When it comes to the Florida Panthers, there is one word you can describe them as: consistent. No, I don’t mean the Cats’ performance in the standings, I am talking about their uniforms and overall branding. The Florida Panthers have been a National Hockey League club for more than 25 years and have had only two major looks: 1. The original nineties infused set that lasted more than two decades; and 2. the modern military-inspired motif of today.
Consistency from the beginning. The Panthers wore the same set of uniforms and alternate uniforms from their inception in 1993 until 2007.
The Cats’ first and second set of jerseys featured the original incarnation of the Leaping Cat as the crest with the Hockey Stick & Palm Tree serving as the shoulder logos. As far as logos are concerned the Leaping Cat was as 90s as Saved by the Bell and the SEGA Genesis, but the logo is an icon of that era of the NHL and served the Panthers well into the 2010s. The Stick and Tree screamed “Hockey in Florida” and in the pantheon of NHL shoulder logos really did pop on the jerseys more than other team unis with that bright yellow sun. The only change was the addition of the Cat breaking a hockey stick to serve on the alternate uniform crest.
The first set of uniforms featured a striking pattern that once more was a product of its time, but did not stray too far from traditional NHL striping patterns. The team’s red, navy, yellow, and white all were prominently shown off on the angular sleeve stripes and the traditional tail stripes. And the consistency carried across home, white, and alternate uniforms with only the colors changing with the Home White uniform serving as the best of the bunch.
Following the NHL switching to Reebok as the uniform provider and the introduction of its EDGE jersey design, many teams changed the design of their jerseys as a result. The Panthers went pretty conservative with its unis. The logos remained the same and in their same place along with the colors, but the Cats removed the tail stripes from the jersey, had a long stripe that stretched from the neck to the entire sleeves with a traditional sleeve pattern appearing at the elbow area.
The only crime in this second set was the piping that ran along both uniforms. The Home navy had it in a gaudy yellow with the white in a muted navy. It was a little too much and was a byproduct of the mid-2000s in which Reebok was too concerned on whether they could do something rather than if they should.
Thankfully, the Panthers made a welcome tweak to the second set with their switch back to a primary red sweater as their home uniform. The piping was removed from the uniform and suddenly the Cats had a nice modern set with once again, the white being the star of the show.
The Panthers made their first major re-brand in 2016 with a logo and uniform set that looked nothing like what they for the most part had since 1993. The Panthers came at us with a military inspired logo set that had a clean shield serving as the crest, a clever Cat and Flag upper arm logo as the shoulders are now occupied by the player numbers, an updated Leaping Cat that is suspected to return on an alternate uniform, and starting in 2019-20 the return of the hockey stick and tree on the helmets. The yellow has been changed to gold, but the Panthers have once again come out with a clean looking uniform set as many NHL teams have gone traditional with their looks beginning in the 2010s. The shade of red and navy have remained the same. Take a look back at LBC’s coverage back when the Panthers current set came out.
But, this is an article about the worst jersey in Panthers history. And the theme so far has been consistency. And there is a reason why the following uniform was panned by most Panthers and hockey fans.
Reebok’s EDGE style uniforms started seeing alternate designs after a couple of years of experimentation with the primary uniforms across the league. The Panthers decided to stray away from their identity entirely as if they took the word “alternate” and interpreted it as “alternate timeline” because these uniforms may have been what the Panthers would have looked like if they were part of the 1967 NHL expansion.
The uniform itself isn’t awful as those of other teams during the Reebok era, but something about this alternate set felt forced.
Let’s start with the inconsistency. The uniform featured two new logos. A roundel crest that had “FLORIDA PANTHERS” fill the navy outer ring and a mew version of the head of a florida panther that cleaned up some of the elements of the Leaping Cat head, but felt a bit off.
The shoulder logo featured a 3⁄4 yellow sun with “FLA” in white in large capital letters. Once again not the worst logo in sports but still a stark departure from what the Panthers had been using for 16 years up to that point in time. The uniforms featured no red whatsoever outside the crest logo and introduced the powder blue color that likely drew upon the Pittsburgh Penguins’ retro-inspired Winter Classic uniforms.
Where as the Penguins uniform was derived from their origins in 1967, the Panthers created a fauxback uniform that really was not their identity. It is hard to make a serious throwback style uniform for a team that came to being in Miami alongside the debut of the X-Files and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Finally, this was the era of Panthers hockey where the team president decided to plaster advertisement on any blank surface on the then BankAtlantic Center that he could. If the Panthers could have ads on their uniforms as if they were a European hockey team, the team president would have had them look like this. The Panthers at the time were heavily sponsored by the airline JetBlue and it is highly suspected that the navy, powder blue, and white color scheme was chosen to tie them into the airline as the NHL has, as of this writing, yet to place ads on player uniforms.
There’s not much else to say about this uniform other than that it was a victim of lots of bad factors. A uniform manufacturer that was trying out new designs and seeing what stuck, a set of logos that failed to tie into the team’s history or even the region’s history in any meaningful way (Todd chiming in here: A Miami Screaming Eagles inspired uniform would have been a bold and better choice) and a color scheme and striping pattern that was as close to making the jerseys a JetBlue billboard as possible. All of these factors did in the Panthers alternate uniforms of 2009-12.
After this misstep, the Florida Panthers have a grand opportunity to rectify this blunder with a new alternate uniform now that Adidas has taken over as NHL uniform provider and the Cats have yet to introduce one in their current modern set.
Please comment below on what uniform you believe is the worst in Florida Panthers history. You can also check out the LBC crew’s ideas for third jerseys from a few years back and offer up your ideas of what a new Panthers alternate uniform should look like.
A few other SBN NHL sites have their articles in the Ugly Sweater Series up: