Fanpost: NHL Third Jersey Saga: Part 1 "The Good"

What makes a good third jersey?

The Florida Panthers are approaching the club’s 20th anniversary which is a huge milestone, more so for a hockey club that may have not survived were it not for a Cinderella run at the Stanley Cup in 1996. What the team has in store for their 20th anniversary, if anything, has not been discussed but a good thing to have for me would be a new third jersey. The NHL’s third jersey program started in the 1995-96 season to allow clubs to market new jerseys to fans and to provide a new look to hockey teams. This license to experiment with a team’s brand has spawned some real winners and some catastrophic failures. For me I believe third jerseys can be split into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Before I get into those I will briefly touch upon the Florida Panthers’ use of the third jersey program. The Panthers original third jersey, appearing in 1998-99 for the opening of the now BB&T Center, was actually a simple color swap of their uniform kit which at the time had been in use since the team's inception. The third jersey was navy blue as the primary color and the primary leaping cat logo was replaced with the secondary cat logo that is breaking a hockey stick with its claws.



The Panthers in 2003-04 made their third jersey the new primary as the team shifted towards blue as their team identity. The red jersey then became the third jersey featuring the stick breaking cat.



In 2007-08 Reebok introduced their Edge hockey jerseys which made many teams find reason to change their look. Third jerseys would then be created the following season including an emphasis on retro and/or "fauxback" jerseys for many clubs. The Florida Panthers would try a fauxback, or a jersey kit made to look the part of retro, in 2009-10. This jersey featured a tie-down collar and was navy blue but substituted red for a Columbia blue and featured little gold outside of the shoulder logos and crest. The crest was a circle logo with "Florida Panthers" arched in a ring inside it centered by a panther head that did not resemble the original logo. The shoulder logos which had always featured the crossing hockey stick and palm tree over the sun were now changed to a half sun with "FLA" composing the other half. Some fans took a liking to this uniform set but many others feared the team identity was slowly creeping towards making this uniform as the base for a new primary set and developed conspiracy theories that a certain airline sponsor was the inspiration for the color scheme.



However after three seasons the team scrapped the uniforms after the contract with Reebok expired. It became apparent that fans and even those within the organization did not feel that the Panthers should look like this. In a movement that started with GM Dale Tallon and Alternate Governor Bill Torrey, the team returned to using red as their primary color dumping their blue primary jerseys after 2010-11. In 2013 the team plays without a third jersey which leaves many Cats fans wondering what they will do for one if they decide to create another. Let’s examine the good first. These are the successful third jerseys that made people take notice and enhanced the identity of the clubs that wore them.

In the early CCM days of the third jersey program the Chicago Blackhawks made a third jersey with the color contained in their name, black. The striping remained the same and the simplicity of it is what makes it a success, so much so they created a Reebok Edge version for it which made the jerseys last a whopping eleven seasons.



Experimentation was the name of the game for teams with third jerseys. The Rangers, another Original 6 team, messed with their uniform set in the late 70’s and fans didn’t take too kindly about it. The beauty of third jerseys is it allows teams to keep their traditional look. The Rangers third was navy blue with red, white and grey/silver stripes on the forearms and collar. It featured Lady Liberty’s face with NYR below her and an update version of their shield logo on the shoulders .This uniform was such a success that the Rangers made a white version for one season and the set lasted ten seasons.



The Vancouver Canucks had a tumultuous amount of change throughout the third jersey programs’ history going through three different color sets which culminated in them returning to their original color scheme of blue, white and green. This change was prompted by a third jersey in the 2006-07 season which was a vintage uniform from the 1970s. It would later become the base for their new primary Reebok Edge uniforms and would return in both blue and white as the team’s third and fourth jerseys. Other teams such as the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers would take this approach as well.



There is the case of three teams currently that are wearing third jerseys that, to me, are actually better than the jerseys they primarily use. All are examples of fauxback style.

The Minnesota Wild make no qualms about the fact that their fans miss the Minnesota North Stars. So the perfect tribute to the old team is with a jersey that uses the North Stars primary color of green (albeit in a different shade) and vintage white with hints of red. This jersey features a tie down collar and "Minnesota" in baseball-esque script as the crest.



The Columbus Blue Jackets’ third jersey is an example of what a little research into the culture and history of your region can do for you. The jersey is navy blue but scraps red and white with vintage white and steel blue. The crest features a circle logo that contains "Columbus Blue Jackets" in a ribbon surrounding an American Civil War Era cannon and a star.



Finally the Ottawa Senators after years of misses with their third jerseys finally hit one out of the park. Surprisingly though the jersey was conceived by a fan of theirs. This fan created a black jersey with large red and vintage white stripes on the arms, tail, and across the chest, with matching stripes on the collar. The crest logo was taken from the original Ottawa Senators which won the Stanley Cup several times. The Senators had been using this "O" logo as the shoulder logo on their primary jerseys since the Reebok Edge switch. The shoulder logos are shields of red and black that show "Ottawa Senators" in English on one shoulder and French on the other. These logos are based off a patch the original Senators wore after winning the Stanley Cup the season before.



So there you have it. These jerseys are to me some of the best out there that signify different approaches to creating a third jersey. You could do a simple color swap, create a new logo that still retains the feel of the team's original look, wear an older jersey from the team's past or create a uniform that looks vintage but somehow makes sense for that club. Next time I'll look at the bad jerseys, those that just couldn't cut it but not for lack of trying.

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