It’s not that I don’t like gear from the other big team sports, but the hockey jersey (or sweater, if you’re old school) has it all over them. There’s just something inherently impressive about the look of a jersey, whether it’s that game-worn Steve Yzerman one you bought for $300 on eBay or the one you painstakingly designed for your beer league team.
Jersey geeks are a fervent bunch. Some folks have closets full of them. Collecting jerseys isn’t a cheap hobby, either, especially if you want official jerseys with player names and numbers. Teams have taken advantage of that love by using third jerseys for special occasions; these can be throwback designs or something else altogether. And there have been so many different designs over the years covering every the entire range of the good, the bad and the fugly. You’ve got the classic look of the Original Six clubs (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, NY Rangers, Toronto) and some of the fine jerseys of expansion teams (Flyers, Penguins, Blues, Sabres), as well some of the uglier looks (the Islanders’ infamous “fish sticks” jersey, the Coyotes’ peyote-influenced late ‘90s look, the Canucks’ ‘80s-era mustard V). And then there are all the minor league, college and junior jerseys to contend with. (You can follow the latest info about hockey jerseys and logos at the great Icethetics.) There are also many non-hockey jerseys to be found, sold by bands or used as promotional merch.
I’ve got about 20 jerseys, although only four have the full name and number treatment: I’ve got a Doug Gilmour Maple Leafs jersey circa 1994, a Mats Sundin Leafs third jersey from 1998, a Rod Brind’Amour Flyers game-worn from the mid-‘90s and a signed David Krejci Bruins jersey that my wife won in a raffle earlier this year. I’ve also got an assortment of replica jerseys of current and defunct teams and styles: Leafs, Whalers, Kings, Capitals, Coyotes, Blackhawks, Oilers. I even have a jersey from my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, that I picked up for $12 at a going-out-of-business sale.
So other than to hockey games (playing or watching), when should one wear a jersey? Some would argue nowhere, but those people are uptight. Hell, I’ve even worn jerseys to work on occasion. I have one that I wear for my weekly hockey night, but I’ll break out jerseys every so often just for the hell of it. Living in the Boston area, I’ve seen a lot more people wearing Bruins jerseys in the last few months thanks to the team’s Stanley Cup victory. Even watching Red Sox or Patriots games, you’ll see the odd B’s jersey pop up nowadays.
In a weird twist, the sale of used clothing in Africa means you can occasionally find folks in Liberia wearing hockey jerseys, which have become something of a status symbol in the war-torn nation.
Hockey jerseys have also permeated pop culture over the years, whether it was the Charlestown Chiefs of the legendary movie Slap Shot, rock stars wearing jerseys in concert or at public events, or folks like director/writer/podcast auteur Kevin Smith, who is pretty much always sporting a jersey. Smith’s movie Clerks featured several jerseys in its famous rooftop roller hockey scene, while in his movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Smith created (and sells) some excellent jerseys for the fictional Monroeville Zombies team. Many a hip-hop video in the ‘90s featured rappers wearing hockey jerseys. Snoop Dogg, especially, was an aficionado and wore them often.
But the best look for hockey jerseys is on the ice, worn by the best players in the world. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, however.
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