Jeff Veillette: 31 for 31 - Atlantic 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 Atlantic Division.
Fittingly, we kick off this series with the least sentimental or meaningful sweater in the collection. The Bruins have a classic look and Seguin is a heck of a hockey player, and there will always be a bit of a troll value in wearing this in Toronto. All the same, the driving factor here was that I was already picking up a couple of other jerseys from the person I bought this one from, the deal was good, and I needed Boston.
This was my "holy grail" Sabres sweater, and I was extremely excited to get it for the very nice price of $69 last year, after some haggling. I have a lot of love for the classic Sabres look that is mostly encapsulated in today's uniforms, but the black "Goathead" design was one of the most fun looks of the late 90s and early 2000s. The Dominator, of course, was probably the single most impactful player in the history of the sport in his prime, wearing this design, so it's a staple for any true student of the game's closet.
My late father's favourite player in his adulthood was Wendel Clark, and it's not hard to see why - the Saskatchewan native was all heart, no fear, and had more skill than a lot of people gave him credit for. As a bit of a tribute, I've always kept an eye for his jerseys on other teams; starting with my dad's autographed Leafs jersey, I added Quebec to the mix a few years ago and this one last summer.
There were many players who shaped my childhood, but two stood out as 1A and 1B. We'll get to the other half in just a few paragraphs, but there were few things better than watching the Russian Rocket do his thing. His explosive speed, booming shot, and flat out dominance of games made him one of the most exciting players in the history of the sport. At one point in his time with Florida, he put up a 92-point season when no one else on his team reached 40! The lettering on this jersey is far from perfect - a reality that you unfortunately often face when snagging replicas from this era - but it's still the best jersey the Panthers have worn, with arguably the best player who ever played for them.
Many Leafs fans would consider it sacrilegious to have a pipeline of Montreal jerseys in your closet - a reverse version of The Hockey Sweater, if you will, but the team has had such a storied history that it's hard not to appreciate the bookmarks that shape it. When I first started the collection, my theme with Montreal was goaltenders - at one point having Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Carey Price, and Jaroslav Halak all in the closet.
I've since sold those, and my new unintentional theme seems to be high-octane Russian forwards - of whom the Habs have given many great redemption stories to over the last decade or two. While Radulov didn't stick with Montreal for long, his arrival marked the start of his come-around from international hockey villain to regaining the respect of the league. This sweater was customized by CoolHockey a couple of years back and remains one of my favourites to wear on the outdoor rinks.
The Senators have such a weird history of jerseys, in the sense that they've struggled to land very many perfect products but have brought some great ideas to the table. That's how I feel about this black alternate jersey, which remains my personal favourite in the team's history. I don't think it's the most complete uniform, as the logo is arguably the worst they've used, but the colours, striping patterns, and fonts are fantastic. Spezza was a perfect name to get on it, given the dominance that he showed in his prime there. I got lucky with this one - I bought a blank to put Spezza's name on, and then found a full jersey for less than customization. We'll see who ends up on that second sweater.
Another CoolHockey customization, Hedman is a player I've loved dating back to before he was drafted. That combination of size and skill in a defenceman doesn't come around very often, and it makes him the connecting joint of Tampa Bay's counterattack.
Most would go with the home or away sweaters, but I still have a lot of nostalgia for the black and white Tampa look - not to mention, the standard uniforms still feel a little too much like a Red Wings / Maple Leafs crossover.
Picking up from the Pavel Bure sweater, Doug Gilmour was my other hockey idol as a kid. His grit, determination, and savvy playmaking ability made him easy to love - plus, 93 was just a super cool and unique-feeling number at the time. I obviously can't fit into this jersey anymore - because I got it when I was 3 or 4 years old. It is the sweater that started it all, and I'll forever cherish it.