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BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: Reverse Ranking the Reverse Retros

Friday, November 20th
BIRD'S-EYE VIEW: Reverse Ranking the Reverse Retros

BIRD’S-EYE VIEW:  Reverse Ranking the Reverse Retros

Blog #28 – November 20, 2020

by John Peterson

Can we all agree, by now, that 2020 has been nothing short of a dumpster fire?

The news is full of doom and gloom, we’re nine months into a serious public health struggle, and sometimes it feels hard to find light at the end of the tunnel.

So when the National Hockey League unveiled the new adidas Reverse Retro jerseys for all 31 of its teams, the timing felt a little forced, confusing and borderline tone deaf. I mean, the league doesn’t even have a concrete plan to return to play yet and many are starting to wonder if or when that might be.

In the days following Monday’s announcement, however, I’ve changed my tune. Maybe we needed a nice little reprieve from the negativity to cheer us up. The more I think about these Reverse Retro jerseys, the more I like them.

Well, most of them. Some completely missed the mark.

By the time I finally decided to have some fun and rank these jerseys in a blog, several prominent media outlets had already beat me to the punch. Apparently quite a few other sports media professionals had the same idea. We could all use something light to distract us from the news.

So I decided to take a different approach. I took the average placement of each team’s jersey through rankings published by The Athletic, NBC, CBS, Sports Illustrated, MLive, The Sporting News and SB Nation. This should provide a glimpse into the public opinion of how some of these Reverse Retro jerseys turned out.

The final reverse ranking does not factor in my personal ranking, but for fun I included my personal rank for each team at the bottom. Let’s get started with the worst first.

31. DETROIT RED WINGS

Sorry Wings fans, but this was as close to unanimous as seven publications can get. Six of the seven ranked Detroit’s boring concept 30th or 31st, and I agree with them. The most common critique I’ve seen is the Red Wings’ sweater looks like a practice jersey. To me, the gray stripe is the cherry on top of an overall swing and a miss. Sports Illustrated described it perfectly: “It’s almost like they forgot about this until yesterday.”

Highest Ranking:  28 (MLive)

Lowest Ranking:  31 (CBS, NBC, Sports Illustrated)

JP’s Ranking:  31

30. NEW YORK ISLANDERS

This one is complicated, from my perspective. The jersey itself doesn’t bother me. It is clean, crisp and looks fine. But what did they do to it? The Islanders had an opportunity to do something creative with their color scheme and logos (yes, even the once hideous Fisherman logo), but they just phoned it in. It’s almost as if the decision makers said, “Well, our current jersey looks almost exactly like our classics from the 1980s, so let’s just stick with it and call it retro.” Boring.

Highest Ranking:  24 (MLive, Sports Illustrated)

Lowest Ranking:  31 (The Athletic, SB Nation)

JP’s Ranking:  23

29. DALLAS STARS

This is another concept that missed the mark completely. Unlike the Islanders’ design, at least the effort was there in Dallas. They attempted to recreate the Stars’ look from their 1999 Stanley Cup year, but ruined it with the all-white design. Part of the reason most seem to despise this look is Dallas already revealed an alternate jersey this season, a futuristic design featuring a healthy blast of neon green. The only thing saving this icy monstrosity from last place is the Red Wings' morning skate mistake and Long Island’s lack of effort.

Highest Ranking:  18 (NBC)

Lowest Ranking:  30 (MLive, Sports Illustrated)

JP’s Ranking:  29

28. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

Fair or unfair, the Golden Knights franchise has only been around for three seasons. How “retro” can you get? To Vegas’ credit, their intention was to pay homage to the International Hockey League’s Las Vegas Thunder of the mid-1990s, who were one of the pro hockey franchises who preceded the Golden Knights in Sin City. Most of the publications used for this blog’s research don’t hate the jersey, but the main knock seems to be the use of the team’s secondary logo on the crest. It belongs on the shoulders.

Highest Ranking:  14 (NBC, SB Nation)

Lowest Ranking:  31 (Sporting News)

JP’s Ranking:  26

27. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

The Original Six teams all had the biggest challenge, given their histories and general interest in sticking to a classic look. While Detroit took that too literally and didn’t do enough to make their Reverse Retro jersey interesting, I’d argue Toronto did too much. Two different media outlets pointed out the Maple Leafs logo is way too big. I agree and I’ll take it a step further: these jerseys look cartoony.

Highest Ranking:  11  (Sports Illustrated)

Lowest Ranking:  30 (CBS)

JP’s Ranking:  28

26. WINNIPEG JETS

Let me start by saying this: I like these jerseys and think the critics were too hard on the Jets. They combined a retro logo from their inaugural 1979-80 season and incorporated a modern, unique color scheme. The majority of the negative comments had to do with the slate primary color. I like it. It’s different. The one negative thing I’ll say is Winnipeg missed an opportunity to honor where this current franchise came from: the Atlanta Thrashers. That’s what Colorado, Carolina and Minnesota did, to an extent. You’ll see all three of those teams much further down this list.

