This installment of the Worst to First Jerseys features the San Jose Sharks, and much thanks to 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.
Pre-1991, green (worn by Hartford and Minnesota), orange (Philadelphia) and light blue (Quebec) were the most adventurous teams got in a sea of otherwise black, blue and red jerseys. Part of that was due to jersey production restrictions, but San Jose was the first team to introduce a non-traditional colour into the NHL – teal. It was hugely successful, selling more merchandise in all professional sports than every other team save for the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. Anaheim (eggplant/teal), Colorado (Avalanche.jpeg" target="_blank">burgundy) and Phoenix (a virtual shit-mix of colours) followed suit in the coming years. So the Sharks are trendsetters of sorts, but colour is one thing. How you design a jersey with those colours is completely different.
Here's how this works: I'll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Sharks 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 Sharks, there's 6 different jerseys/eras. And we'll start with the worst one:
6. 1997 Third Jersey, 1998–2007 Home & Away Jerseys
Aside from a few exceptions (which we'll get to later), the 1990s should generally be considered the dark ages of design in the NHL. Things really started going downhill around the mid-90s, when bad typography, stupid logos the third jersey program got going. It was a time of extreme excess design-wise, with no signs of restraint or thoughtful consideration during a time of rapid expansion and growth. These jerseys are definitely a product of that era.
I haven't seen this many curves on a man since the Victorian age, turning the '80s-inspired cuff-to-cuff shoulder yoke design into something else entirely – into something that resembles graceful cherub wings when worn by the players. And graceful cherubs are not the first thing that comes into your mind when you see this guy. Well, except for maybe his hair.
But there are certain levels of restraint being shown here, keeping the same color scheme of teal, black and grey throughout (instead of throwing buckets of paint at the jersey like Coyotes-Green-Alternate-Third-Jersey-1998-2003.jpg" target="_blank">Phoenix and Florida did). The bottoms of the jerseys are kept minimal, to a single band of colour. The patterns are consistent between the jerseys and, because of the complexity of the striping, they knew to keep the rest of the jersey relatively simple, so there's some good things happening.
But there's no question the teal jersey is the Sansa Stark (ie - the weaker sister) of the pair. With the additional black-mesh armpit-stain stripe coming to a point right at the collar, the jersey becomes way too clustered and almost sun-burst like (if the sun gave off rays of black, grey and teal that is). The white jersey at least removes the armpit stripe and comes across as a fairly well-designed jersey.
But the curved cuff-to-cuff thing is hard to pull off without it looking dated, especially with multiple stripes. It also creates odd points on the sleeves which really inhibit the numbers on the sleeves in size and placement. Sure, there's issues with the jerseys, but if this is the worst that the Sharks could do, it's not bad considering what their California cousins have come up with.
Jersey Recommendation: #18 Ricci. A face that you just can't forget, and not necessarily in a good way. But also captain of the Sharks (albeit for only 10 games) and one of their more important contributors during this era. Get it in the whites, the stronger sister of the pair.
5. 2007-2013 Home & Away Jerseys
Remember what was said in the previous post about excess? Well, this jersey represents the one time in their history when the Sharks did just that. Over-designed, overly-complicated and number patches where they shouldn't be drop this jersey to near the bottom of the list. What kept it out of the basement is that it held onto some traditional jersey aesthetics so it didn't get too weird.
To go with a slightly altered logo design meant to create a more aggressive and updated look, the Sharks redesigned their jerseys at the same time, which also coincided with the new Reebok Edge jerseys being introduced to the league. It marks a return to more traditional jersey aesthetics for the Sharks, which is slightly ironic since other teams (like Kings+v+Colorado+Avalanche+Qqqqaeu-pH9l.jpg" target="_blank">Colorado and Panthers/floridapanthers.jpg" target="_blank">Florida, for example) took the opportunity to redesign their jerseys into something that more closely resembled the previously discussed Sharks jerseys (to varying degrees of success). While traditional aesthetics is usually advantageous to a jersey, the introduction of orangey-yellow into the jerseys hurt more than helped.
The Sharks have always had that colour in their logo – the hockey stick that the shark is biting into – but this is the only time it was introduced anywhere else, or at least to this degree. What is does is just add more lines that don't really do anything. The orange is just enough to be an added distraction but not enough to actually work as an accent colour to the teal, wandering in no-man's land like Daenerys Targaryen in the Red Waste with Qarth nowhere in sight.
