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NHL’s Reverse Retro jerseys — Where does the Canucks’ green-and-blue gradient rank?

The NHL revealed all 31 Reverse Retro jerseys, so let's rank the good, bad, and the ugly, as well as the so-ugly-it's-good.
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The Vancouver Canucks' new Retro Reverse jersey brings back the gradient. photo: Canucks / Twitter

With the 2020-21 NHL season delayed by at least three months, the league needed to do something to stay in the news and create some excitement, or at least maintain some sort of interest.

They accomplished that with the release of “Reverse Retro” jerseys for all 31 teams. They teased the jerseys last week after a month of leaks and rumours, then officially announced the new jerseys on Monday morning. 

The “throwbacks with a twist” bring back a jersey from each team’s past, but incorporate a different colour scheme and other changed elements to make each jersey unique. It’s unclear at this point how often each team will wear these jerseys in the coming season — it’s rumoured they will be worn infrequently and likely while their opponents are also wearing their Reverse Retro jersey.

Part of the appeal of these jerseys is that, as one-offs that won’t be worn very often, teams could have fun with the concept and bring back an unusual or particularly nostalgic jersey. Some teams embraced the concept, while others played it safe.

As expected, the Canucks went fairly recent for their “throwback,” making many Millenials feel very old — since when are the early 2000’s retro? — bringing back the gradient third jersey that originally debuted in 2001. The twist is that the jersey uses green instead of maroon, with the gradient giving it a certain shimmer as it transitions to the darker, navy blue at the top.

Overall, the jersey looks pretty good, though the lighter blue outline on the orca logo looks a little out-of-place against the darker blue of the jersey. But where does the Canucks’ Reverse Retro jersey rank against the other 30 teams?

I counted the jerseys down from best to worst, ranking them in tiers. Like Drake, we’re going to start from the bottom. 

The Boring and Sad

31 | Detroit Red Wings

There's a lot wrong here. This looks like a straight-up practice jersey — plain white with the only "reverse" element a silver band around the arms and waist instead of red — which is frustrating because the Red Wings have a long history to pull from.

Part of the problem is they have already been involved in four different outdoor games that used retro looks from the past, so it's understandable that they wouldn't want to repeat a jersey they've done relatively recently. Still, they could've gone back to their original illustrated "D" logo from when they were the Detroit Cougars and simply reversed the colours for a nice, primarily-red jersey. That would be different enough.

Alternatively, they could have embraced the concept and brought back the utterly bizarre Cougar logo from their 1928-29 season. Anything would have been better than the decidedly blah design they landed on.

30 | Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs have never had a blue leaf on a blue jersey. That's the twist. That's it.

Turns out, it's for a good reason. It looks bad. Given an opportunity to do something fun and different, the Leafs made a bad, bland, and boring jersey.

They had other options. They could've made a St. Pats jersey in blue and white. They could've switched up the colours on their jersey from the 30's with multi-striped sleeves. They could've made a white version of the Toronto Arenas jersey from 1918. But they didn't do any of those things. 

29 | New York Islanders

This is just the current Islanders jersey in a darker shade of blue. Did they not get the memo? It seems like they procrastinated all summer and then had to submit something last minute. It's the "cup of dirt" of hockey jerseys. 

Is it a bad jersey? No, because the Islanders have a nice jersey. It's just the pure laziness and lack of effort and creativity that stings here, particularly when they had the opportunity to bring back the most gonzo jersey in their history: the "Fisherman" logo from the late 90’s, complete with wavy stripes along the bottom and askew name and number on the back.

Embed from Getty Images

The fisherman jersey has experienced a resurgence in popularity of late due to nostalgia and a new appreciation for kitsch. This was a perfect chance for the Islanders to bring that logo and jersey back for one more fling, sell a boatload of jerseys, and then once again relegate it to the past.

Just Plain Bad

28 | Winnipeg Jets

I understand the idea of taking the old-school Jets jersey and redoing it with modern-day Jets colours, but when that results in a boring, slate-grey jersey, you've gone astray. This would've been a good opportunity to use the light blue accent colour of their current jerseys as a primary colour.

27 | Dallas Stars

No. Absolutely not. What are you doing?

The Stars' late 90's and early 2000's jersey with its unique star-shaped striping is a classic jersey design unique to the team. It's the jersey they were wearing when they hoisted their first Stanley Cup in 1999. It made perfect sense to bring it back for the Reverse Retro series, but they butchered it by making the whole thing white instead of using a different colour for the bottom of the jersey. On top of that, the "Stars" wordmark element of the logo doesn't stand out enough from the white of the jersey.

I can only imagine how bland these will look on a white ice surface.

26 | Chicago Blackhawks

Something about the old Blackhawks logo just rubs the wrong way. Placing it on what appears to be a surplus Carolina Hurricanes jersey certainly doesn’t help. 