Highest Ranking:  9  (Sporting News)

Lowest Ranking:  30  (NBC)

JP’s Ranking:  10

25. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Here’s where I start to differ from some of the consensus rankings. I actually think the Flyers did a nice job taking a classic look, loud colors and a boring primary logo, and putting a nice spin on it. Orange was the only way to go, in my opinion and I don’t hate the sleeves as much as some of the other publications do.

Highest Ranking:  12  (MLive)

Lowest Ranking:  26  (The Athletic)

JP’s Ranking:  17

24. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

There wasn’t a single review that said these jerseys were a big hit. Most thought it was so-so, a mix of honoring the 1999 Predators with the silver shoulders and the logo on the front. While I don’t hate it, this Reverse Retro sweater doesn’t inspire me to buy it over any of Nashville’s current regular jersey options. Some seemed offended by the amount of mustard yellow, but come on. That’s their identity. I have no problem with the gold.

Highest Ranking:  15  (MLive, Sporting News)

Lowest Ranking:  29  (NBC)

JP’s Ranking:  22

23. OTTAWA SENATORS

Earlier this summer, the Senators rebranded back to their early days. Ottawa used that 1992 theme to incorporate a red retro jersey that perfectly fits in with the team’s changes. It works almost like a natural third jersey. With that being said, I don’t think this Senators jersey is a slam dunk. It’s a lot of red. But it doesn’t drop the ball like some of the other Reverse Retro jerseys we’ve already covered.

Highest Ranking:  13  (CBS)

Lowest Ranking:  27  (MLive, SB Nation)

JP’s Ranking:  9

22. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The knock on these jerseys is they don’t move the needle. Many of the comments focused on the "Pittsburgh" lettering, wishing for more of a “Robocop” Penguin look. I don’t have a problem with the lettering. It’s a nice change of pace, throwing it back to the 1997 days when Mario Lemieux continued his dominance for the Penguins. I probably would’ve flipped the primary white color for a gold or a black base, but it’s sharp.

Highest Ranking:  5  (SB Nation)

Lowest Ranking:  29  (Sporting News)

JP’s Ranking:  19

21. ANAHEIM DUCKS

Nope. No way. As much as I prefer Anaheim’s “Mighty Ducks” color scheme over the current blend, this Reverse Retro disaster is the most egregious of the entire lot. The only reason it’s this far down the list is SB Nation ranked it fourth best, weighing down the majority of the other publications’ critiques. While some find it “fun” or “fan-friendly”, I think this monstrosity the only one of the 31 jerseys that looks like a minor league specialty jersey that went awry.

Highest Ranking:  4  (SB Nation)

Lowest Ranking:  31 (MLive)

JP’s Ranking:  30

20. SAN JOSE SHARKS

The Sharks rarely have a bad jersey. Their color scheme is awesome and I love the logo. But Black and Teal are the two safest options for a primary color. Not gray. I realize I sound like a hypocrite, given my praise for the Jets’ slate jersey, but there’s just something missing here. I do like San Jose’s angled stripes on the sleeves, but this looks more like a retro hoodie you could buy at the team store than an actual jersey.

Highest Ranking:  10  (The Athletic)

Lowest Ranking:  28  (NBC)

JP’s Ranking:  24

19. VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The K-Wings’ NHL affiliate took a 2001 hideous red and blue gradient jersey and made it much better with the team’s current color scheme. Vancouver is the only team to go with a gradient look for their Reverse Retro jersey and I think it works. My only qualm is the Canucks went with the orca logo instead of any of the other options the franchise is known for, including the 1990s skate logo (revamped in Kalamazoo’s 2019-20 Fan-Designed Jersey Contest winner.)

Highest Ranking:  9  (CBS)

Lowest Ranking:  28  (Sports Illustrated)

JP’s Ranking:  25

18. BUFFALO SABRES

The more I look at this remake of the Sabres 2000 third jersey, the more I like it. I have some problems with it as well, but overall, it’s a decent effort. My first problem is consistent with the most common concern of the other columnists in their rankings: the awful “Buffalo” text on the bottom stripe needs to go. It didn’t work in 2000. It doesn’t work now. But the current Sabres color scheme on a white jersey makes it tolerable.

Highest Ranking:  16  (Sports Illustrated)

Lowest Ranking:  22 (MLive)

JP’s Ranking:  18

17. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Overall, Chicago’s jersey is clean, easy on the eyes, and almost looks like something they’d wear in one of their annual outdoor games. With that being said, I think it’s a boring design overall and I would’ve ranked it much lower than the middle-of-the road consensus from the other media outlets. This was arguably the most polarizing jersey for a number of reasons, but it was the only one of the 31 jerseys that the NHL revealed using a picture of the back of the jersey. I’ll let you figure out why.

