The annual tradition returns! As the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway, let's take our first look at what new sweaters could be coming to the NHL in 2018-19. It's JerseyWatch 2018!
I have to start by expressing some surprise at the lack of information leaking out of the NHL and its teams this year. Normally we have something solid to report by January or February. Here we are in April and there's still not much out there.
With that said, I'll admit that the majority of this first JerseyWatch of 2018 will be speculative. But it's not wild guessing so much as educated conjecture. So bear with me.
Let's start with the facts. What we know for sure is that third jerseys will be making a return to the NHL in the 2018-19 season after a one-year sabbatical. Adidas took over jersey production from Reebok last year and the NHL lightened their load by going third-less for 2017-18.
We're reliving the events of a decade ago, really. The same thing happened when Reebok first took over in 2007-08. Third jerseys returned after a one-year break in 2008-09. So we do have a little precedent on which to base some of the speculation that follows.
Of course not every team will have a third jersey in 2018-19, though many will. The last time around, 18 of 30 teams added third jerseys. A few were throwbacks and a few were brand new designs. Five of them even went on to be full-time home jerseys in the years that followed.
I expect more of the same in 2018. It's probably a safe bet that 15 to 20 of the 31 teams will have thirds next year. Some will be throwbacks, some will be new. But don't expect any of the standard home or road jerseys to change since they were just launched this season.
As of yet, there's been very little official information about forthcoming third jerseys. (Hence the speculation.) But there's still plenty to talk about.
The Ducks had one of my favorite third jerseys at the end of the Reebok Era — orange with the classic Mighty Ducks crest. And I don't think I'm alone in feeling that way. It'd be a crime if they didn't find a way to bring that back. It's too good to consign to the history books.
In 2014-15, Phoenix became Arizona but the Coyotes didn't want fans to think they were bailing on their relatively brief history. So they resurrected their original Kachina-style jersey and used it a handful of times in the following two seasons. It's been a big hit. You get the sense they might be looking to use it a little more often. Could a retro '90s look be their new third?
In 2016-17, the Bruins adopted their 2016 Winter Classic jersey after retiring a longtime third jersey. It was a bold throwback to the club's earliest days. I just wish they'd gone with the original brown instead of black. Still, it was a great alternate in 2016 and could be a great alternate in 2018.
But wait, there's more. The Bruins will visit Notre Dame next year for the 2019 NHL Winter Classic. There will almost surely be a special jersey in store for that game. Heck, maybe it should just be their St. Patrick's Day warm-up sweater!
After one of the poorest attempts at a third jersey since the 1990s — that gold on the front, navy on the back abomination — the Sabres have been somewhat gun shy when it comes to third jerseys since 2015. That said, they turn 50 years old in 2019-20, so maybe they'll wait and do something big for their big birthday.
From 2013 to 2016, the Flames had an interesting third with a western theme. They dropped it in 2016-17 in favor of a throwback that's proved to be quite popular with Calgary fans. If the Flames have a third next season, I can't imagine it being anything else.
The Hurricanes' storm flag jersey has been the stalwart of NHL alternates. In fact, Carolina was one of only three teams to use the same third jersey every year from 2008-09 to 2016-17. (I'll tell you who the others were later on in this post.) That third even survived the redesign of the team's primary uniforms in 2013. That's an incredible run for an alternate sweater. It would make perfect sense to see it return next year. Then again, it would also make sense to close the book on that one and start fresh. Could go either way in my mind.
It's been a long time since the Blackhawks had a regular third jersey. But they've had more than their share of special event sweaters — having participated in pretty much every Winter Classic and Stadium Series game since 2009. If the Hawks were inclined to sport an alternate next year, they'd have plenty of outdoor options to choose from. Plus, it's pretty difficult to design a new sweater for Chicago anyway, so a throwback is probably for the best.
And as I mentioned earlier, the Blackhawks will host Boston at Notre Dame for the 2019 NHL Winter Classic. There's sure to be a new sweater in the mix there.
When the Avalanche launched their most recent third jersey in 2015-16 — the Rockies-inspired look — they already seemed to have the Adizero template in mind. I'd be shocked if that sweater didn't find its way back into the league next year. That's just one of those obvious ones.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets' old third jersey was another one that had a long run, 2010 to 2017. And with that cannon on the chest, it was pretty popular with fans too. It should probably come back sooner than later. What else would you do for a Columbus third?
In 2013, the Stars debuted new logos and uniforms. They've still yet to have a third jersey in this era so I think the time has come. Dallas needs a black jersey with that Texas-shaped alternate logo. There's no reason to do anything else. And there's no reason to go without a third.