What made the rollout of the Blackhawks Reverse Retro jersey particularly uncomfortable is how the NHL seemed well aware of how controversial this particular logo is. It was the only picture that didn't show the front of the jersey in the NHL's announcement and even the Blackhawks initial video only flashed the front of the jersey for a fraction of a second.

It's not a good sign when even the team seems ashamed of the front of their jersey.

25 | Pittsburgh Penguins

I have never been a fan of the diagonal wordmark on an NHL jersey, not even on a "classic" jersey like that of the New York Rangers. At least with the Rangers it has decades of history and tradition: when other teams borrowing the diagonal wordmark design it just looks wrong.

The Colorado Avalanche had a diagonal wordmark jersey and it was bad. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes had diagonal nickname jerseys — "Bolts" and "Canes" — that were even worse.

This Penguins jersey has nostalgia attached to it because it was worn by a number of greats in the 90's, like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, but it's a bad jersey. Switching the black to white doesn't improve it and arguably makes it worse.

Merely Okay

24 | Buffalo Sabres

This should have been easy for the Sabres. The late 90's and early 2000's was the only time in their history they strayed from some sort of blue and yellow colour scheme, instead using black and red. Bringing back that buffalo head jersey in blue and yellow would have been a slam dunk.

They went with their third jersey from the same era with the secondary crossed-sabres logo and an odd, unnecessary "Buffalo" word mark in the stripes on the bottom. It doesn't look bad, necessarily, but it doesn't look amazing either and it's such a missed opportunity that it drops them down the rankings. 

23 | Columbus Blue Jackets

Bringing back the original logo is the right move, even if I've never been a huge fan. The real issue is that switching the main colour to red, in combination with a logo that features so many stars and a prominent hockey stick, makes this look like a Washington Capitals jersey. Whoops.

If the Capitals didn't exist, this jersey would be much higher on the list, as it's overall a decent look.

22 | Philadelphia Flyers

This Flyers jersey is fine, but it was never my favourite design from their history and it doesn't do anything fun with the Reverse Retro concept. The trouble is that the Flyers have basically had the same jerseys for their entire history, so they don't really have an unusual retro look to play with.

21 | Calgary Flames

A fan of the Calgary Flames would probably disagree with my ranking the Flames this low, but I’ve never been a fan of the flaming horse’s head logo, or "Blasty" as it's known to fans.

I'm doubly disappointed because it's yet another black jersey in a league that has far too many black jerseys to begin with. Hockey is one of the only sports that is played on a white canvas: let's paint that canvas with bright, vivid colours!

20 | Vegas Golden Knights 

The Golden Knights were in a tough situation: how do you do a retro jersey when you've only been in existence for three seasons? Their solution was pretty ingenious: give a nod to the hockey history in Vegas by bringing back a jersey design from Las Vegas Thunder, who played in the now-defunct International Hockey. League. 

Fun fact: Manon Rhéaume played for the Thunder, as did Pavol Demitra, Curtis Joseph, Petr Nedved, and Alexei Yashin. 

The jersey itself is fine, with some bold diagonal stripes borrowed from the Thunder, but that's a lot of red and I'm not sure the secondary logo works as a primary logo. This might have looked better with their primary knight's helmet logo.

19 | Tampa Bay Lightning

Don't get me wrong, I like the throwback to the 90's here, but it's missing something. Perhaps it's because the names on the back are in a bland, modern font rather than the retro-futuristic font used in the original jerseys from their first season or the curved namebars they used from 1995 to 2001. 

Alternatively, they could have embraced the chaos and brought back their utterly bizarre "storm" third jerseys they wore from 1996 to 1999. This is fine, but a bit safe.

18 | New York Rangers

I love that logo and I'm glad to see them bring it back for this Reverse Retro series — see my aforementioned hate for diagonal wordmarks — but this is missing some added pops of colour to make it stand out. A shoulder yoke would not go amiss or they could add some stripes along the bottom or a second colour on the bottom of the sleeves.

A Solid, Mid-Tier Jersey

17 |  Nashville Predators

This is a nice jersey. I like the Predators' modern yellow as opposed to the mustard yellow they once used, and it looks good on their original jerseys. And that's all I have to say about that.

16 | Florida Panthers

The original Panthers jerseys were among my favourites when I was younger and this update in navy blue looks great. The only flaw is that they're very similar to the darker Panthers jerseys they wore in the 2000's. That knocks it down several notches for lack of creativity, but I still like this look.

15 | Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens' jerseys have remained essentially unchanged since 1917 and there's nothing wrong with that. The only issue is that it makes this whole "Reverse Retro" concept a little bit challenging.

In my opinion, they did the best they could, switching up the blue and red, giving them the first primarily blue jersey in team history. The end result looks quite nice.

14 | Edmonton Oilers

This is a pretty sharp look, but they get knocked for a lack of originality. It's not too far from their current jerseys, just with slimmer stripes, and it's not too different from its inspiration: the classic jerseys the Oilers wore for around 25 years.

