Worst to First Jerseys: The Anaheim Ducks

John van der Woude

A guest post.

By John van der Woude,
Hockey By Design

This installment of the Worst to First Jerseys features the Anaheim Ducks, and much thanks to The Battle of California for letting me guest post on their blog. On my own blog, I talk about about graphic design in hockey and I'll be doing the jerseys for the rest of the league over time, so come by Hockey By Design to check it out.

The Ducks have been in the league for 20 years now, and haven't always be the poster child for excellence in design aesthetics, as they came in during the '90s which saw some of the worst designs (logos and jerseys) ever to grace the league. And while I rated the Ducks in last place in the BTLNHL (Best Team Logos in the NHL) Countdown, had I written the Countdown after they made the switch for their alternate logo to become their primary logo, they would have made a significant jump up those standings, so don't crucify me just yet.

Here's how this works: I'll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Ducks have ever worn. Homes and aways will be lumped into the same category (so, more of a jersey "era") and I won't worry about small changes (like slightly changed positions of piping for example). Third jerseys will stand on their own. And I'm focusing on the jerseys only, not the entire uniform. The jersey images are compliments of the fine people over at nhluniforms.com. For the Ducks, there's 6 different jerseys/eras. And we'll start with the worst one:

6. 1995-96 Third Jerseys

Ducks-Thirds96C'mon, was there really any doubt which jersey would take last place? The Wild Wing is not only the worst jersey the Ducks have worn, it's one of the worst NHL jerseys ever. It's not even a "so bad, it's good" kind of thing.

That being said, I honestly wouldn't mind owning one of them some day, because it's so unique within the scope of NHL jerseys. The problem is, it's definitely not unique within the scope of minor-league hockey jerseys, which often introduce bizarre, off-the-wall, non-traditional jersey designs. Anaheim was obviously tempted to do the same but it's better to keep that stuff in the minors. Hey, kind of like Mark Fistric, amirite?

The main problem with the jerseys in indirectly related to design: corporate schlocking. At the time of this jersey, the team was the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, owned by Disney, named after a Disney movie and featured a Disney-esque logo. Then they came out with the Wild Wing jersey, with Donald Duck on steroids bursting out of the ice wearing a Mighty Ducks jersey. It's the closest thing that the NHL has ever coming to advertising on a jersey. Did you know they were making D3: The Mighty Ducks during the season, which featured them wearing Mighty Ducks uniforms? Convenient.

But while they were advertising their movie, they also threw out almost every traditional aesthetic of a hockey jersey. The shoulder yokes are circular instead of rectangular. The fonts are almost illegible at far distances, using an open and thin script-like font. I feel sorry for the guys calling the game when these jerseys were worn. Also, the stripes that are on the jersey don't match at all, with purple and white on the yokes, white-eggplant-white-teal-eggplant on the sleeves, and just white on the bottom.

The team's actual logo is relegated to the tiny shoulder patches and on the jersey on the jersey. #HockeyJerseyInception

Sorry Wild Wing fans, it's a bad jersey with no redeeming qualities. Like a bad duckface, it's a total fail. Luckily, it only lasted one season.

Jersey Recommendation: #8 Kilger. The fourth pick at the 1995 draft for Anaheim never came as advertised and got nixed early for something better: Selanne. Seems fitting for this jersey. Plus wearing a Ducks #8 jersey and it not being Selanne would be quirky and unique, in a bad way.

5. 1997-2000 Third Jerseys

Duck-Thirds200After the failed Wild Wing experiment, the Ducks went back to basic hockey aesthetics with their new third jerseys, going back right into the '70s and '80s with the bands of colour stretching from cuff to cuff. But like those sticky wall hooks, doing the cuff-to-cuff thing is not so easy to pull off.

Only 5 teams use them currently: Buffalo on their atrocious new third jerseys, Colorado, Columbus, Florida and Philadelphia. In the past, they've been more (in)famously used on jerseys for the Maple Leafs and Jets. You'll notice on all of these jerseys, though, they almost always are one solid band of colour, two at the most.

I think you see what I'm getting at here. Anaheim went with 4 different bands of colours: gold, eggplant, grey and teal. The results are predictable: overbearing and, like Wild Wing, uniquely odd.

Also unique and odd is giving the third jersey both a home and away treatment, something that has not been done before this, or since. Some teams have had four different jerseys (like Los Angeles and Pittsburgh), but not a complete alternate home and away jersey.

It works better in some ways on the white jersey, as the brightness of the rest of the jersey allows for a break from all the colours being crammed down your throat. I like using white in all of my designs because it automatically gives a sense of contrast to what you're looking at. The teal jerseys have absolutely no lightness to them, with the grey, teal and eggplant blending together, lacking any distinct contrast aside from the white numbers. It's just too much.

