NHL

NHL reverse retro jerseys, ranked: The best, worst of adidas’ 2021 designs for every team

The wait is over for NHL fans ready to see adidas’ “reverse retro” jerseys.

After weeks of speculation, and a few drool-worthy teasings by the NHL and teams alike, the homage to old-school hockey jerseys is officially here.

Released on Nov. 16, the jerseys pay respect to each franchise’s history with a modern twist. 

“NHL team jerseys have long carried deep historical significance for avid and casual hockey fans,” noted Brian Jennings, the NHL’s chief brand officer and senior executive vice president in the press release. “Through the years, the design of each team jersey has evolved to balance history and authenticity with cultural touchpoints. The Reverse Retro program is a celebration of the hockey jersey’s confluence of nostalgia, style and broad appeal.”

The first time all 31 franchises were involved in creating alternate jerseys, teams will don the new looks over the course of the upcoming season. Fans can buy their own beginning on Dec. 1.

But as with any new jerseys, there were, of course, hits and misses. Here’s how they rank:

31. Vegas Golden Knights

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If this list was ranking irony, oh, this jersey would most definitely skyrocket to the top. A jersey … with swords … weeks after the agent of one of your goalies … tweeted a picture of a sword through him as if he’s being stabbed in the back.

Sure, the sword star is the team’s secondary logo but c’mon. These jerseys did go through a two-year process from ideation to reality but, honestly, the timing is less than ideal.

Regardless, the striping is a nice touch as it is a homage to the Las Vegas Thunder of the old International Hockey League. However, the red is just too strong and, well, it’s just too much.

Stay golden, Vegas.

30. Detroit Red Wings

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Detroit’s jersey is iconic. An Original Six squad, the perfect simplicity of the sweater is what makes it so special. However, this was a big miss.

Sure, the jersey pays homage to the 1998 Stanley Cup-winning squad — which current GM Steve Yzerman captained — and the gray echos the Centennial Classic jerseys from 2016, but these have zero pizzaz. 

Detroit should have reversed to 1991-92 and the 75th anniversary jerseys, which would have been red beauties with the white stripes or thrown it all the way back to the 1926-27 Detroit Cougars as they did in 2008-09.

Instead, well, it’s a plain white jersey. 

29. Pittsburgh Penguins

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Yes, Mario wore this one back in 1997 and Snoop Dogg sported this style in his “Gin & Juice” music video. But “with my mind on my money and my money on my mind,” this is just another bland jersey to pass on.

A Pittsburgh retro jersey was screaming for old school powder blue or the yellow jersey sported in the ’80s. Or even, since most of the teams’ retros are from the 90s, how about the half penguin? Who doesn’t think of that one when picturing Jaromir Jagr and his poofy mullet in all its glory.

28. St. Louis Blues

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The only color scheme that this jersey works in is the original blue one it’s based on from the 1995 season. As someone who grew up watching ’90s hockey, those sweaters were a personal favorite with the blue and red flipped. The one solid on this is the shoulder patch, which is perfect.

Hockey Hall of Famers Chris Pronger, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull and even “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky wore this style of jersey. But, this version is too red and not enough — you know — blue.

27. Arizona Coyotes

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Kachina? Check. Bold color scheme? Check. Desert landscape like the Phoenix Coyotes’ original alternate jersey back in 1999? Double-check. 

But just because it’s a cool throwback doesn’t mean it should be brought back. Although, the purple is a much nicer look than the original green.

26. Dallas Stars

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The Stars had one thing to do: take the 1999 Stanley Cup sweater and make it “victory green.” It would have been magnificent. Instead, they just outlined the star in it. Disappointing.

While “Stars” in silver is a nice touch — since the jersey is in honor of the team that won the Cup — the crest almost disappears into the icy all-white background. Like Detroit and Pittsburgh, it’s just another nice jersey lacking punch. 

25. New York Islanders

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OK, fine. The “Fish Sticks” jersey will never see the light of day again. Bummer. But would it have been too much to ask for an orange Islanders jersey like in the early 2000s? With Lou Lamoriello in charge as the team’s GM, it’s a conservative one for the squad from Long Island.

Now, not for nothing, it’s not a bad jersey — and a bad era — to reverse to. This design pays respects to the home whites of the 1980 team that kicked off the Isles run to four consecutive Stanley Cups. The striping on this jersey is spot on although it would have been a nice touch if it had the shoulder stripes from the late 90s-early 2000s that marked those four Cup wins.

24. Washington Capitals

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A rebrand of the jersey sported by the 1997-98 team that made the Stanley Cup Final in the current Capitals color scheme, it’s a nice jersey. However, for whatever reason it doesn’t scream, “winner.” The shoulder patch, on the other hand, which is the team’s logo from the 2000s, is and will always be on point.

