Jeff Veillette: 31 for 31 - Central Division
A little over a decade ago, a high-school-aged me decided that, at some point in his life, he was going to have the jersey of every team in the National Hockey League in his closet. Maybe some teams more than others, and not every sweater would have the same story, but we'd get there.
This journey started just a few blocks away from the CoolHockey head office, so over the years, we've built up a pretty great relationship - one that has led to the completion of this collection, as they've filled the final three gaps needed to complete it.
Over the next several posts, I'm going to pick one sweater I own from each team and talk a little about it. In many of these cases, I may have "better" or "rarer" uniforms for the respective teams, but these were the ones that spoke to me the most.
Today’s focus is on the Central Division.
We're kicking the Central division off with a CoolHockey creation - the Blackhawks sweater is one of the most iconic in sports history, with its clean layout and sharp colours. When I thought about who needed to go on the back of this one, I deviated from the popular picks and went with "Big Hoss".
Hossa, in my eyes, is one of the most underrated players to still be considered great in league history. He was one of the most effective two-way wingers ever, able to give you elite offence and Selke-calibre defence on a whim. His struggles to get over the hump, be it with an underachieving Ottawa group, a no-depth Atlanta roster, or his famous close calls with Pittsburgh and Detroit made it all the sweeter when he was able to finish his career with three Stanley Cup rings. I have his Thrashers jersey as well and it remains one of my favourites.
This is a bit of a nostalgia pick, but as a kid, St. Patrick was my favourite goaltender. He remains one of the greatest of all time - nearly every methodology has him as somewhere between the 1 and 3 seeds, and his time in Colorado was just as great as his time in Montreal.
This won over my Peter Forsberg white sweater, though, because I think it's the best attempt that a team has made at a "modern" looking diagonal sweater. The Rangers obviously are the gold standard, but the Avalanche made their harsh lettering and maroon colour scheme look surprisingly sharp with these. As they become increasingly hard to find, I cherish this one more and more.
This is a bit of a weird one to have, given the number on the back. When you think of Brett Hull, you usually think of #16, but when you think of him as a Star, you're usually thinking of the 1999 Stanley Cup run. That year, Hull wore 22, deferring his usual normal to Pat Verbeek.
Which makes the autograph on this with "99 Cup" feel a little off, for sure. But it's still the Golden Brett, and still the slickest design the Stars ever wore. The idea, stolen from the 1995-1997 All-Star Game uniforms, was that when a player lifted their arms in celebration, it would take the shape of a star, and it looked fantastic. I'd love to see Dallas bring this back as a throwback alternate.
Definitely a case of picking the player over his association with the team here - Heatley's career was pretty well in the tank by this point of his career, long past the 50-in-07 days. But it's still the "f***ing All-Star", and his name will always look good on the back of a jersey - especially these super crisp Minnesota faux-backs. I'd love to get an OG hunter green Marian Gaborik in my hands at some point for the same reasons I love my Rick Nash sweater from the Metropolitan Division post, but for now, this one turns a lot of heads at the shinny rinks.
Few of us expected Subban to leave Montreal as unceremoniously as he did, and even fewer expected his time in Nashville to be so brief - but boy, was it ever fun. That 2017 run to the Stanley Cup Final was one of the most entertaining displays I've seen from a team and a city - and it was no surprise to see Subban leading the way.
I wasn't sure about the switch to the bright yellow when the Predators first did it, and if I can be honest, I liked the Reebok template a little more than the Adidas one. But it's a great overall look all the same, that helps them stand out in a league that can at times blend together.
"Who the f***" is TJ Oshie?"
Playing in a keeper fantasy league in 2008, I had zero interest in this relatively unknown player as a trade return, for a Senators player who I can't 100% recall anymore (possibly Patrick Eaves). Teenage me was swiftly proven to be a dingus, as Oshie has had a great career for both club and country - so I picked this jersey up to commemorate my mistakes.
We started this division with a CoolHockey customization, and we'll finish it with one as well. I know a lot of people have love for the original Jets looks, but I genuinely believe the current home jersey to be their best look in franchise history. The logo remains great, and a nice nod to the RCAF. The colours are clean, the fonts are great, and while the striping on the road sweater is louder by virtue of contrast, it looks good on the homes.
As for the name on the back, there are a lot of great ways to go with this team - Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebucyk are among the top high-end options - but I picked this up immediately following Laine's rookie season, where watching him rip a one-timer within a millimetre of precision was one of the best forms of "appointment viewing" in the sport. While he hasn't lived up to every element of his hype just yet, he remains one of the league's most intriguing young players.