The Winter Classic, and the outdoor game in general, has been one of the best modern innovations in hockey history for various reasons. The exposure drawn from the event has been excellent for the sport, the kind of thing that is required for hockey to stay relevant in the modern US sports market. Furthermore, both the atmosphere and events surrounding the Classic have been done expertly by the NHL, making the event unforgettable. HBO 24/7 has helped this immensely due to its excellent story telling and inside look into NHL dressing rooms.
But one of the most underrated aspects of the Winter Classic is the exceptional jerseys that are produced for each event. Teams have revisited their history in order to craft iconic and special jerseys to wear while facing the elements. These uniforms only add to the atmosphere created by the event and the marketing aspect surrounding the game. While the Winter Classic was cancelled this year due to the NHL Lockout, the 2014 uniforms are no different.
The Toronto Maple Leafs chose an incredibly classic and classy look when selecting their Winter Classic uniform, a testament to their storied history. The uniform is blue, of course, with a retro Leafs logo. It has four white stripes on each sleeve and two under the logo and is sure to look sharp when the two teams meet. It will bring shades of the old Maple Leafs, the ones who were major rivals with the Red Wings and bested them on many occasions to win the Cup. Overall, the Leafs jersey gets the edge in the head-to-head matchup.
However, this takes nothing away from yet another quality submission from the also storied Detroit Red Wings who are definitely the more successful of the two, especially recently. The Wings chose somewhat of a new concept but the look is classic all the same. The Jersey has a red background with a sort of cream detailing. It has several classic looking stripes which give the uniform a very traditional feel. The classic wheeled wing logo is accented by the written “Detroit” place above. It makes it very difficult to separate one that is better between the two.
In fact each year of the Winter Classic has been interesting to see what uniform each respective organisation produces and how they compare. The initial Winter Classic was played in 2008 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres. At home in Buffalo the Sabres presented a fairly classic but not so creative uniform. The Penguins, on the other hand, debuted the classic blue colour for the first time in their modern existence. They did so with the first of the modern epidemic of “circular crest” jerseys of which Columbus, Florida, Chicago and St.Louis have also adopted in some capacity. While it may not have even been the Penguins best Winter Classic uniform it was certainly the best from the first edition of the game.
The next year’s classic one upped not only the first winter classic but all others in terms of their uniform selection. The home ice Blackhawks chose to wear a black uniform, accented with red. In the middle was a cream coloured strip which displayed a classic circular Blackhawks logo. But it was the Red Wings who truly stole the show, both during the game and with their uniforms. In fact the initial Red Wings Winter Classic uniforms are my pick as the best ever worn in Winter Classic history. As usual they are quite simplistic, but in this case that has always been a positive quality. The uniform is white with a single red stripe. In the middle is a letterhead red D. Simple, but an instant classic all the same.
The Philadelphia Flyers were given their first uniform opportunity when they played the Bruins in the 2010 Classic but were ultimately doomed by the fact that the game was in Boston. This forced them to wear white instead of the signature orange that is truly among the best uniforms in hockey. Boston stole the show with their vintage looking yellow and black uniforms which looked crisp and classic. Most people were probably relieved that they chose not to do one of their awful bear design uniforms.
While the Penguins uniforms during the initial Winter Classic were pretty solid it was four years later at home that they truly showed off their best. The Capitals countered with retro uniforms from the 90s, but like the Sabres they couldn’t really claim much originality. Blue was once again the colour of choice for the Penguins, but this time they chose a darker shade with light blue lines underneath the once again circular logo. The combination of blue is truly what makes this jersey special, as it is my pick for the second best to be worn at a Winter Classic.
The most recent Winter Classic, thanks again to the NHL Lockout, was between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. This time the Flyers got a favourable venue in terms of uniform colour and were able to dawn their coveted orange uniforms. To this template they added several retro features including the name bar on the back. The Rangers came close but ultimately fell short with their jersey attempts. While they had a nice look to them the Rangers have some of the best uniforms of all time which they wear ordinarily. Their Winter Classic jerseys were a bit of a downgrade.
Overall, the Classic has provided the hockey world with some excellent uniforms, many of which have translated into regular season wear for teams. It should be interesting to see what the next group of participants are able to dream up.
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