The Carolina Hurricanes have been, by and large, relatively blessed in the uniform department. There have been a few minor quibbles, to be sure, but nothing that really sent the fanbase into full-scale revolt. Even the much-maligned Cooperalls that the Hartford Whalers donned in 1982-83 were not poorly designed per se; they just looked funny. (And, considering my hometown NBA team won a title in a Game 7 while literally wearing T-shirts, I’m not one to complain about odd fashion choices.)
Which leads us to a rather odd position to be in, as SBN Hockey has spent the month of December exploring the worst jerseys of all time: what do you do when your team has nothing that would even come close to cracking the list?
What else would you do: you turn into Statler and Waldorf and laugh at everyone else’s.
So, below, feast your eyes one man’s opinion of the worst jerseys of all time. The ground rules: they must have been selected by another SBN team site as their team’s worst jersey; if a team’s site didn’t participate, then any jersey from that team is fair game. Also, we’re only considering one jersey per franchise. (That means you’re off the hook, Jets third jerseys, thanks to your franchise’s...um, heritage.)
Not Considered: Islanders fisherman sweaters
Look, I know these are regulars on lists like this, but two things: one, there were much worse crimes against uniform design in the 1990s, and two, at least they tried to give the Islanders an identity. Their logo, before and after, is literally a map of Long Island. Imagine being, say, the Colorado Avalanche and your logo being a map of the state - which is, um, a rectangle. The only reason the Islanders get a pass on the geography lesson that graces the front of their sweaters is that they won four Stanley Cups in them (nearly 40 years ago). It’s fine, but it could be so much better.
Now, if you want to talk about the abomination that was putting the old-school logo on this design, without changing anything else, then I’ll listen. But the Gorton’s Fisherman jerseys deserve way more credit than they’re given.
Honorable Mention: Lightning “BOLTS” third jerseys, 2008-14
This is the one jersey where my rules got in the way of what would have easily been a top-three entry on the list, because Raw Charge had a different - and better, although not by much - variation on them on their worst-jerseys list. I hate everything about it, nothing moreso than the ridiculous “BOLTS” wordmark, which I said at the time looked like a hockey version of the OZ T-shirts worn by the guys who were re-stuffing the Scarecrow in the Emerald City.
Also, can we talk for a minute about how they have “Tampa Bay” plastered squarely on the players’ rear ends? This was a thing - Tyler Hansbrough-era UNC basketball uniforms featured the same design - but who in their right mind thought that they could give a proper salute to the metropolitan area by having its name featured prominently on the players’ keisters?
They were also clearly inspirational in the Canes’ current away jersey design, which many love but I am not among them. (Really, the wordmark is the only thing that I don’t like. The rest of the uniform is a big step up from the previous whites.) But these were where it started. A pox on them.
The inspiration for these predate the NHL itself, and maybe they should have been left there. In 2008-09 the Montreal Canadiens celebrated their centennial by unveiling a series of throwback uniforms. The whites were glorious, and later served as a template for the threads they wore in the 2016 Winter Classic. The reds were...well, they were fine, if a little bit of a color clash of blue-on-red, in much the same way that the colors on high school football uniforms don’t really take spectators and the media into account.
But these? Good heavens. When you have a consensus top-three jersey design of all time, one that has stayed essentially the same since the NHL was founded in 1917, it really takes some bluster to think you can improve on it at all. This takes it one step further. They were worn once and never seen again, and it doesn’t take 24 Stanley Cup rings to figure out why.
4. The Blackhawks Go Full Oakland Raiders
Scene: Adidas jersey design headquarters, early 2019.
Creative director: “So, we have the Blackhawks...again. We’ve done just about everything we could with them. What else is left?”
Designer: “Well, we could just go all black. I mean, Gretzky made the early-90s Kings look decent in an all-black getup.”
Creative director: “Yeah, but the event logo is green. Shouldn’t we have some tie in to that?”
January 27, 1996 might just have marked Peak ‘90s NHL. In a nationally-televised game featuring the infamous FOX glow puck, the Los Angeles Kings and then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim unveiled dueling third jerseys. The Ducks had one of the great meta-uniforms of all time, with the uniform crest featuring team mascot Wild Wing jumping out of the ice while wearing the team’s actual uniform. It was hokey, yes, but it was also...dare I say, inventive?
The Kings had...this.
You can understand why it’s called the Burger King jersey. (And special shoutout to Darius Rucker, whose timeless ode to the Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch sandwich was clearly inspired by this jersey.) What the picture above doesn’t show is the back, which features a font from a rejected New Orleans Mardi Gras parade costume. Come to think of it, the front would also fit right in on Bourbon Street, in more ways than one, none moreso than this being a world-class flop of an idea that could only be dreamed up after a night of imbibing.
Have it your way, indeed.
2. The Atlanta Thrashers Forget What Sport They’re Playing
Really, any Thrashers jersey would be right at home on this list. The whites weren’t terrible, I guess, but we’ll skip over the powder blues and the weird thunderbird-looking thing on the front of the original dark jerseys and land squarely on these, which looked like something a middle-schooler dreamed up on a video game uniform generator and pasted to their Geocities page.
And somehow, these persisted for three full seasons, right up to the day the Thrashers skipped town for Winnipeg. I don’t know what’s worse: the Thrashers wordmark arched over the number, the number itself, or the way-too-big bird heads on the shoulders. Any of those design choices would have been enough by itself to land on this list. All three together is a jersey-design perfecta.
The Stars tried something similar, which also largely didn’t work, but at least they featured the city prominently and downplayed the number. But this? There’s probably someone in Atlanta right now playing pickup basketball wearing a variation on these with the sleeves cut off, and ya know what? It probably looks like a damn sharp basketball jersey. But it has no business being on a rink.
Also, Chris Chelios played seven games with the Thrashers, yet we have photographic proof of him wearing this jersey. Impressive.
1. The Mooterus
Someone actually thought this was a good idea. Someone actually thought that people would purchase a jersey where the crest is a stylized rendition of the female reproductive anatomy. Someone signed off on this. Someone persuaded a team that had won the Stanley Cup four years prior to wear this.
There were many someones involved in this abomination, and every one of them was out of their ever-lovin’ mind.
Honestly, it doesn’t even matter what the rest of the jersey looks like. It could be really sharp - and, in fact, it is. The color palette is nice. The back is traditional, no weird angles or italicized numbers or anything like that. In every way it’s a pleasant jersey, except one.
But boy, that one is a real one.
It might be years before something eclipses the Mooterus. Maybe in 2093 the Stars, wherever they may be by then (Dallas? Helsinki? The moon?), will bring back a throwback design for a centennial reunion, Canadiens-style, whereupon it will likely hold second place to the original and still undefeated worst jersey in NHL history.