Detroit Red Wings
As one of a handful of teams that has never had a regular third jersey, the Red Wings simply don't need one. They're the Red Wings. Though they've racked up a few outdoor game jerseys over the last decade, I can't see a reason for Detroit to have a third next year.
It's been an interesting year for Edmonton. The new orange sweaters look positively brilliant. They follow the trend of brighter colors finally returning to an NHL that had become rather drab. And even as they embark on this new era, it's hard to deny a royal blue jersey should always be in Edmonton's arsenal. I wouldn't be surprised to see a throwback third next season.
Teams that undergo full logo and uniform redesigns, as the Panthers did in 2016, tend not to muddy the brand waters with third jerseys right away. The Stars have gone five years without one. The Jets, even longer at seven years. I anticipate Florida staying on the same track.
However, 2018-19 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Panthers, so maybe a throwback night is in order? That leaping cat belongs on the front of a Florida jersey — even if only occasionally.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings haven't had a true third jersey since they swapped their home and alternate uniforms in 2011. But they have flirted with those purple and gold throwbacks in recent years. It's been nice to see them on occasion, but they might be a little too garish for anything more than that. I'll tell you what I did like is that grey third jersey from their 50th anniversary in 2016-17. If they brought that back, it could well improve the overall set.
This one is a bit tricky. Minnesota finally returned to green jerseys full time this year, so bringing back the old one, with a wordmark no less, wouldn't make a ton of sense. And I wouldn't really want to see them in a red jersey again, even as a third. So it might be an unpopular opinion, but I don't really want to see the Wild have an alternate next year. They're doing just fine as is.
Like Detroit, the Canadiens are an untouchable Original Six club with no need for an alternate jersey. Still, I did enjoy the handful of throwbacks they brought out during their centennial season and wouldn't mind seeing them a little more often. So while I'm not advocating for a third in Montreal, I am hoping for a few throwback nights every now and then.
The Predators' new jerseys were a bit of a miss this year. The yellow ones were too yellow. And somehow so were the white ones. Of course their President's Trophy win this season proved success has no correlation to jersey design. Still, if a navy blue third jersey were a possibility next year, I wouldn't hate that.
New Jersey Devils
The other Adizero anomaly this season was in New Jersey. The oversized sleeve stripes compensating for the lack of waist stripes was facepalm moment for me. The Devils have had great jerseys for a long time, but they managed to make them just a little bit worse. It's hard to imagine what they'd do with a third so I don't expect they'll do anything right now.
New York Islanders
In 2015, the Islanders moved to Brooklyn and decided they needed the wardrobe to match. They added another black third jersey, designed more with a basketball team in mind than anything else. Now, going into 2018-19, the Isles are going back to the arena they left — sort of. For the next three years while they build a new arena, they'll split time between Barclays and the Coliseum. It's a bizarre arrangement, but Brooklyn just wasn't working out.
So what does all this have to do with a third jersey? Maybe nothing. But I do think they'll have one. This is a team that's all about alternates. Between 2008 and 2017, the Isles only played one season without a third jersey option. So I'd be surprised if they don't come up with something.
New York Rangers
The Rangers debuted a great "heritage" jersey in 2010 that they used all the way up to 2016-17. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see that one return. But then again, that Lady Liberty jersey could get one more shot at a comeback. It had a long run from 1996 to 2007. To be honest, that's all just wishful thinking, though. If two-thirds of the NHL go with third jerseys next year, my bet is that the Rangers will be in the third that goes without.
Here's an interesting one. It's been rumored for a while now that the Senators are ready to move on from their current branding, meaning not just new sweaters but new logos. But like I said earlier, I don't expect any home or road sweaters to change only a year in. So if the Sens are working on a new look, my guess is we won't see it for another couple of years.
Very little has changed over the years in terms of Flyers jerseys. They look largely the same today as they did when they first joined the NHL in 1967. But when you look back over their third jersey history, you notice a theme. They tend to either be black or based on an outdoor game jersey. Interestingly, the Flyers wore a black jersey last time they played outdoors — the 2017 Stadium Series in Pittsburgh. Maybe that jersey finds its way back?
UPDATE 4/12 · A couple of readers pointed out that last month at an event for season ticket holders, the Flyers confirmed that they will use that black jersey as their alternate next season. The first official news of the year!
