NHL

NHL jersey power rankings: Original Six teams have sweaters that are tough to beat

I’ve worn many hats in the last few months – from traveling hockey reporter to guy who wears pajama pants most days, all while working my way up to master chef – so why not add fashion guru to the list?

To have a little fun and break up the monotony of chasing daily rumors about if and when the NHL season will resume, the idea was pitched to me to take a crack at ranking all 31 uniforms.

I decided to take a break from perfecting my homemade coffee cake recipe and give it a try.

Using my expertly trained eyes – you know, from watching sports for more than 30 years – I looked at the current sweaters for every team. Some have improved over the years, while others leave me longing for the past – but all were judged based on what they wear today. (Of course, I made a few polite suggestions … )

The thing about ranking jerseys is that everyone has an opinion, and even though mine is clearly supreme, none of them are wrong. It’s a matter of personal taste – and since we have no games or lineup combinations to debate right now, this will have to do.

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1. Detroit Red Wings: There’s something about the way the simple red and white catches your eye, but it’s the logo that really does the trick. Late owner James Norris rolled out the iconic wheel carried by two wings in 1932 as an ode to the Motor City. It’s endured for nearly 90 years.

2. San Jose Sharks: The Sharks crash the Original Six party with the sweetest modern sweater in the league. The teal and black is unique and goes surprisingly well together, and the shark snapping a hockey stick with its jaws is about as good as logos get. Whether it’s the home teals, the road whites or the black alternates – they’re all dust-your-shoulders-off fresh. 

3. Boston Bruins: For a kid who grew up in New York, it’s not easy to give Boston much credit for anything. But objectively speaking, these unis are a classic – great colors, historic logo and just plain cool. (Cue the angry texts and emails from my high school buddies.)

The Boston Bruins' jersey is one of the most iconic in the NHL. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

4. Toronto Maple Leafs: Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but those Original Six logos that have been mostly unchanged for nearly a century really get me. I’m also a sucker for teams that stick to two basic colors, and the way the blue leaf shines on those white road jerseys is a personal favorite.

5. New York Rangers: The jersey that made diagonal lettering a thing in the 1920s is one of the ultimate classics. The shadowing effect on the letters makes them jump off the sweater, and the traditional color combo of red, white and blue is as good as it gets.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins: Black and yellow always make for excellent jersey colors – just ask the Steelers. Plus, the 10-year-old version of me thought the Pens had one of the best mascots in sports, and he would definitely approve of the current iteration of the penguin on skates.

7.  Chicago Blackhawks: I know many will say we don’t have the ‘Hawks ranked high enough. In an informal Twitter poll, Chicago got more votes than any other team. The detailed facial features of the chief contrast well with the simple approach of the jersey.

8. Calgary Flames: Put me firmly in the camp that prefers the classic red, yellow and white home sweaters, which was reintroduced as an alternate in 2018, over the newer version with the black “C.” The former puts the Flames in the top 10. It just pops.

9. Montreal Canadiens: Have I mentioned that I’m partial to the Original Six? I’ll put the Canadiens sixth in that pecking order, but these red, white and blue sweaters are still a classic.

10. St. Louis Blues: I went back and forth with a few options for the 10-spot. I’ve always been a fan of the road whites with the blue music note gliding across the chest, but what really puts St. Louis over the top is the powder blue alternates with the yellow trimming. What a beaut.

11. Vegas Golden Knights: Fans seem to love what the Knights are working with, and it’s easy to see why. The gold, black and steel grey color combo is sweet, particularly the gold rings on the sleeves, and the logo with the “V” carved into the medieval helmet is well done.

12. Winnipeg Jets: The standard home and aways are solid, with the navy, silver and gray creating a simple yet pleasing look. But what really moved the Jets up the list is their alternates – both the lighter blues with “Jets” written in script, and the classic navy, red and white jersey they used for the Heritage Classic this season.

13. Nashville Predators: I learned on my trip to Nashville this season: The Predators got their name because an ancient saber tooth was unearthed when Bridgestone Arena was being erected in the mid-1990s. That’s pretty sweet. Plus, of all the angry cat logos in the league, the Preds have the best.

