For the first time in nearly 40 years of existence, the New Jersey Devils have a third jersey - and if you've got a problem with it, take it up with the man who led the design team: Hall of Fame icon Marty Brodeur.
The super-secretive initiative began three years ago and according to Devils senior VP of marketing Jillian Frechette (who was also part of the design team with Brodeur), only a handful of people knew about the project in the early months. But they did have some clues as to where fans wanted the team to go.
"We knew right from the get-go that we would lean into black, so that was easy," Frechette said. "If you looked on social media, there was an intensity and a want among Devils fans, so this was very fan-focused."
The focal point of the sweater of course is the word 'Jersey' and there was meaning behind that: According to Frechette, locals don't say they're from New Jersey, they say they're from Jersey - and it was something Brodeur heard time and again during his long career in the state The new design is also a call to arms for the franchise, as the one major pro sports team that plays in the state but also represents the state, unlike a number of other sports franchises the Devils playfully call "squatters" who play and practise in the Garden State but wear 'New York' on their uniforms.
"It's pride of place," Frechette said. "We live and play in Jersey."
And alongside the bold wordmark, there is history in the design. The striping is inspired by early pro hockey teams from the state including the Newark Bulldogs, River Vale Skeeters and Jersey Larks. And specifically, the 21 stripes represent the state's 21 counties.
While the Devils have worn throwbacks before (plus the Reverse Retro Adidas sweater), they've never had a third jersey and team brass knew it was time. Detroit was the only other NHL franchise without a third.
"Other than a fourth Stanley Cup banner, this was the No. 2 question I got from fans," said team president Jake Reynolds. "An anticipation for this has been bubbling. We're modernizing the brand and at the same time, we're honoring our roots and legacy."
The black thirds will debut on Dec. 8 against the Philadelphia Flyers and will be worn 13 times this season as a nod to captain Nico Hischier. New Jersey will wear the thirds once on the road, in Detroit on Dec. 18. That's the anniversary of the state of New Jersey joining the union, while the Red Wings were the opponent in the Devils' first Stanley Cup championship series victory. The patterning of the lacing around the neck is also supposed to represent a goalie net - an obvious nod to Brodeur and his career heroics.
Other New Jersey legends who got a sneak-peek included Scott Niedermayer, Patrik Elias and Ken Daneyko, while current players such as P.K. Subban, Dougie Hamilton and Hischier were also in the loop. On top of the sweater itself, special merchandise in the 'Jersey' style will be rolling out soon with proceeds going to the Devils Youth Foundation, while Newark-based shoe design company Dirty Soles is creating custom Adidas sneakers as part of the promotion.