Highest Ranking:  5  (Sporting News)

Lowest Ranking:  26  (CBS)

JP’s Ranking:  27

16. ST. LOUIS BLUES

This is another one of the most polarizing Reverse Retro jerseys, but for different reasons than Chicago’s. The Blues took a mid-90s classic, which many fans had been clamoring for and flipped the colors around to make the red more prominent. I’m a fan, but it’s not perfect. This jersey brings me back to the days of Brett Hull and Al McInnis and is one of my all-time favorite Blues designs. But the red is a bit overwhelming in the grand scheme of things.

Highest Ranking:  3  (CBS)

Lowest Ranking:  29 (MLive)

JP’s Ranking:  14

15. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Let’s go from one bold red example to another. The Blue Jackets landed in the middle of the ranks, and deservedly so. I love the fact that Columbus brought back their original logo and balanced out the red with their other two colors. But the shoulders and sleeves are too white and became a little bit distracting. Overall, they were close with this design, but it left me wanting more…or less.

Highest Ranking:  7  (Sports Illustrated)

Lowest Ranking:  25  (CBS)

JP’s Ranking:  15

14. BOSTON BRUINS

I don’t mind the gold. I don’t mind the stripes. It’s clean and not too gimmicky. But if you’re going to go gold, you absolutely have to plant the old Pooh Bear logo smack dab on the front. That seemed to be a common point of contention with this design from the other nostalgic hockey fans like myself. It’s good, but it’s not great, which is why the Bruins land right in the middle of the pack.

Highest Ranking:  7  (MLive)

Lowest Ranking:  24  (SB Nation)

JP’s Ranking:  21

13. CALGARY FLAMES

I’ll admit I never used to like this horse head alternate logo the Flames wore back in the late-90s and early 2000s. But I’m beginning to. I’m picturing Jerome Iginla buzzing around and Mikka Kiprusoff rocking one of these between the pipes and it takes me back to some great rivalries involving Calgary during that era. This was another opportunity to honor the history of the Flames moving from Atlanta, but if anybody gets a pass, Calgary does before Winnipeg does.

Highest Ranking:  9  (The Athletic)

Lowest Ranking:  29  (Sports Illustrated)

JP’s Ranking:  8

12. WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Here’s another example of a heavy red jersey that is good, but not great. The screaming eagle logo works perfectly with the diagonal stripe. The red, white and blue color combination was definitely the way to go, but there still feels like something is holding it back. It might be the font, the “Capitals” text across the bottom or the abundance of red. I’m not sure. Again, I like it. It’s a quality look, but it’s not elite.

Highest Ranking:  8 (NBC)

Lowest Ranking:  24 (Sporting News)

JP’s Ranking:  20

11. EDMONTON OILERS

This was the right move for a franchise without too many options to stray off the beaten path. Edmonton chose to flash back to their original 1979 look. The final product isn’t flashy, it doesn’t wow you, but it gets the job done. Some might even knock the effort, similar to the Islanders design. Here, I’ll give the Oilers bonus points for the orange shoulders and for choosing the better shade of blue. Had they gone the navy route, this would’ve scored much worse.

Highest Ranking:  5  (CBS, MLive)

Lowest Ranking:  20  (SB Nation)

JP’s Ranking:  12

10. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Tampa Bay received mostly positive reviews for this throwback to their first Stanley Cup in 2004. Consider me a fan. Bringing back the original logo and incorporating a little bit of black into the color scheme rounds out a nice retro uniform. The one issue I have isn’t the white shoulders, like some have griped about. It’s the bottom white stripe that is too thick. Knock that down in half and this is a Top-5 retro jersey.

Highest Ranking:  9  (SB Nation)

Lowest Ranking:  18 (Sports Illustrated)

JP’s Ranking:  11

9. NEW YORK RANGERS

The return of the Lady Liberty logo was a unanimous hit. The Rangers played it safe in the overall design and the color scheme works well with the popular classic logo. Here’s my issue. It feels like the designers just gave up after that. The stripes on the sleeves are pointlessly boring and the concept kind of like a knockoff long sleeve t-shirt one would find at a Target or Wal-Mart. It’s not a bad jersey, but the lack of creativity holds it back.

Highest Ranking:  4 (Sporting News)

Lowest Ranking:  23 (CBS)

JP’s Ranking:  16

8. FLORIDA PANTHERS

I’m glad the consensus for this jersey was that it deserved to be in the Top 10. I don’t have a negative thing to say about it. Is the Panthers jersey the best of the 31 teams? No. But Florida made all the right decisions with the tools they’ve been given since the team’s inception in the mid-90s. The leaping panther logo was the only way to go, quite honestly, and a navy blue base was the best choice. The red, white and gold trim compliments it perfectly.