14. Tampa Bay Lightning: In their less-than-30-year history, the current look is their best. They toned down their regular home and aways to just blue and white with the lightning bolt logo in the middle, and the black alternates they introduced in 2018 are a nice change of pace for the nights they’re feeling frisky. 

15. New Jersey Devils: The red, black and white is one of the more aesthetically pleasing color schemes in the league, and the subtle use of horns and a tail trailing at either end of the “J” makes for a memorable logo. That's probably why it hasn't changed since their inception in 1982.

16. Los Angeles Kings: The Kings have the potential to be even higher on this list. Silver and black looks good on just about any uniform – see: NFL Raiders – but the “LA” crest with the crown beneath it leaves something to be desired. Personally, I like the 1980s logo better.

17. Colorado Avalanche: The logo with the “A” being engulfed by snow (it is snow, right?) is solid, but I could do without the weird blue color going down the sleeves. The road whites are sharp, though, and deserve some positive recognition.

18. Philadelphia Flyers: The only team in the league that gets to use Halloween colors does a pretty good job with them. It makes perfect sense to have three sets of sweaters – orange at home, white on the road and black alternates – and while I’m still not sure exactly what the logo is, it looks pretty cool. (Editor's note: Orange puck and "P" for Philadelphia.)

19. Edmonton Oilers: The navy, orange and white is a strong combo, and the Oilers logo with the letters bleeding color from the bottom always makes me think of Wayne Gretzky in his prime. Some might put this one up higher, but it’s a crowded top 20.

20. Carolina Hurricanes: A lot of times, simple is better, and Carolina strikes a nice balance with its straightforward ensemble. I especially like the new road whites with “Canes” diagonal across the front. 

21. Arizona Coyotes: The red, black and “desert sand” color scheme with the howling coyote logo has grown on me over the years. It puts Arizona in the middle of the pack – and if the alternate jersey with the hockey-playing coyote became their primary sweater, the ‘Yotes would be even higher.

22. New York Islanders: Long Islanders take pride in having their peninsula featured as a map backdrop in the logo, which is a neat quirk. But as far as the blue and orange teams go, I have the Oilers firmly ahead.

23. Buffalo Sabres: A sabre is a cavalry sword, which explains the interlocking swords in the logo, and then I guess they just threw an actual buffalo in there because, well … it’s Buffalo? I would have preferred a few dancing chicken wings.

24. Dallas Stars: I’ve mentioned my general philosophy that less is more. And while the Stars achieve that with their basic green and white with black trimming, the “D” logo falls short of the iconic status many teams near the top of this list have achieved. 

25. Vancouver Canucks: The current logo with the killer whale-like creature emerging from the “C” doesn’t quite do it for me, nor does the blue and green color scheme. I prefer the old-school black and yellow look, which they broke out for a few games this season.

26.  Ottawa Senators: I guess the mascot achieves a serious, mildly intimidating effect. But the sides and sleeves of the jersey are a bit too boxy for my taste and could use a more retro approach.

27. Washington Capitals: One of the best teams in the league could do better. The alternates with the six stars across the chest and stripes across the stomach are solid, but the regular home reds and road whites lack distinction.

28.  Minnesota Wild: While researching for this story, I found out that the Minnesota franchise also considered “Blue Ox” and “Northern Lights” as potential mascots. This current Wild jersey feels like it falls short of the potential those discarded team names would have had.

29.  Columbus Blue Jackets: The name Blue Jackets is meant to honor Ohio’s contributions to American history, which is cool and all. But the logo is difficult to describe – a star being wrapped by a red ribbon? – and the uniform itself could use a revamp.

30.  Florida Panthers: Quarantine life may have hurt Florida’s case. When I see the Panthers’ logo now, all I can think of are the patchwork big cat zoos from Netflix’s “Tiger King” documentary. I’m over it.

31. Anaheim Ducks: I LOVE when the Ducks break out the old “Jason” mask logo fronting the interlocking hockey sticks, which brings me and my fellow Millennials back to our childhood. That’s a top-10 jersey. (For the record: The “D2” movie is the best from the “Mighty Ducks” series.) But as far the new look with a “D” that resembles a broken Frisbee, I’ll take a hard pass.

Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers beat reporter for the USA TODAY Network. Read more of his work at lohud.com/sports/rangers/ and follow him on Twitter @vzmercogliano.

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