But, in some ways, the teal jersey works better because the use of a grey stripe on the bottom of the jersey balances out the heaviness of the stripes at the top of the jersey just a bit more, where the white jersey is missing that. Of all the cuff-to-cuff striped jerseys in the league, all of them have bands of colour somewhere else as well to balance it out.

So, while both the home and teal have some qualities that make it better than the other, instead maybe they're both just kind of sucky. Like a bad vacuum cleaner, it sucks enough to just barely get the job done, but doesn't suck enough to be considered good. Or did I just get the sucking analogy reversed? Either way, it's another fail for the Ducks.

Jersey Recommendation: #31 Hebert. The starting goalie for the Ducks during these years put up some decent numbers, but like the jersey, left town in 2000 and was never seen in the NHL again. Get it in the white. It's marginally better and actually lasted a year longer than the teal.

4. 1993–2006 Home & Away Jerseys

Ducks-regulars-1994I'd say that the Ducks' jerseys designs from here on in is pretty solid in general. These original jerseys that lasted for a solid 13 years are the worst of the best. But even with more corporate schlocking happening, at least these jerseys are well-designed to a certain degree.

I know I may be in the (vast) minority with this, but I've never been a fan of the original Mighty Ducks of Anaheim logo on these jerseys. I was just slightly too old to find any redeeming value in the Mighty Ducks movie franchise and, as an angsty teenager, thought corporations were a horrible evil laying waste to our society and Disney was at the top of that heap: rewriting history and turning tragic historical stories into sing-along tripe. But those are my issues. I've grown up since then, and in the time that's passed, Pixar has saved Disney from becoming an animation afterthought by actually writing unique stories and creating good movies for them, and I now realize that Disney has also financed some great movies that they would never slap their name on.

But that doesn't mean I like this logo any more than before. It's pretty cheesy, with an angry Donald Duck goalie mask over a criss-crossed ("make you jump, jump") set of hockey sticks. It screams Disney, and just more corporate schlocking. It's minor-league stuff and doesn't belong in the greatest hockey league in the world.

Logo aside, I like the relative simplicity of the jerseys and the attempt to do something a little more unique and different with traditional hockey aesthetics by tilting the stripes slightly to create something a little more visually dynamic. Doing something like this evokes a sense of movement, and that's one of the defining characteristics of hockey: continuous and powerful movement.

The problem is, however, the lines are tilted slightly too far. What happens is that you get unnecessary overlap on the back of the jerseys with the numbers and it creeps up really close to the logo on the front. It makes things feel crowded, overly-complicated and generally messy. I get that the lines were meant to flow into the contours of the sleeves of the jersey, but nobody plays hockey like a scarecrow with their arms out like that, so there's not much point in doing that if it negatively affects the design overall.

What would it look like with a slightly less-drastic angle? Much better.

But overall, it's a good jersey with unique colours (eggplant was pretty non-existent in the league at that point, and San Jose had just popularized a slightly-bluer teal colour) and pushing the boundaries of jersey design in positive ways. Quirky and unique in a good way? These Ducks are starting to learn how to fly.

Jersey Recommendation: #9 Kariya. The Ducks have made better jerseys, but Kariya wearing this jersey and going to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals is the first defining moment for the franchise. When I picture this jersey, I only see it being worn by Kariya. Get it in the white.

#3: 2003-06 Third Jerseys

Ducks-thirds-2003Anaheim's first two stabs at third jerseys were pretty bad failures. When they came back with another third jersey just three years later, it was obvious they learned a few more tricks and improved their designs. Considering the Mighty Ducks weren't sold off by Disney until 2005 (two years after these jerseys came out), it marks the first time that there wasn't a Disney-specific influence on the design at all. I guess considering a new Mighty Ducks movie hadn't been made in about 6 years (for good reason) it seemed less necessary to advertise for one.

But these jerseys still broke the mould for hockey aesthetics in that they are the first in the modern era to introduce a script font onto the jersey, drawing from traditional baseball aesthetics and/or from very historic 1920s-era hockey aesthetics (with the baseball-esque letter patch on the shoulders, I'm guessing they were looking at baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates rather than hockey's Pittsburgh Pirates). Either way, it was the first time this generation of hockey fans saw something like this. It has since been copied by teams like Minnesota (most successfully) and Calgary (most recently).

The results are mostly good. The laces on the front – which I generally always like – accentuate the historical-ness of the scripted crest. The removal of the teal colour altogether shows a refinement to the overall brand that's a step in the right direct, keeping the grey and eggplant colour. I have nothing against teal, but if you look at some of the most recognizable brands in hockey (Leafs, Habs, Bruins, etc), they have one or two colours and that's it.

