When the Detroit Red Wings take the ice on Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they’ll be making history, of sorts: The franchise will wear black — or at least black stripes — for the first time in 95 seasons.
That’s part of Adidas’ “Reverse Retro” uniform program for the 2022-23 season. It’s the second iteration from the NHL’s official supplier, after a round of alternates during the 2020-21 season.
The Wings’ outfits that season were a little, uh, underwhelming — almost all-white jerseys with silver stripes supposedly paying tribute to the uniforms the franchise wore in 2017 for the NHL’s centennial celebration. This season’s outfit is anything but that, with a heavy red colorway broken up by black stripes and a thin block-lettered “Detroit” across the chest.
But where do the Wings’ 2022 “Reverse Retro” jerseys rank among the rest of the league’s, now that we’ve seen (almost) all of them on the ice? (New Jersey, ironically, will apparently be the one of the last teams to debut their new jerseys, with the Devils’ first wearing slated for Dec. 3. Their regional rivals, the New York Islanders, won’t break out their new duds till Dec. 10.)
It’s time to get scientific: I broke down the jerseys on a scale of 1-10 in three categories:
History: How much does the jersey play on a past look?
Uniqueness: How much does the jersey look like the team’s other jerseys?
Coolness: How much do we want to see these on a regular basis?
Average the scores, and we get the Freep’s — or at least my own — official rankings. Let’s get started with the worst before we head out West for the best of the best:
32. Carolina Hurricanes: 2
History: 1. Uniqueness: 1. Coolness: 4.
The buzz: Reverse? Check — Carolina’s road sweaters are nearly identical, but, y’know, white instead of red. Retro? Uhhhhh — maybe if it’s retro to bring up a Twitter feud the ’Canes had with the Rangers back in 2019? (At least the ghosts of the Hartford Whalers will be allowed to sleep for another season.)
31. Ottawa Senators: 2.3*
History: 3. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 2.
The buzz: It’s the same crest as usual, with a black swoosh on top of a red swoosh — excuse us, “super-sized curved stripes,” according to Adidas —and swooshes on the sleeves instead of stripes. That’s it. The creepy-lloking front-facing Centurion couldn’t even make the front; he’s on the shoulders. Lord, let Ryan Reynolds buy this franchise, just so they can have something interesting.
*Won’t officially debut until Tuesday.
30. Nashville Predators: 2.7
History: 2. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 4.
The buzz: It looks like the Preds ordered their uniforms off Wish.com … but at least it’s gold, rather than the “mustard” the franchise wore from 2001-07.
29. Tampa Bay Lightning: 3
History: 6. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 1.
The buzz: This might be the only jersey equally at home on the ice or in a cut-scene from a 1990s Sega game. The lightning on the sleeves. The 8-bit rain on the front. The crest that looks like they spent 10 minutes in MS Paint … actually, that’s giving too much credit — it was originally drawn by team founder Phil Esposito, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player, and not as a logo designer.
T-26. Anaheim Ducks: 3.3
History: 4. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 4.
The buzz: Anaheim is getting more use out of “duck face” than a selfie on social media, but this might be too much orange — and somehow not enough at the same time. No teal? No purple? No go.
T-26. Calgary Flames: 3.3*
History: 4. Uniqueness: 4. Coolness: 2.
The buzz: Every few years, the Flames try to make black a thing again. The major tweak here is the “pedestal” stripes at the waist. They’re meant to draw attention to the “C,” but mostly they just remind me of a poorly tied robe at a massage parlor. Look, if the most interesting thing about your jersey is the waist … something has gone horribly wrong.
*Won’t officially debut until Dec. 3.
T-26. New York Rangers: 3.3
History: 5. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 3.
The buzz: The first year the Rangers wore the third jerseys these are based on, Wayne Gretzky led the NHL in assists (72) and dragged New York to the Eastern Conference finals. This looks like those jerseys have been thrown in the washer too many times.
T-24. Colorado Avalanche: 3.7
History: 2. Uniqueness: 3. Coolness: 6.
The buzz: The Venn diagram overlap of state flag geeks and hockey fans gets another gift — as if the Blue Jackets using the Ohio state flag as their crest wasn’t enough — with this tribute to the Colorado state flag. (We’re docking history points here for attributing the red, yellow and blue to the flag while ignoring both the Rockies hockey team that played in Denver from 1976-82, and the Scouts, who moved to Denver after two years in Kansas City.)
