
Another newer franchise to the league, the Blue Jackets have enough different jersey concepts to combine for a great Reverse Retro sweater. The cannon found its way onto the shoulder patch, while the inaugural CBJ Stick logo takes center stage as the front crest. The white yolk running into the sleeve inverts what Columbus has traditionally done with their road white jerseys. They do look a bit derivative of Washington Capitals’ designs, and missing blue accent trim is enough to keep the Blue Jackets from a higher spot on the list.
8. New Jersey Devils
The Devils’ Reverse Retros salute the striping concepts from their Colorado Rockies days, blended brilliantly with the forest green of their inaugural jerseys. New Jersey has used solid red as the torso for their home jerseys throughout their history, making the decision to go green a refreshing change of pace. Red trim around the lettering and numbering is subtle, yet it goes a long way to complete the look.
7. Arizona Coyotes
Another blast from the past, the classic Kachina Coyote logo head has returned! One of the most iconic (and polarizing) designs in NHL history, the Kachina was used until 2003 and was a strong symbol of Pueblo heritage in the region. The purple jersey body is a bold choice, underutilized in most jersey designs, and the desert landscape around the waistline is truer to their home than any other jersey concept on this list. The Coyotes aren’t the most storied franchise in the NHL, but these Reverse Retros are an instant all-timer.
6. Minnesota Wild
Wild fans wanted just one thing with the Reverse Retro jerseys – Minnesota North Stars colors – and Adidas nailed it with the delivery. Sure, Dallas fans may cry foul since North Stars branding technically belongs to the Stars now, but you can’t talk about the history of the “State of Hockey” without the North Stars. The Wild kept their inaugural logo, which was a logical decision, and appropriately bridged the North Stars tradition with the current Wild franchise. Minnesota’s Reverse Retros would’ve jumped to #1 on the list with the alternate font “M” from their 2010’s era sweater in North Stars colors.
5. New York Rangers
Another example of fitting what the fans asked for, Lady Liberty has returned to the Rangers. The Statue of Liberty concept was an iconic design in the late 90’s and has shown up sporadically in alternate jerseys, but hasn’t been in the rotation since 2007. It’s simple, yet elegant. The sleeves don’t draw attention away from the crest. The shadowing around the numbers make a beautiful accent. It wasn’t enough to get the #1 spot, but the Rangers got the #1 pick in October’s draft. Their fans will be ok with a Top 5 place on the list.
4. Los Angeles Kings
I’ll never know why the Kings abandoned the regal purple and gold design, but as mentioned with Arizona, purple jerseys are an excellent choice (ok, yes, they call it “Forum Blue.” It’s purple.). Los Angeles has made the crown more prominent than in recent memory, getting rid of the black and grey for a far more royal aesthetic. Gold numbering was a solid choice as well. And let’s all bet glad they didn’t opt for the “Burger King” jerseys. It’s a well-done design, but just missed out on a Top 3 ranking.
3. Colorado Avalanche
Many hockey fans had Colorado’s Reverse Retros at #1 on their list. The Avalanche blended their Quebec Nordiques past with their current color scheme in a delightful way. The igloo and fleur-de-lis are iconic, and giving them a fresh spin with the maroon and blue is so pleasing to the eye. They didn’t go full Carolina Hurricanes by making their RR’s an entire homage to their former franchise home, keeping things current while acknowledging the past. That was the goal of the Reverse Retro project, and Colorado is a mile higher than almost everyone else in that regard.
2. Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo’s spot on the list may come as a surprise to some, but they did so many things the right way with their Reverse Retros. The concept itself is based on their early 2000’s red design, but they opted for the traditional blue, white, and gold color scheme. However, they beautifully kept the black, red, and silver on the crossing sabres in the logo crest, tying in the history. The buffalo head made its way onto the shoulder patch. There are so many subtle bits of brilliance in Buffalo’s jerseys that could otherwise go unnoticed. Here, they are acknowledged and appreciated.
1. Washington Capitals
The Screaming Eagle is back with a vengeance, soaring to the #1 spot on the list. I love everything about this jersey design. The angled waistlines to follow the eagle’s path, saluting Washington’s 90’s and 2000’s jerseys, the U.S. Capital Building shoulder patches, the letter design and outline work, the solid red body of the jersey worn during their 2018 Stanley Cup win, it’s incredibly well-done. If they cap this look with the navy blue helmets, they’ll have the best-dressed team in the league. Adidas crushed it with the Capitals’ Reverse Retro jerseys.
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