To hockey fans, the sweater is everything.
In football and baseball, it's a jersey. And in basketball, how many adults can actually look good in what is essentially a tank top?
But in hockey, the aura is everywhere. Young. Old. Male. Female. Tall. Short. You gotta have the sweater.
Trust me when I say there's nothing like a game at the Saddledome in Calgary, when a vast majority of the 19,000 folks in the stands are wearing their team's blazing red. It's a similar scene in Chicago and Washington most nights, the other two places where my eyes say I see the highest percentage of sweaters in the seats.
One thing the NBA has been ahead of the NHL on for years is alternate jerseys. Now, you can easily argue the NBA has too many – and teams even have alternate courts to play on – but there are lots of different looks and throwbacks and I happen to love the NBA's "City Edition" collection, which this year includes incredible purple and orange "The Valley" tops for the Phoenix Suns and Fiesta themes for the San Antonio Spurs.
Why shouldn't the NHL have that kind of fun?
In conjunction with Adidas, the league released its 31 "reverse retro" sweaters Monday morning. The NHL's first-ever leaguewide alternate program had fans talking, which is never a bad thing.
I loved how the teams used little Twitter teases the last few days. Great buzz was created when a tiny touch such as the Colorado fleur de lis was revealed, giving the hint a Quebec Nordiques throwback was coming for the Avalanche.
And you have to respect the words of Dan Near, the senior director of Adidas hockey, when he said, "We have tremendous reverence for the history and tradition of the sport" while trying to attract new fans and, of course, new dollars. It's the right way to play the program.
How did Adidas do? It's a mixed bag in spots, but there definitely are some winners.
Previously the Sabres’ primary logo from 1996-2006, the “goat head” will be featured this season on each shoulder of the team’s reverse retro jersey.
Let's start right off the top at the homefront. I'm down with the Sabres' throwback to the 2000 "butter knives" version, the vastly underutilized red sweater with the crossed swords on the crest. Good call to stay with blue and gold with this year's switch to royal.
You have to give it up to the era, so the use of "goat head" patches on the shoulders is a good compromise. I'm glad that wasn't the main logo used. That was a Rigas-era misstep to touch the franchise's circular crossed swords as a way to separate from the Knoxes and have something new when moving into Marine Midland Arena.
Old school: The Wild went to Minnesota North Stars green, white and gold and they're beauties. The Hurricanes threw back to the Hartford Whalers and you can never go wrong with that logo, while the aforementioned Avs did us all a solid by bringing back the Nordiques in burgundy.
New Jersey: The Christmas tree look of the early 1980s featuring green and red still works. But it was gone by the championship days of the '90s, so you wonder if folks will stay away from it.
Los Angeles: Forum purple and gold, which you can never go wrong with, combined with the Wayne Gretzky-era crest. I never liked this franchise's switch to black in the first place. Good call.
Dallas: It's that 1999 look that will give you nightmares of Ed Belfour, Brett Hull and Mike Modano skating the Stanley Cup around Marine Midland Arena. But facts are facts. It's sharp.
"A much tougher division and nine or 10 months off without a game don't strike me as a recipe for snapping a playoff drought," Mike Harrington said.
Florida: The original roaring Panther of the '96 Stanley Cup finalists is another logo that should not have been messed with. It's back and you have to like the palm tree graphic on the shoulders.
Washington: It's red instead of blue, but it's the late 90s version that beat the Sabres in the '98 East final and the flying eagle is sharp.
Columbus: Like the red color, but points off for the infernal Nationwide Arena goal cannon getting run as a shoulder patch. Captain Nick Foligno tweeted three fire emojis.
St. Louis: They turned the late '90s red trim that Gretzky and Hull played with into the main color. It works.
Vancouver: Old-school green and blue with the 2000s Orca. Maybe I would have liked the skate or the stick logos, but it's still sharp.
Philadelphia, Islanders, Tampa Bay, Edmonton, San Jose, Ottawa, Nashville: Don't have much to say about them either way. They're all just kind of there. Tiny tweaks. Nothing special.
Winnipeg: The original Jets' logo from the WHA and first NHL days. Nice. On a drab gray. Not so nice.
What is that?
Calgary: Blasty, the team's fire breathing stallion, on a black jersey. I hope my friends in Alberta stick with their classic red and gold, but I know they love the horse.
Anaheim: The "Quack Attack" of the mid-90s Mighty Ducks remains overly cartoonish. Too reminiscent of minor-league baseball teams calling themselves the Jumbo Shrimp or Baby Cakes.
Arizona: The cactus and sun/moon graphics on the bottom are a good touch. The "wild boar" crest of the early 2000s alternate should have been left there.
Many Sabres’ fans have clamored for the return of royal blue and gold since the team switched to a red and black color scheme in 1996.
The Original Six: You really shouldn't be messing with the classics in Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Boston and New York, and this program unfortunately proves that again. The Bruins just splashed gold everywhere; the Blackhawks don't look good in black; the Red Wings lost all their red striping on their white; the Canadiens look terrible in mostly blue; and the Maple Leaf crest is blown up so much that it looks like a poorly made knockoff. The best one of the group is the Rangers' Statue of Liberty design.
Liberty jerseys. That's it. That's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/gnha1vP066— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) November 16, 2020
Vegas: It's bright red and a tribute to the IHL's Las Vegas Thunder. Bleh.
Pittsburgh: The 90s diagonal lettering didn't work at the time and doesn't work now. The Penguin should never leave the front of the sweater.