23. Boston Bruins

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No “Pooh Bear” is a major thumbs down. But, the loveably anointed “Meth Bear” — or as the press release calls it, a “fan-favorite bear crest” — from the 70s to 90s is present!

Honestly, a yellow jersey is always a solid choice for the Bruins, as is the reversal to the logo that Bruins legends like Derek Sanderson, Johnny Bucyk, Cam Neely and one Raymond Bourque wore is also a nice touch. Speaking of Neely and Bourque, this retro jersey is based off of the one they wore in 1988 and 1990 when Boston went to Stanley Cup Finals and the team wore at the old Boston Garden for 15 years.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets

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The year is 2020 and everyone gets a red jersey. A first-time dive for this young franchise into red as the primary color, this reverse retro sports the original jersey logo from the team’s 2000 season. It’s got clean lines and is a good looking sweater but, let’s be honest, that shoulder patch would be pure fire crest instead.

21. Ottawa Senators

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Another red jersey, but the best red jersey. This sweater pays homage to the Senators’ inaugural season back in 1992, which is actually the design the team has reverted to when it comes to their everyday home and aways. It’s a nice complement to the white and black jersey and sports the modified “2D” logo.

“It is time for the Senators to return to our roots,” said owner Eugene Melnyk back when the team announced its rebrand in October. “The fans of this great franchise have high expectations. … It is time to return to our heritage, but in a bold, new manner.” 

This jersey is definitely an extension of that. 

20. Philadelphia Flyers

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It’s definitely difficult to come up with different iterations of a jersey when your team name is so non-descript as the Flyers. Philadelphia has always had strong colors and bold jerseys and this version is no different.

A throwback to when the Legion of Doom (Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg) dominated, it sports black shoulders that go down the arm — which is a first for the Broad Street Bullies — and a return to the jersey worn back to that 1995 season with a black stripe at the bottom of the jersey

19. Edmonton Oilers

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Yes, these are retros of the Oilers first season way back in good ol’ 1979 — when Gretzky was shocking the hockey world — but, for whatever reason this iteraton falls flat. Of the non-Original Six teams, the Oilers have one of the best jerseys in the NHL but this jersey doesn’t really work.

It’s the first time the Oilers have orange shoulders and letters on a white jersey and, to be honest, it should be the last. Maybe it’s the old school blue (the current blue is deeper and prettier) or orange but something just doesn’t sit right. Also, to be fair, a little disappointed they didn’t bring back the Todd McFarlane jerseys.

18. Buffalo Sabres

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Listed as a throwback to the 2000 alternate — it of red and black fame — this jersey’s layout mimics that original alternate, including the city in the stripe and crossed swords, but in the team’s present colors. 

Overall, it’s a solid design, although there are a few tweaks that would have pushed it even higher on this list. Removing Buffalo from the stripe (just because it was there in 2000 doesn’t mean it worked then either), taking the gray outline off the numbers and using the 50th-anniversary colors — hello sparkly gold! — would have made this whole ensemble really pop.

17. Toronto Maple Leafs

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Clean and crisp is the best way to describe this jersey for the Original Six squad. The only team’s reverse retro to not be tied to a specific year, this jersey instead weaves together elements from the history of the long-storied franchise 

While everyone was freaking out when they saw the Ballard logo on the shoulder, the crest on the front is actually the one the team wore during its last Stanley Cup win in 1967. The gray stripe is reminiscent of the stylized jerseys of the 1970s-80s and the shade of blue looks closer to the uniform of the 2000s.

16. Vancouver Canucks

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Picture it. 2001. The Sedin Twins are meer pups in their long-storied NHL careers. Markus Naslund is on his way to a 40-goal season. Trevor Linden is on his way back to the Pacific Northwest and the Canucks are sporting these jerseys — just in a weird blue-to-red gradient. 

Honestly, these look way better in this color scheme. 

15. Nashville Predators

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Kicking it back to the Predators’ original jersey from 1998 — see: speed nicks in the numbers, the striping pattern and the crest — the design is purely golden. Plus, the sabertooth shoulder logo is pure fire.

14. Anaheim Ducks

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The “Wild Wing” jerseys are back! Back in the day — 1995 that is — these were kind of mocked, but today they’re old school cool. A sublimated jersey (meaning the design is infused into the fabric), it has the orginally unique lettering. Personally, would have prefered the “Mighty” duck goalie mask that is the shoulder patch as the retro but this is a close second choice.