T-24. Pittsburgh Penguins: 3.7
History: 4. Uniqueness: 1. Coolness: 6.
The buzz: Somehow we’ve gotten the return of Robo-Penguin (on black instead of a white sweater) before Detroit has gotten its RoboCop statue actually installed. Simply criminal.
T-22. Detroit Red Wings: 4*
History: 2. Uniqueness: 5. Coolness: 5.
The buzz: Re-colored throwbacks to the 1991 75th anniversary sweaters, which were themselves throwbacks to the 1927-28 Detroit Cougars … aww, who’re we kidding — you wanted black Wings sweaters? Well … you got ‘em. No sense complaining now. (Maybe they’ll look cooler on Monday with “a bold all-red execution combining the jersey, pant, socks, gloves and helmet,” as Adidas is promising for Monday night.)
*Won’t officially debut until Monday.
T-22. Philadelphia Flyers: 4
History: 8. Uniqueness: 1. Coolness: 3.
The buzz: “What if … we made a Flyers jersey with as little orange as possible? And no other colors?” Does this count as Flyers formalwear? Is this what Flyers players have to wear when they attend black-tie events? Is there an alternate version of Gritty with as little orange as possible? We have questions.
21. Boston Bruins: 4.3
History: 6. Uniqueness: 4. Coolness: 3.
The buzz: Maybe the Adidas designers were saving their good ideas for the Pooh Bears’ Winter Classic look? <checks Friday’s release> Or, maybe not. The crest, a throwback to their 1995 yellow third jersey, is fine, but the jagged stripes and the “Bruins” wordmark make this one feel like they got a deal on jerseys from a defunct ECHL squad.
T-17. Chicago Blackhawks: 4.7
History: 8. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 4.
The buzz: Double the history! — The stripes come from a 1938 look, while the lettering comes from a … uh … 2019 Winter Classic jersey. OK, like, 125% history. At least it looks like a ’Hawks jersey — albeit not an original one — despite the similarities between this and the Wings’ sweater screaming, “Show your work.”
T-17. Dallas Stars: 4.7
History: 5. Uniqueness: 6. Coolness: 3.
The buzz: Did Norm Green decide to move the team again? (Seriously, the team’s current “Victory Green” doesn’t do enough to save this near-copy of the black sweaters the franchise ominously wore in its final two seasons in Minneapolis — with no “Minnesota” or “North” visible — before the ex-owner packed up for Texas.)
T-17. New Jersey Devils: 4.7*
History: 4. Uniqueness: 5. Coolness: 5.
The buzz: Adopting the colors your franchise wore from 1974-82, as the aforementioned Scouts and Rockies for eight seasons, while going 140-391-108 — that’s a combined .304 points percentage — during the season in which you tied the franchise record with 13 straight wins … I … I just don’t know, man.
*Won’t officially debut until Saturday.
T-17. Toronto Maple Leafs: 4.7
History: 10. Uniqueness: 1. Coolness: 3.
The buzz: A meticulous recreation of the glories of the past — in this case, the sweater worn during the 1963 Stanley Cup victory — that ends up looking just like the previous years by the time May hits. Give the Maple Leafs this: They are on-brand.
16. Edmonton Oilers: 5
History: 3. Uniqueness: 5. Coolness: 7.
The buzz: The 2001-07 blue-and-white third jerseys these are based off of were designed by Todd McFarlane, the creator of Spider-Man’s (and, eventually Venom’s) iconic black-and-white costume. At least there isn’t a symbiote involved. Let’s keep an ear out for Connor McDavid referring to himself as “we” anyway, eh?
T-12. Buffalo Sabres: 5.3
History: 6. Uniqueness: 3. Coolness: 7.
The buzz: The “Goathead” returns, albeit in royal blue and yellow instead of black and red, which means it’s time to restart the argument with that Sabres fan you know over whether Brett Hull’s 1999 Stanley Cup-winning goal over Dominik Hasek should have counted. (Though we’re deducting uniqueness points since the Sabres also brought back the “Goathead” in black and red this season.)
T-12. Columbus Blue Jackets: 5.3
History: 8. Uniqueness: 6. Coolness: 2.
The buzz: With apologies to Patrik Laine, maybe your jersey shouldn’t feature more stars than your roster does. This meme in sweater form — It’s blue! It’s black! It’s both! — has a lot going on, but at least it passes the test the Jackets’ previous “Reverse Retro” look: That is, it’s not red.