So, the rundown on the jersey becomes: five stripes along the bottom (black, orange, teal, orange, black), five stripes on each sleeve, two outlines around the numbers (black, orange), shoulder yokes that also have an outline around them, and double-outlined numbers on the front of the jersey thrown in there as well. Oh…and shoulder patches…and the main logo of course…and stripes around to collar for good measure. It's maddening excessiveness. It's madder than the Mad King, with no Kingslayer around to help. The jersey becomes a visual cacophony (which is a bad thing) of elements that weighs down the entire design and overcrowds the main logo.
Another negative is the typography. From 1998 to 2007, the Sharks used a typeface on their jerseys that, while not great, wasn't the generic chopped-off corner font that is stereotypical for a lot of sports. Going back to to this is a bit of a step backwards. The clunkiness of the numbers and letters are accentuated when doubly-outlined and just add to the heavy look of the entire jersey.
Again, the thing saving this jersey from the basement is that it went back to timeless jersey design as the foundation, making sure that it would look relevant (but still bad) for as long as they wore it.
Plug alert: A while back, Hockey By Design did an interview with Terry Smith, the designer of the original Sharks logo and the 2007 redesigned logo/jersey. He gave lots of great background info about the designs which, if you're interested, makes for a great read.
Jersey Recommendation: #19 Thornton. Nothing against Thornton at all for recommending his number on this low-ranking jersey. During this era, he was the face of the franchise more than any other player and helped make them a powerhouse team the entire time they wore the jersey. He's arguably the best player to ever wear a Sharks jersey. Get it in the home teals.
4. 2008–present Third Jerseys
Regular readers of Hockey By Design will know my rant about black jerseys. Yeah, they got pretty popular for a while there in the late-'90s, with many teams opting for a dominantly black third jersey. These days, they've mostly died out except for the teams that have always worn black (Boston and Capitals+v+Pittsburgh+Penguins+VAvoyHSEGxGl.jpg" target="_blank">Pittsburgh for example) and a few holdouts, including the Sharks. The problem with black jerseys is that, visually, it creates an incredibly boring game. Hockey is a game played on a white sheet of ice, where one team almost always wears white. To have the other team wear black just creates a boring and monochromatic experience. Remember how awesome the Red Wings-Leafs Winter Classic looked? It's partly because there was a ton of colour out on the ice. Compare that to this. Totally different visual experience.
Football and basketball can all get away with black jerseys because it's played against a green and orange background, respectively. Baseball could do black jerseys too, but generally avoids it probably because of the heat in the mid-summer games outside. With hockey, it just doesn't make sense to have them out there.
Okay, rant over. Black is not a great jersey for hockey so that doesn't help this jersey. But what does help is that all the excess they threw into the regular home-and-away jerseys that was just discussed, they completely when the opposite direction here, creating an extremely minimalist design. The orange is removed completely (except for in the logo of course), the stripes along the bottom are removed, as are the shoulder yokes. Laces are added in there as well, which is almost always a great thing…unless they're fake glossy laces.
Are they too minimal? Maybe, as hockey jerseys can start looking like practice jerseys – or, even worse, pyjamas – when there's not enough elements on them. The laces help, as do the "SJ" shoulder patches. It also makes the numbers of the front of the jerseys look okay, but they're still a useless addition to any hockey jersey. It's excessive, like all the sex in Game of Thrones.
But as third jerseys go, it's incredibly restrained and oddly minimalist when seeing the jerseys that were worn during that same era, creating a pretty sleek and refined look. Is it any wonder the players loved wearing these more than the regular jerseys?
Jersey Recommendation: #22 Boyle. Dan Boyle joined the Sharks right when these jerseys are introduced. And – like these jerseys – he's been a terrific contributor to the team, but – again, like these jerseys – you know (or hope) that retirement is coming sooner rather than later with the new cast coming in.
#3: 2001–2007 Third Jerseys
These third jerseys are remarkably similar to the third jerseys already discussed. The only differences are in the details.
The white and teal stripes on the sleeves slightly different and also angled. These differences are generally positive, creating a little more movement in the jersey and, while it can be seen as something more traditional as hockey jerseys go, it plays around with it a little bit to create something more modern.
Other differences: there's no laces (a bad thing) but also no numbers on the front (a good thing) and the shoulder patches are different (a tie). The collar is white instead of black, which is probably a good thing since it's a pretty minimalist jersey overall. Also, the typeface used is different which, as previously discussed, is definitely a good thing.
The biggest surprise with these jerseys are the era in which they were created, in the late-'90s and early-'00s when other third jerseys looked like this. And this. And this. To introduce a third jersey that showed this much restraint and professionalism is actually nothing short of remarkable. It's like Tyrion in a family of bat-shit crazy Lannisters. So, while we're still dealing with a black jersey, there's no question it's better than the Sharks' current third jerseys.