13. San Jose Sharks

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The Sharks retro jersey circles back to 1998 — which happens to have been during Patrick Marleau’s rookie year. Hmmm, is this throwback really an homage to the 41-year-old grizzled veteran? 

Whether it is or it isn’t the Sharks continue to dominate the jersey game. This look is sleek like a mako shark with the classic original logo, bold numbers and the gray of a great white shark.

12. Florida Panthers

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Why the Panthers swapped out this gorgeous crest for the Joel Quenneville-look-alike is anyones guess.

This jersey is a classic and harkens back to when Florida stunned the hockey world and made it to the Stanley Cup Final in only the franchise’s third year of existence. Every detail is spot on from the color scheme (team first wore blue alternates in 1998) to the to the logo to the bright and easy to read numbers and of course that beautiful shoulder patch.

The only way this jersey could have been topped was if they incorporated a rat into it. Maybe a shoulder patch next time?

11. Tampa Bay Lightning

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2020 meet 2004. The 2004 Stanley Cup champion jersey gets an upgrade to today’s Lightning colors. Crisp, clean and with solid lines, this jersey has and will always be perfect. But, it does leave one with another head scratcher: Why did they ever get rid of that amazing logo?

10. Calgary Flames

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What’s old is young and fresh agan. Not only are the Flames going retro with their home and away sweaters in 2020-21, but Blasty is back, baby. 

Originally an alternate jersey in 1998, it became the team’s home sweater from 2000-03 and was the one Hall of Famer (when he’s officially inducted in 2021) Jarome Iginla sported when he won the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophies in 2002. The iconic flaming horse is a tip of the cowboy hat to the Calgary Stampede and is a simple, yet perfect, logo.

9. Winnipeg Jets

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A great pairing of old and new, this Jets jersey — akin to the old school Winnipeg team’s design — is sleek and refined. It takes us back to Jets 1.0 and the team’s first year in 1979 by showcasing that beautiful old logo of the original franchise in Jets 2.0’s color scheme. Classic.

8. New Jersey Devils

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It’s Christmas in November! Sorry, had to say it. Originally these jerseys were primarily red with green trim but, honestly, these should be the Devils’ jerseys all the time. End of story.

7. Carolina Hurricanes

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Anything vintage Whalers — including adorable whale shoulder patches and the smartest logo in all of sports (if you don’t see thh H and the W, you do now — is always going to rank high. The gray is the only color shared by both the Hurricanes and the Whalers and is a nice touch to mix in the original team with today’s bunch of jerks.

6. Los Angeles Kings

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Purple is the color of kings and it’s only befitting that L.A. used it when reversing to 1989, aka when Wayne Gretzky became the NHL’s all-time scoring king. Of course, “The Great One” wore silver and black during his time on the West Coast when he accomplished the feat but this is one of the best color combinations, along with the logo he did wear, in the history of the game so it all comes together perfectly. 

5. Chicago Blackhawks

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The oldest throwback in the group, Chicago reversed it all the way back to 1940 and the secondary white jersey the team wore when they didn’t sport their barber pole-striped style worn from 1937-1955. This jersey is so clean-cut it’s a perfect complement to todays sweaers as well as it’s been a few years since the Blackhawks had a black jersey.

4. New York Rangers

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A fan favorite, the “Statue of Liberty” jersey makes a return to New York after its debut 24 years ago. Now in a bolder blue, a deeper red and less splash on the sleeve, this classic looks modern and stylish and is just a good-looking jersey. Personally would have loved to have seen the Rangers go backt to the Phil Esposito-era jerseys, but this is always a solid choice to bring back.

3. Montreal Canadiens

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An absolute beauty.

The Candians always have one of the best jerseys in the game and this one is right up there. This version pays tribute to the 1977 Stanley Cup team that captured the club’s 19th championship. That team included the likes of Bob Gainey, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay and Peter Mahovlich — all Hall of Famers.

2. Colorado Avalanche

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A Nordiques jersey? In Avalanche colors? Wih the igloo logo and fleur-de-lis? In snowy white because, well, Quebec and Colorado get a lot of snow? Yes. All day, yes. It’s gorgeous.

1. Minnesota Wild

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Let’s get Wild! Minnesota didn’t have much to throw it back to — they’ve only had two alternates and have made subtle tweaks to the general design for their home and aways — but the organization hit it out of the park with this one.

While the North Stars are technically now in Dallas, they’re still beloved in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and it was incredibly smart for the state’s current favorite NHL team to take the old green and gold and use it in the Wild’s current jersey set-up. To be honest, the creativity of taking their own logo and using the North Stars colors, is the only reason it beat out the Avalanche’s look.

This jersey is sleek and sharp and proves you don’t need a thousand colors to make a sweater look fantastic.

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