T-12. Seattle Kraken: 5.3
History: 1. Uniqueness: 9. Coolness: 6.
The buzz: There’s not much “retro” for a second-year franchise, unless you want to go back to the green-and-red-stripe days of the 1918 Metropolitans and, honestly, after the past few years, we’re borrowed enough from 1918.
T-12. Winnipeg Jets: 5.3
History: 8. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 6.
The buzz: For the NHL’s most militantly named franchise, the combo of white, power blue and just a bit of navy-blue trim seems like it’s camouflage on the ice.
T-9. Arizona Coyotes: 5.7
History: 5. Uniqueness: 5. Coolness: 7.
The buzz: If you didn’t know the Phoenix metro area had an NHL team — and judging by the team’s need to move into the 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on Arizona State’s campus, many folks there don’t — you might still wear this 1998-2003 “Kachina”-inspired, “Sienna”-colored sweater … but you might already have the purple version from 2020, too.
T-9. New York Islanders: 5.7*
History: 5. Uniqueness: 6. Coolness: 6.
The buzz: The “Gorton’s Fisherman” is back (though he’s not as orange as he was)! The wavy stripes and distorted names on the back — no, I am not making that up — are not entirely, though there is a bit of a distortion on the numbers. Not enough to make you seasick, but enough that you won’t want to stare too long — so basically the franchise’s history since winning four straight Cups in the 1980s.
*Won’t officially debut until Dec. 10.
T-9. St. Louis Blues: 5.7
History: 5. Uniqueness: 9. Coolness: 3.
The buzz: It’s honestly kinda amazing that the Blues went from this prototype at the franchise’s formation in 1966 to the iconic “feathered note” — lasting nearly 60 years — in a year’s time.
8. Vancouver Canucks: 6.3
History: 7. Uniqueness: 5. Coolness: 7.
The buzz: The only way this use of the classic “Johnny Canuck” logo could be more Canadian is if they’d made the jersey a red-and-white plaid. There’s always 2024, I suppose.
7. Minnesota Wild: 6.7
History: 7. Uniqueness: 3. Coolness: 10.
The buzz: Look, the divorce was a while ago, and Minneapolis and the Stars have moved on, but, hey, it’s a special occasion … OK, one last dance with the old green-and-gold. But this is the last time, OK, Minnesota fans? (It will not be the last time.)
T-4. Montreal Canadiens: 7
History: 9. Uniqueness: 2. Coolness: 10.
The buzz: Is it basically identical to Le Habs’ home and away sweaters, but on powder blue? Sure. Do we care? Nope. This is almost as good a tribute to the old Montreal Expos as the franchise’s adoption of “Youppi!” as its mascot after the ’Spos left for D.C. in 2005.
T-4. Washington Capitals: 7
History: 7. Uniqueness: 5. Coolness: 9.
The buzz: Sure, you might quibble that the team in our nation’s capital should always wear red, white and blue — but this return to the “Screaming Eagle” just pops the way the version that lost to the Wings in the 1998 Cup Finals never did.
T-4. Vegas Golden Knights: 7
History: 2. Uniqueness: 9. Coolness: 10.
The buzz: Diagonal lettering? Yawn. Diagonal lettering that glows in the dark? Yes, please.
3. Florida Panthers: 7.7
History: 3. Uniqueness: 10. Coolness: 10.
The buzz: The criminally underused sun/tree/stick shoulder patch from the Panthers’ late-1990s sweaters is blown up and put on a baby blue background and it is like “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” had a baby who grew up to win the Presidents’ Trophy and then lose in the second round of the playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Kings: 8.3
History: 9. Uniqueness: 6. Coolness: 10.
The buzz: Sure, it’s a throwback to when the Kings glommed on to “Forum Blue” — known to the rest of us as “purple” — in order to catch those Lakers vibes … but the crown-as-crest is, well, royal. (And doesn’t evoke Burger King, unlike some other alternates back in the day…)
1. San Jose Sharks: 9
History: 8. Uniqueness: 10. Coolness: 9.
The buzz: Now this is a deep dive into California hockey history, with “Sharks” in the style of the final season of the California Golden Seals, an ill-fated member of the NHL’s original 1967 expansion. The saga of the Seals, in short form: Became the Cleveland Barons in 1976, followed by a merger with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978. (The Gund family then sold their shares in the Stars in 1991 in exchange for the expansion franchise in San Jose, taking 16 players with them.)
Do you need to know any of that to enjoy the teal-and-gold greatness? Nah.