The countdown of the 50 best jerseys of all-time concludes with our Top 10. Iconic Original Six looks abound, along with a surprise pick at No. 1.
What makes a great jersey? When the topic comes up, it’s hard not to default to the NHL’s Original Six era. Those sweaters launched the pro game to another level. But does that means sartorial glory is a given?
This was one of the questions when we put our list of the greatest jerseys of all-time together. Just because a team has never won a Stanley Cup doesn’t mean it hasn’t looked good trying.
The criteria emphasized factors such as boldness, uniqueness, aesthetics and yes, timelessness. To guard against historical biases, we also reached out to a group of graphic designers, some of whom watch little to no hockey.
Over the next five days, we list off the best ever. Some are really old, some are brand new. And it’s not NHL exclusive. Major junior, college, minor pro, even international jerseys are repped.
Previously: Nos. 50-41 | Nos. 40-31 | Nos. 30-21 | Nos. 20-11
No. 10: Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
The Spitfires have rocked several different logos in their longtime major junior history, but this incarnation sticks out the most. Graphic designers loved it, and the uniqueness of the crest is hard to deny. There’s a simplicity to the design, but it’s also eye-catching thanks to the red negative space inside the window. Though some of Windsor’s other uniforms have been pretty sharp themselves, this version, which lasted approximately 20 years, remains an unheralded winner. Call it the dark horse of the elite.
No. 9: Quebec Nordiques (NHL)
No. 8: Trail Smoke Eaters (WIHL)
Most famous as Canada’s gold-medal entry at the 1961 World Championship, the Smoke Eaters have inspired teams as far away as the Netherlands with their amazing orange sweater, complete with a crest that says it all for the working class town.
No. 7: Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
It’s the most popular franchise in all of hockey and an iconic name. The logo itself has undergone several renovations, but the veined variety of the team’s golden era remains the best of the bunch. Like Detroit, Toronto is a rare two-color team.
No. 6: Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
Fun fact: For most of the Red Wings’ history, the famous “winged wheel” logo was stubbier and centered below the neckline. But since the early 1980s, Detroit has rocked this approximation of a classic sweater. The franchise’s winning ways the past few decades have helped, but it’s also the simplicity that makes it so timeless. Just two colors: red and white. One stripe on the socks, one on the arms. If it was good enough for Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and the rest of the legends, it’s good enough for us.
No. 5: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
No. 4: Montreal Canadiens
Thanks to the franchise’s unmatched success on the ice and the incredible footprint of Montreal’s fan base, it’s probably not shocking how high the Canadiens finish in these rankings. The logo is iconic and the blue stripe across the middle is one of those simple design innovations that really makes the ‘CH’ pop. With few exceptions, Montreal’s jersey design has been the one we are all familiar with since the NHL began in 1917-18. The version currently worn really dates back to the early 1960s in terms of overall composition, though this year’s new installation involves the re-introduction of white lace-ups on the collar (as if the jersey needed to be even more authentic in its timelessness). Can you imagine a Habs sweater ever deviating? No.
No. 3: Sweden (International)
No. 2: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
No. 1: San Jose Sharks (NHL)
The San Jose Sharks’ original jersey is our winner. Though the logo has been altered in recent years, the original shark crest was perfect. San Jose may not have popularized the use of a triangle as background, but the way the shark is springing out is fantastic. The teal blue is definitely bold, and San Jose owns that color (red, on the other hand, could make you think of Chicago, Montreal or Detroit). The secondary logo, a cutting fin on the shoulder, is also an amazing mark. This jersey could have been used for decades and no one would call it out for being dated. Simply put, it’s flawless. The stripes aren’t busy and, in an era where garishness took over, the Sharks kept it classy.