But I have two complaints. One, the choice of black as the main colour of the jersey. Hockey is a game played on a clean sheet of white ice and the game is always, aesthetically, more enjoyable to watch when there's a good splash of colour out there. Black jerseys playing against white jerseys on white ice is about as boring as you can get. They could have swapped the black and eggplant around. That would have been pretty sweet (roughly Photoshopped).

Two, the eggplant band of colour along the bottom is too thick. It works fine for the front of the jersey because the crest is so wide and short, but on the back, the entire jersey is crowded with the numbers and nameplate on there as well. Just a little thinner would have been great.

With most of the Ducks' third jerseys, they've used it as a chance to really experiment with jersey design and push the traditional aesthetics in a different way. This is the first time it actually worked in a positive way. Positive like Scrooge McDuck diving into a pile of gold coins.

Jersey Recommendation: #35 Giguere. Arguably the best goalie to ever wear a Ducks jersey gets a mention here. A Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner for the Ducks, he deserves to be honoured by being placed on your back.

#2: 2010-Present Third Jerseys

Ducks-thirds-2010With the 2005 selling of the Ducks away from Disney, the 'Mighty' was rightfully removed, leaving only 'Ducks'. Not the most vicious or graceful animals to be considered for an NHL team (but the Penguins aren't the most graceful things either, at least on land), but at least it was no longer attached to a bad movie series. The jersey designs matched the move away from the amateur into the something more fitting of the NHL.

It's a bit of a toss-up with these last two jerseys as to who should be first. They both have their redeeming qualities, but neither are perfect. The use of the former alternate logo (and now their primary logo) on this jersey is a definite plus. The main reason the Ducks ranked last in my BTLNHL Countdown was because of their former primary logo (and now their alternate logo) works so poorly on the jersey, which is essentially the main thing it was designed for. The webbed-D on this jersey stands prominently on the chest and is more simplistic and easily recognizable than the full "Ducks" logo.

But, this jersey ranks second because this is more about the jersey design than the logo design. The big minus here though is the extreme multitude of of stripes happening on the sides and sleeves of the jersey, all with varying widths and colours. The simplicity that they had working in the #3 and #4 jerseys on this post is completely obliterated. You can say there's six stripes on each side: orange, black, gold, white, black then orange. From front to back, that would mean 11 separate stripes. On both sides, that's 22 stripes. Add in the sleeves (6 on each), that's 34 stripes. That's just stupid. Remember the Canadiens' barber-pole jerseys? That had less stripes. I think most zebras have less stripes.

I'm almost talking myself out of ranking the jersey this high, but really, that's the main gripe with this jersey. Aside from that, the jersey is solid. The font used for the numbers and nameplate is distinctive and, unlike Wild Wing, is clearly legible. The thin orange line forming the shoulder yoke is subtle adds more colour to the jersey.

Minimize the stripes, and this duck is looking pretty damn good. I also have feeling that, now that this logo is now the primary logo, there will be a white version coming out next year, and these will become the primary home and away jerseys. Hopefully they'll eliminate some of the stripes when that happens.

Jersey Recommendation: #15 Getzlaf. Or #10 Perry. Whoever you consider to be the true leader of the Ducks currently is the one you should get. This jersey, bearing the new primary logo of the Ducks, symbolizes the future of the franchise.

#1: 2006-Present Home & Away Jerseys

Ducks2006

As I mentioned above, these jerseys aren't perfect, but there's enough here to like more than the rest of the Ducks' jerseys for it to take the top spot.

I really don't like the logo that's being used for reasons I've already mentioned. There's still a few too many stripes for my liking, but it's obviously better than the previous jersey. The stripes also rise a little too high, especially on the back, crowding the numbers.

But these are relatively minor gripes. I like how they continued the tradition established by the original jerseys of having the stripes on an angle, but modified it to make it more of a swoop than a straight line, adding more movement to the lines. It gives a little bit more character to a jersey that's otherwise quite minimal.

It would be nice to have slightly more orange in there, but this was back before Anaheim really played up the Orange County aspect of their brand. On these, it makes more sense to add more orange, or just eliminate the thin orange lines altogether.

Still, it's a nice jersey and, with a few alterations, could be considered something of a modern classic. Wear it like a boss.

Jersey Recommendation: #8 Selanne. Or #27 Niedermayer. Whoever you consider to be the true leader of the Ducks during the Brian Burke era, when Anaheim became the first team to bring the Stanley Cup to California (or anywhere west of Denver for that matter). These two were the best players to wear a Ducks jersey, and either would be fitting for the best jersey the Ducks have ever worn.

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