Highest Ranking:  4 (CBS)

Lowest Ranking:  23 (Sports Illustrated)

JP’s Ranking:  5

7. MONTREAL CANADIENS

The winningest franchise in league history had a difficult task not to screw up a good thing. Montreal has had a consistent look for a long time, so they didn’t have very many options here. The majority of the reviews were positive, as the Canadiens received praise for reversing their traditional colors instead of re-inventing the wheel. It’s not my favorite, as it feels weird to see Montreal in that much blue, but I think the creators did a nice job respecting the team’s traditional design.

Highest Ranking:  3 (Sporting News)

Lowest Ranking:  26 (NBC)

JP’s Ranking:  13

6. CAROLINA HURRICANES

This isn’t the first time the Hurricanes honored their past by rocking old-school Hartford Whalers colors. Some think it’s out of respect for where they came from. Others acknowledged this decision is giving the fans what they want. A few questioned whether the Whalers references have run their course in Carolina. Are the Hurricanes rubbing it in Hartford’s face at this point? I don’t think so. It’s an iconic look and the Canes nailed the light gray base with the blue and green Whalers trim. Excellent.

Highest Ranking:  4 (The Athletic, MLive)

Lowest Ranking:  27 (CBS)

JP’s Ranking:  3

5. ARIZONA COYOTES

One thing Arizona sports teams consistently do well is design jerseys. The Coyotes went bold with this retro third jersey aligning with the Kachina theme the team recently brought back. The primary purple is loud, but I’m a Vikings fan. You think I don’t like purple? The color of the desert landscape blends nicely with the rest of the jersey, but is a little cartoony. This isn’t my absolute favorite, but it is right up there with the best.

Highest Ranking:  3 (SB Nation)

Lowest Ranking:  27 (Sporting News)

JP’s Ranking:  7

4. MINNESOTA WILD

My first reaction when I saw these North Stars themed throwbacks from my hometown team was: “meh”. It reminded me of a Subway commercial, which coincidentally one of my broadcasting peers echoed, as did the writer from SB Nation. However, the more I look at them, the more I love them. I want one for my jersey collection. Minnesota is the State of Hockey and the sport has always been hugely popular there, way before the Wild entered the picture in 2000. Since the Dallas Stars still haven’t recognized their roots by incorporating the North Stars’ color scheme, kudos to the Wild for knocking it out of the park.

Highest Ranking:  1 (CBS, Sporting News)

Lowest Ranking:  28 (SB Nation)

JP’s Ranking:  2

3. NEW JERSEY DEVILS

One of my immediate favorites. Everyone seems to agree that these will be big sellers one month before Christmas. That’s just smart marketing from the New Jersey Devils creative team. I’ve always been a fan of the Devils’ retro color scheme that incorporated green trim instead of the current black trim. Their reversal of the primary and secondary colors from their early 80s classics is extraordinary.

Highest Ranking:  2 (NBC)

Lowest Ranking:  11 (CBS)

JP’s Ranking:  6

2. LOS ANGELES KINGS

The Kings crushed it. I haven’t met anyone who dislikes what Los Angeles did for their retro design. The purple and gold color scheme seemed like a lock. It goes all the way back to the 1960s and 1970s Kings eras, while matching the colors that seem to represent the city, thanks in part to the history of the NBA’s Lakers. I also like the use of the logo made famous during the Wayne Gretzky tenure in L.A. These will be a big seller in Southern California (and beyond).

Highest Ranking:  1 (NBC)

Lowest Ranking:  6 (Sporting News)

JP’s Ranking:  4

1. COLORADO AVALANCHE

As close as this was, I’m confident in saying it wasn’t really that close. Colorado did the adidas Reverse Retro jerseys the best. Four of the seven publications picked the Avalanche jersey as their favorite and I agree. Up until now, Colorado had never worn a jersey honoring their former Quebec home. The Nordiques are well represented here, like the Whalers are in Carolina’s design and the North Stars are in Minnesota’s. It’s also subtle. The white background with the Avalanche colors makes this ode to the Nordiques classy and sharp. As a Wild season ticket holder to this day, it's a hard pill to swallow acknowledging an Avalanche victory. But I want one of these jerseys. I don’t think I’m allowed to accept gifts, but if I could....

Highest Ranking:  1 (The Athletic, MLive, Sports Illustrated, SB Nation)

Lowest Ranking:  8 (CBS)

JP’s Ranking:  1

Okay, so what are your favorites? Which ones missed the mark? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

--

Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson twice weekly. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to jpeterson@kwings.com. Enjoy!

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