Still, the orange shoulder yoke on a white jersey is a new twist we haven't seen before, so that keeps it from sliding down the rankings any further.

13 | Boston Bruins

I'm happy to see a yellow jersey from the Bruins, a colour they haven't worn on a regular home or away sweater since the 60's. The Bruins get some oddball points for bringing back the insensitively-nicknamed “meth bear,” a secondary logo that made its debut in the late 70’s. They lose points for not making it the primary logo on the jersey for the first time in their history. 

Missed opportunity.

12 | Ottawa Senators 

I didn't like these jerseys at first glance, but on closer inspection, they're pretty clean and crisp. Many Senators fans are happy the team is bringing back the original 2D logo for next season and this Reverse Retro jersey keeps the nostalgia going with a take on the team's inaugural jerseys with red as the main colour instead of white or black. It's simple, but it works.

11 | San Jose Sharks

I'm not typically a fan of grey jerseys, but something about this just clicks. Maybe it's because sharks are grey, so it brings to mind the smooth skin of a great white. Maybe it's because they retain strong design elements with the curved sleeves, a unique element pulled from their 2000's era jerseys, and their bold teal colours.

It could just be nostalgia triggered by the original Sharks logo.

10 | Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks’ blue-and-green take on their early-2000’s gradient jersey looks good and it'll probably look very nice on the ice. But...

It's hard to shake the feeling that they could have gone a little wilder with the Reverse Retro concept. A blue-and-green flying-V jersey or a Johnny Canuck jersey really could have bumped the Canucks up a level.

Still, it's a nice jersey and sneaks into my top-10.

Mad Lads

9 | St. Louis Blues

A primarily red jersey for a team named the Blues? Reviving the weirdest jersey design in Blues history, non-trumpet edition? Embracing the whole look, including the weirdly diagonal baseline for the numbers on the back?

This is madness and that's what I appreciates about this jersey. 

8 | Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes’ late-90’s third jersey, with just the head of the classic kachina logo and a surreal desert landscape along the bottom, is arguably their worst jersey. Bringing it back and changing the main colour to purple, a colour previously only seen in the dark of the moon on their shoulder patch? Pure insanity.

Is it a good jersey? Oh lord no. Is it fun and wild? Will it be a hoot to see on the ice? Absolutely. 

7 | Anaheim Ducks

You may hate this jersey, but you have to respect that the Ducks didn't shy away from the ugliest jersey in their history. This is what the Islanders should have done with the fisherman jersey: embraced it with sheer confidence and chutzpah, just asking the hockey world to hate it and not caring if they did.

This is exactly what the Reverse Retro series was made for and the only thing keeping it from being higher on the list is that it really is quite ugly. But sometimes ugly works.

Pure Nostalgia

6 | Colorado Avalanche

5 | Carolina Hurricanes

4 | Minnesota Wild

All of these jerseys are essentially the same idea: taking the colours and design of a team that isn't actually them: the Avalanche are not the Quebec Nordiques, the Hurricanes are not the Hartford Whalers, and the Wild are not the Minnesota North Stars.

Still, there's something wonderfully nostalgic about seeing those old logos and designs, even if it's somewhat controversial for hockey fans in Quebec City and Hartford who want their teams back. 

The Nordiques logo looks surprisingly good in Avalanche maroon and I'm a sucker for the Whalers logo and its brilliant use of negative space. In my books, however, the Wild nail the throwback look the best. They don't have the rights to the North Stars' logo, so they instead used the green and yellow on their main logo and it really sings. It's not a jersey they should wear all the time, but it's perfect for the Reverse Retro theme.

Hold Up, That’s Actually a Good Jersey

3 | New Jersey Devils

This is such a great retro look that when you first see it you could swear that the Devils have already worn this exact jersey in the past and they didn't change anything. But the Devils have never actually worn green as the main colour on a jersey before, even if they used to wear green pants.

There's nothing fancy happening here, just a great jersey in an uncommon colour and I like it.

2 | Capitals

The Capitals embraced the Reverse Retro concept, throwing back to the 90's, the only time in their history they didn't have the modified "Capitals" wordmark as their main logo. The "screaming eagle" is big and bold, while the diagonal striping screams the 90's. 

The eagle jerseys were a weird light blue, a colour that didn't connect with their history. Updating that look with a bright red and dark, navy blue really brings this jersey together. 

1 | Los Angeles Kings

To me, the Kings absolutely nailed the entire Reverse Retro concept. Instead of just taking an old jersey and remaking it in modern colours, they mashed up two classic jerseys to make something fantastic. 

The design is the classic 90's Kings jersey made famous by Wayne Gretzky. The colours are royal purple and gold from the Marcel Dionne era. Together, they look gorgeous. It's simultaneously vintage and retro, while also fresh and exciting. The NHL needs more bold colours and this jersey really delivers.


What do you think? Did the Canucks nail the Reverse Retro challenge? Which Reverse Retro jersey is your favourite?