While we're talking Stadium Series, the Flyers and Penguins will meet outdoors again next season, this time in Philly. So they should have at least one new sweater to wear next season for that reason alone. Speaking of Pittsburgh...
In 2014, the Pens brought back Pittsburgh gold as a third jersey. Two years later, it became their primary jersey. Finally. Now at last they can have fun with a third jersey. And they really should! The Penguins are one team that should come up with a new, wild and crazy alternate uniform. But maybe steer clear of powder blue this time. That's all I'm saying. That yellow Stadium Series jersey from 2016 was interesting, but probably best as a one-off.
San Jose Sharks
Remember when I talked about the Hurricanes using the same jersey for the entire era of Reebok third jerseys? Well the Sharks were one of the other teams to do it. "Black Armor" — as they nicknamed it at the 2008 launch — was worn in San Jose for almost a decade and, like Carolina's, even survived a 2013 reboot of the team's primary uniforms. But unlike the 'Canes, I don't see the Sharks bringing back the black third as it was. They seem to be in a good place creatively with the debut of some new secondary logos in 2016. One of those should inspire a completely new sweater.
UPDATE 4/12 · Came across a tweet with the Sharks president talking about the "yelling Shark" logo becoming more prominent next season and the fin logo (old shoulder patch) making a return. Guessing he's gotta be talking about a new third.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues launched a gorgeous third jersey in 2008 — the roundel featuring the Gateway Arch. It was a great look but they suddenly retired it 2016, perhaps thinking it had run its course. For that reason, I wouldn't expect them to bring it back next year. However, their Winter Classic jersey — a throwback to their original 1967 sweaters — could be the basis for sharp new alternate.
Tampa Bay Lightning
We've now reached my team. It's hard not to be a fan when I talk about Lightning jerseys, so I won't even try. Full disclosure: I'm desperate for them to get "BOLTS" off the chest. I really can't stand it. I call them the Bolts all the time. So do my friends. That's fine. But that doesn't mean it should be on the jersey. Phil Esposito said it best when I interviewed him last year: "If I wanted them to be called the Bolts, I would've called them the Bolts."
That being said, I do expect the Lightning to be in the third jersey mix next season. Whether or not they'll do something new is worthy of debate. But I think they should.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have only ever had two third jerseys and both were throwbacks. Like Detroit and Montreal, there's no reason to reinvent the wheel here. Toronto doesn't need a third jersey and probably won't have one. And with no outdoor games on their schedule next year, it could be a simple two-sweater season for them.
Like Carolina and San Jose, the Canucks remained faithful to their 2008 third jersey all the way up to 2016-17. The difference is theirs wasn't black. But the problem was that it was so similar to their primary home jersey, you might've had to look twice to notice which one they were wearing. But that modernized stick-in-rink crest really worked. I expect to see it return in some form in 2018-19 — though maybe on a green jersey to help differentiate it.
Beyond that, Vancouver could join Buffalo in celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019-20. Both clubs joined the league in 1970. However, the Canucks wore their 40th anniversary patch in 2010-11, so the 50th may end up being 2020-21 — the same season Seattle is scheduled to join the league. Just saying.
Vegas Golden Knights
Don't hold your breath on this one. As an expansion team, the Golden Knights are still getting us all used to their new branding. It'll probably be a few years before we see them dabble in third jerseys. There certainly won't be one next season. For reference, the last two expansion teams, Minnesota and Columbus, waited three years before launching alternate uniforms.
The Capitals made their Winter Classic debut in 2011 with a white 1970s throwback and they seem to have been happy with it ever since. They wore it for five years before switching to the red version — to make it more convenient to wear at home. Don't be surprised to see that red throwback make its glorious return to the nation's capital next fall.
It's time, Winnipeg. The Jets arrived from Atlanta in 2011 and have avoided third jerseys ever since. It took until 2016 to finally get them to wear a throwback sweater — and that was a great looking Heritage Classic, to be sure. So it's time to finally get them a real third jersey. I'd be fine if they used that throwback, but I think they can do better. Winnipeg will be one to keep an eye on this summer.
It's not a done deal yet, but in all likelihood the NHL will accept Seattle as its 32nd franchise when the Board of Governors meets this summer. But if the Vegas timeline is any indication, we won't even get a name until 2019, let alone a logo or jerseys. So there shouldn't be anything to report for Seattle before the end of the year, but it's nice to finally have them on this list!
Feels good to have that first JerseyWatch of year in the books! Next season will definitely be a big one with third jerseys making their triumphant return. I hope it's not long before we have some solid information to report.
What are you hoping to see in 2018-19?