Collector's Corner: The Best Jersey From Every Decade
This edition of the Collector's Corner was written by Robert Lazar!
1917-1919 Montreal Canadiens: There aren’t a lot of options for this decade, as the league only played for three seasons in the 1910s, but it was an easy choice to pick this one. This jersey was the first incarnation of the now-classic red, white, and blue jersey that the Habs have used for virtually their entire existence, with an older version of their iconic “C” logo.
1922-1925 Toronto St. Pats: There’s a reason that the Leafs keep bringing this back. The clean, simple, and appealing green-and white design stands as a near-timeless classic, with a unique and recognizable color scheme.
1935-1940 New York Americans (white): This jersey stands out from the rest in the logo’s modern, contemporary design that wouldn’t look out of place in the modern NHL. The clean stripes of the jersey, accented by the Capitals-esque stars on the chest and back, are good enough, but the interlocking “NY” and “AMERICANS” script polish off the look for a timeless jersey that, in my opinion, is up there with the best.
1940-1949 Toronto Maple Leafs: No teams made any significant changes to their uniforms during the 40s, so let’s go with the team that made virtually no changes, aside from using red letters on the blue uniforms from 1945 to 1948. The Leafs uniforms are an all-time great, amongst the top four or five jerseys ever. After a variety of early changes, the 1940s is when the classic look truly solidified itself as the true symbol of the Leafs. While they would later make changes to their identity during the Ballard era, this set was consistently their best, and they went back to a modernized version just a few years ago.
1951-1959 New York Rangers: Not their most successful era, but they looked good. Another decade with few teams making significant changes brings another classic design barely changed since introduction. While the blues were introduced in 1949, the whites didn’t exist until 1951, completing the set. And while they may not have seen much success in their original era, these uniforms have since become associated with Rangers legends such as Mark Messier and Henrik Lundqvist, certifying them as all-time greats.
1968-1969 St. Louis Blues (blue): These are currently used by the Blues as a throwback alternate, and with good reason. Introduced in the Blues’ inaugural season of 1967, they represent a fantastic, vintage-appearing jersey, with the blue and yellow blending to an appealing design. These sweaters made the Blues easily fit in with the long-lived Original Six uniforms of the day, and stand as a symbol of the second-most successful era in Blues hockey, besides 2019 of course.
1974-1976 California Golden Seals: An interesting choice here, but one I’ll defend. In the first of two eras where teams started to experiment, the Teal Seals were one of the few choices that looked clean and unique without being controversial or odd. With the introduction of teal to the NHL’s palette, the Seals compensated for the lack of a true crest with a color scheme that made them stand out from the pack. Balanced with yellow and white stripes, the jerseys made for a truly never-before-seen set that set the Seals apart and gave them their own identity. Sadly, these would only last two full seasons before the team relocated to Cleveland.
1980-1989 Hartford Whalers (green): These icons are among the most legendary jerseys in league history. They, of course, feature the iconic whale-tail W used by the Whalers, but are also considered by many to be the best incarnation of multiple designs used with the logo. With their instantly-recognizable light green, blue, and white, these sweaters have been a favorite of collectors and casual fans alike. The famous “Pucky” logo was used until 1985 as well, only contributing to their high status in the jersey world. It certainly makes sense why the now-Hurricanes resurrected them for a pair of games in 2018-19.
1996-1999 Phoenix Coyotes: Ah, the Kachinas. Derided by some, beloved by others, but all around a wonderful set. While they certainly fit in with the wild jersey designs of the 1990s, they managed to have a certain levelness to them that kept them from going too over the top. Throw in the fact that the Kachina designs specifically pay homage to the area’s Native American traditions, and you have a set representative of excessive 90s design while still having actual meaning and, of course, looking great on the ice. Like multiple other jerseys on this list, the Coyotes have revived the black design several times; most recently as their current alternate jersey.
2007-2009 Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks were, in my opinion, one of the few redesigns that Reebok absolutely nailed. While most Reebok designs had excessive piping, odd stripe schemes, and strange color patterns, the Canucks designs are a fantastic modern take on a classic set. In carrying over the leaping Orca logo from the Nucks’ previous set, the jerseys retain their sense of uniqueness, avoiding a full throwback treatment; however, the retiring of red and silver in favor of the Canucks’ original, distinctly-PNW blue and green was a welcome change. This style of jersey, with the exception of the removal of the “VANCOUVER” wordmark, is now on the verge of becoming the longest-lived in Canucks franchise history, and will likely be worn for years to come.
2016-2019 Florida Panthers: And here we have it: the single best jersey of our current age. The Panthers underwent a much-needed redesign from their original Reebok-template jerseys in 2016, and came out with arguably the best set in the NHL today. The set stands out in a good way, with the bold chest and sleeve stripes framing the new, military-esque shield in place of the old leaping cat. Add in the dark blue stripes around the rim and collar and the new Florida flag alternate logo and you have a jersey that ranks up there with the best of them.
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