(Editors Note: While Brian is well aware that in hockey circles they are called sweaters and not jerseys, he decided to call them jerseys because he’s not in any hockey circles)
Before we get this thing rolling, I just want to give a little background info on where exactly hockey resides in the sports Pangaea of my life, and the reasons behind it. Growing up, in the Chicago suburbs, hockey was basically non-existent. The general chatter about the sport was nothing more than a butterfly landing on a tree branch 10,000 miles away. I knew one, and only one, hockey fan from 6th grade until 12th grade. His name was Brad and he endured years of jokes and unoriginal one liners from everybody about how much hockey “sucked” or was “boring” or whatever not-very-clever negative adjective a teenager could come up with.
Brad was a very quiet kid, mostly kept to himself. Around 7th grade he started to kind of run with my crew and we had a lunchroom incident that basically gave the lunch supervisors no choice but to split us up. There were 8 of us and we all get separated in pairs and scattered throughout the lunch room, and because I’m Bad Luck Brian in the flesh, I got sent over by the kids who liked Korn and my two best friends got sent to the table where every single one of our girl friends sat. Cool. Well I got randomly paired with Brad, and we didn’t become best friends by any means, but we were pretty much forced to have some conversations, mostly about sports. It was through those small moments I had with him I came to the realization at the time that this is the only person I know in the entire world that loves hockey. The only one. It took me until freshman year of college to finally meet another person who shared that same love.
It wasn’t for no reason though. It had nothing to do with the sport, the Chicago Wolves of the AHL were always relevant thanks to super cheap tickets and the pocket schedules that I seemed to have 35 of every year growing up. I would say 1000% of it was the fact that they weren’t on TV. Not at all. It’s hard to overstate how Casper-esque the Blackhawks were in this city. Nobody had a jersey. Nobody knew the players. They were at the end of the sports section, right after last night’s girls high school basketball finals, and right before the college basketball betting lines.
Bill Wirtz owned the team from 1966 until 2007, blacking out all local coverage of Blackhawks games, making it almost impossible to actually see that there actually were hockey players playing these games.. His thought process was that if people were watching the game on TV they wouldn’t come to the games……….BIG OLE FACE PLAIN EMOJI.
So when Dollar Bill Wirtz died (RIP to the big homie) and his son Rocky took over the team, I’ll give you a million chances to guess what his first big move was, but I bet you’ll only need one. He finally lifted the ridiculously short-sighted blackout restrictions, and finally put the Hawks back on TV. And it all couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Led by young studs, Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane, all of a sudden the Blackhawks and a product people could jump all over. Young, non-threatening, good looking dudes leading the team, who seemed to really really like each other (like almost to a point that it got weird), and they all seemed to have really awesome names.
(List of awesome names on that first Blackhawks championship team: Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Bryan Bickell, John Madden, Anti Niemi, Adam Burish, and Patrick Sharp. All of those names are, for lack of a better term, super sweet athlete names that sound like they’re taken straight from sports movies.)
And all of Chicago ate it up, no what I really mean is, ALL of Chicago ate it up. It was the new hottest thing. Everyone’s been watching the same exact sports their entire lives, but two generations of Chicago sports fans turned into a child on Christmas with a brand new toy to play with. It was like it happened overnight, almost like a magic act. I imagine it happened the same way with the Nazi’s in Germany, except you know it’s hockey not genocide. Everybody had a Kane jersey, everybody had a winter hat with the indian head logo on it, and everyone was all of a sudden a hockey expert.
But you know who the only person I thought of that entire time? My old buddy Brad from Kerkstra Middle School. I hadn’t talked to him in years, but I knew he was the happiest 20 year old in Chicago at the time. I sincerely hope he watched it all happen with a huge smile on his face, wearing the jersey of whoever was the best Blackhawk in 1998, and a middle finger raised to everyone he went to school with. He’s the only one that gets any credit from me as feeling real plausible joy that year.
So in conclusion, no I’m not a hockey fan. I just can’t bring myself to manufacture a fake emotional connection to a team I’ve never cared about. I’ll watch a hockey game, and as a fan of sporting narratives, find something interesting to take from it. But I wouldn’t ever care enough to pay attention to the goings on of the NHL. But you know what I love, no matter the sport? Jerseys. I love everything about jerseys; color scheme, numbers, how they can change who the player to a fundamental level just by putting on a certain teams threads. So I wanted to switch it up, try throwing my witticisms at a sport I know very little about, and challenge myself a bit.
