Jersey Longevity: Hockey sweaters for the ages

A week ago I used this space to talk about teams that should make immediate and sweeping changes to their uniforms. So I figured the other side of that coin is a discussion about teams that should never change.

It didn't take long for me to realize what you're already thinking — the Original Six teams, of course. They're the untouchables of the NHL. Why mess with decades of tradition?

We can argue pointlessly about whether the uniforms of the Original Six are "good designs," but the fact is that simply by virtue of their longevity, they are permanently ingrained in every hockey fan. But what do I mean by longevity? Let's take a look at the numbers.

It should come as no surprise that the oldest sweater currently in use in the NHL — at the advanced age of 97 — belongs to the Montreal Canadiens.

As the NHL's oldest franchise, the Habs are known for their red sweater with the storied CH centered forever on that blue stripe straight across the middle. The design has changed very little since the first NHL season in 1917. And in truth, it's the only NHL jersey that's actually older than the NHL itself.

The white Canadiens jersey we see today was first used in 1941.

At 82 years and counting, the oldest American NHL uniform is worn by the Detroit Red Wings. This franchise has essentially been using the same red sweater with minimal white striping since its name was changed from Falcons way back in 1932.

The original incarnation of the current white sweater came a few decades later in 1961.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have made tweaks and alterations to their uniforms somewhat frequently over the years. But the home and road sweaters they wear today find their origins in 1937 — making them 77 years old.

Their third jersey, as we know, is based on a design first used in 1967. It lasted only a few seasons before the current crest design was introduced.

From their very beginning in 1926, the New York Rangers have worn diagonal letters across their chest. But the style we see today first came about in 1941.

Unfortunately, that 73-year run was interrupted. In 1976, the Rangers experimented with a shield crest for a couple of seasons. It was a disaster — the Isles fisherman of its time.

The Rangers' white jersey debuted in 1951 and, apart from that misstep in the '70s, has remained largely unchanged.

When it comes to ranking NHL uniforms, one of the perennial favorites is that of the Chicago Blackhawks. But unlike some of their brethren, it took them a few decades to find their identity.

The red jersey we see on the ice today will soon turn 60. Prior to 1955, the Hawks wore a lot of black with a lot of red stripes. But once they went red, they've only ever gone back for special event and alternate jerseys.


The Boston Bruins became the NHL's first American team in 1924. But the 90-year-old franchise has, by far, the youngest jerseys in the Original Six group.

The Bruins have made change after change over the years — both big and small. Their current logo and uniforms were created in 2007. But in fairness, they're little more than a modernization of designs that date back to the 1950s.

Still, the Bruins bring down the average age of the Original Six uniforms to about 66. Without the modern B's jerseys, the other five average about 78 years of age. Those are some old hockey sweaters.

For my next entry in this series, I'll go back to my original premise — the five NHL jerseys that should not change. But this time I'll take the Original Six out of the equation. That'll make it more of a challenge.