Jersey Recommendation: #12 Marleau. Some of Marleau's best days as a Shark came during this era, and it's also the era in which he was captain of the team. A Shark his entire career who bleeds teal, he deserves to have his name on any fan's back.
#2: 2013–present Home & Away Jerseys
When these jerseys were introduced just last summer (and talked about extensively on Hockey By Design when released), one the biggest things that players talked about was how much they liked the third jerseys they had been wearing (ranked #4 on this list) because they were lighter and easier to play in, so they were happy that these new jerseys mimicked those third jerseys almost exactly. The only discernible differences in the actual design (other than the main logo being used other than the alternate one) is a single thin stripe of orange on the sleeves and the white jersey has a collar that's coloured different than the rest of the jersey. Otherwise, they're identical in every single way.
So, every positive and negative said against those third jerseys apply to these jerseys as well, with the biggest exception being that they're not black. That's enough to boost it up the list this far.
The biggest knock against the jerseys is that they're too minimal. When it's not a black alternate jersey, these minimalist designs can take on the look of practice jerseys. But over-minimalist is always preferably to over-excess. You may have heard the expression "less is more", but less is not always more, just like more is not always more. "Just enough" is more. And that's where these jerseys fall a little bit, there's just not quite happening here to give them top placement. Adding a little bit of something to the bottom of the jerseys would've helped. A single stripe right along the bottom perhaps?
The players talked about the weight of the jerseys, but I'll make the claim that it wasn't the actual weight of the previous jerseys (#5 on this list) that was the problem: it was the visual weight. As heavy as they looked, we're talking ounces in real weight which is barely noticeable when you're wearing pounds and pounds of hockey equipment. These just visually look lighter, easier to move in, faster, not as constricting. Psychologically, it makes a difference and hockey players are just as human as the rest of us and would be affected by that. Besides, if they were really concerned about weight, they should have just removed the numbers on the front to save a few ounces.
These are great jerseys and the minimalist approach is definitely appreciated. It's just the slightest of details (and slightest lack of details) that keeps them in second place. As any Stark now knows, you've got to keep your head to get to the top.
Jersey Recommendation: #8 Pavelski. As Jumbo Joe was to San Jose in the past few years, so Little Joe is to the team now and in the next few years. The fresh new jerseys deserve the fresh faces that will continue to carry the team. A #39 Couture would be great too. Get either of them in the home teals.
#1: 1991–1998 Home & Away Jerseys
The first Sharks jersey ever is also the best one ever. The teal/grey/black jerseys were an instant hit with fans of hockey everywhere, selling in the thousands. It was a jersey that women could wear and look as comfortable in as any man. It was something new and exciting, and invited (for better or worse) a new era of hockey jerseys for a new generation of fans. It sounds like I'm over-selling it, but these jerseys were trendsetters and really did break new ground in the league. The extreme volume of sales alone spawned copycat teams to try new colours with fans to cash in on this new wave. You could even say that it helped spawn the third jersey program, as traditional teams that would never change their colours wanted to try new things as well. This jersey was, in a word, groundbreaking.
Complimenting the new colour scheme is a very traditional design that's simple and, more importantly, consistent. The stripes on the sleeves are the same as the stripes along the bottom of the jerseys, creating the jersey strong and simple. Because the colour was so new, it was a good decision to keep the overall design very classic and traditional. Breaking too many barriers at once just starts to look strange and all progress happens a small step at a time.
The only complaint is that there's a lot of stripes happening on the jerseys – the same amount as the #5 ranked jersey – but the lack of shoulder yokes or numbers on the front help to balance that out.
Aside from that, this is a jersey that looks classic and modern at the same time, and still looks somewhat relevant today, over 20 years after it was first introduced. For any designer, achieving that, is definitely a win. And these jerseys take their rightful perch upon the Iron Throne, with no asshole Joffrey in sight.
Jersey Recommendation: #13 Baker. While these jerseys are the best, the Sharks were still an expansion team during this era and had little success and a constant rotations of players entering and leaving the organization. So why not celebrate the jersey with what's perhaps the biggest goal ever scored for the Sharks, in their 1994 improbable upset of the Red Wings in the first round. Get it in the (then) home whites.
We Need Your Help
Speaking of the Baker goal, what do you think is the biggest goal scored in Sharks' history? Let us know in the comments below and it could be epitomized as a poster similar to these ones, available at the Hockey By Design store. Also, now available at the store, made specifically for this post, is a Sharks entry into the Vintage posters series, which is pictured here to the left. You can buy yourself one right here.