Before I did this I asked my two roommates, who are huge hockey fans, to rank their favorite jerseys 1-30. Just to get the pulse of two people who pay enough attention to have thought about this type of thing before. These rankings are based on the standard 2014 home and away jerseys, not taking alternate’s into consideration. So without further adieu…
30) Carolina Hurricanes – Let me make one thing clear, as a Wisconsin fan, I have a pretty solid emotional connection to red and white as a color scheme. I just have one question for whoever designed these. Is there a more boring possible red than whatever the hell that is? Of all the shades of red (and I’m partially color blind, so I don’t really know that many of them) you gotta pick the one that looks like spaghetti sauce left on the side of the pan from your pasta dinner three nights ago?
29) Winnipeg Jets – These jersey’s are disappointing to me for basically one reason, Curren$y. Curren$y, for those who aren’t down with the #JetLife, is a rapper from New Orleans whose saying/life motto/ad lib of “Jets fool” has always resonated with me. Jets is actually an acronym for “Just Experience That Shit”, which, to me, is as poetic as anything Bill Shakespeare ever spewed out. Unfortunately for me, I can’t stand the New York football Jets, and can’t possibly bring myself to rock anything with their logo. So when I hear there is going to be an NHL team named the Jets, I would finally being able to rep one of my favorite rappers/life mottos and sport some Winnipeg Jets gear. WRONG. It’s terrible, all of it. I went out and bought a New York Jets hat three days after I finally saw the logo. Great name, shitty execution
28)Nashville Predators – Yellow and blue never works as a color combination passed the high school level. According the the Predator’s official website, it’s gold and not yellow I’m sorry, I don’t care if National Color Naming Board (wait, you’ve never heard of that?) tells me it’s gold. THAT is yellow. I think a lot of times teams that have yellow in their color scheme, list it as gold just because that sounds 88% cooler.
27)Florida Panthers – The George Washington of the Mount Rushmore of irrelevant sports franchises (Florida Panthers, Buffalo Bills, Denver Nuggets, San Diego Padres), and their bland, ugly uniforms are a large reason why. Fun story NHL Player Killing an Animal Story Number One: in 1995 right winger Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the locker room with his hockey stick, then went on to score two goals that night. When word got out, the fans started throwing rubber rats onto the ice when the Panthers scored a goal. In the playoffs that year, the count of rats per game got up to 2,000. Why don’t they just change their name to the Florida Rubber Rats? Wouldn’t they immediately become the coolest team in hockey? I would 100% buy a Rubber Rats hat. Make their colors black and grey and boom, I just fixed the franchise.
26)Arizona Coyotes – I bet you didn’t know they changed their name to the Arizona Coyotes? Oh you did? Well you can call me Dilbert because I never got that memo. You know what that coyote is howling about? He’s shouting “WHY AM I PLAYING HOCKEY IN A LAND WHERE THERE IS NO ICE?!?!?!?”
25)Ottawa Senators – I don’t know about you, but I think it would be 83% better if they changed their logo to an old white guy in a 3,000 dollar suit your tax dollars paid for. What is with hockey jerseys and using bland, ugly reds, by the way? Just dull all around, from the logo down to the team name.
24)Columbus Blue Jackets – Don’t get me wrong, I love America. When I pop a pimple, the pus comes out red, white, and blue. But these are no good. There’s like a backwards original American Flag thing going on. According to their Wiki page, it’s a “stylized version of the state flag of Ohio” and “represents patriotism and Columbus’ status as the state capital”. Yeah, that just represents Columbus’ status as having no fashion sense.
23)Calgary Flames – New jerseys this year, where they took the old, semi-cool, flaming C logo, moved it over a tad and slapped the word Calgary where it used to be (in a font that look like it was chosen by the owner’s 13 year old daughter). Yet another example of the worst red possible being chosen. Why did only one NHL team get this one right? I’ll get to them later.
22)Buffalo Sabres – I made one promise to myself when I turned 16 years old. I told myself I would always, ALWAYS, write about hockey players killing animals when I find out about it. Fun NHL Player Killing and Animal Story Number 2: During Game 3 of the 1976 Finals there was an unusual heat in Buffalo and the arena had no air conditioning. This led to a heavy fog hanging over the ice for portions of the game. During a face-off Sabres Center Jim Lorentz swung at, and killed, a bat flying over the ice. I can’t confirm or deny that this led to Jim Lorentz becoming Batman, but let’s just say I had drinks with the right person one time.
21)Colorado Avalanche – The Avalanche current burgundy and “steel blue” (yeah ok) jersey are pretty similar to one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons ever. The one where Homer and Mr. Burns are stranded in a log cabin on a mountain, these jerseys are like the scene wehre every time they spoke the avalanche of snow falling on top of them got worse and worse. Like these jerseys, the more you talk about them the worse they get.