The NHL's Reverse Retro jerseys were a sensation two years ago, creating significant sales and conversation among hockey fans. Adidas felt the pressure of creating a sequel to that blockbuster with its 2022-23 season retro sweaters.
"How many amazing remix combinations are out there?" said Dan Near, senior director at Adidas hockey. "We spent a lot of time debating about whether the franchise should evolve into something else or is this a sequel. We went with the latter."
As with any sequel, there are a few differences from the original. The 32 new Reverse Retro jerseys feature more white sweaters than the 2020 collection. Please recall that because of the COVID pandemic, the 2020-21 season was played without interdivisional games. Now, Adidas hopes to see more retro vs. retro games, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres game on Nov. 2.
This line also features more embroidered and raised elements on the team logos, which is something that arrived when Adidas started making jerseys with 50% recycled materials.
Another big difference was the level of anticipation. Near said that Adidas is aware of all the speculation, mock-ups and social media scuttlebutt about this collection of jerseys.
"We're excited about the speculation. I think if you look back at the first time we launched in 2020, it came out of nowhere. Nobody knew what it was," Near said. "We didn't announce it was coming back this time, but people seemed to know it was coming. The rampant speculation and energy is making this unique and exciting. We track it. We see what people are saying. Sometimes they're right on the mark. Other times they're on a completely different planet. Nothing is official until it's official."
But it wasn't just the fans anticipating the next wave of Reverse Retro jerseys. The NHL teams were as well.
"There was plenty of meat on the bone to do this again," Near said. "What made it unique the second time around is that you have the teams thinking 'I want to win Reverse Retro.'"
Which ones were victorious? Here is our ranking of the 32 NHL Reverse Retro jerseys for the 2022-23 season. Keep in mind that we based this just on the jerseys themselves -- some really cool elements will be revealed with the full uniform kits, but they didn't factor in here.
1. Florida Panthers (2009)
What a concept: It's only taken nearly 30 years, but a team that plays in South Florida finally has a jersey that's evocative of South Florida.
This is a mix of the team's stick-and-palm secondary logo that's been with it since the 1990s and the light blue from the third jerseys it rocked in 2009. The rays of the sun are slightly raised to give the crest a 3D quality. The colors on the stripes pay homage to the Panthers' current primary colors. The rest feels like you're staring at a frozen blue Hawaiian through a pair of expensive sunglasses.
Sure, seeing the alternate logo makes one realize how close that hockey stick looks to a golf putter ... but that's also kind of thematic to the franchise, if we're being honest.
2. San Jose Sharks (1974)
It was inevitable that the Sharks eventually would honor their Bay Area ancestors with a Reverse Retro jersey. The California Golden Seals' greatest legacy might be their aesthetics, including a turn to teal 17 years before the Sharks swam into the NHL.
These are essentially the Seals' 1974 home jerseys with "Sharks" written on them instead, and they're sublime: a little California love, a little Jackie Moon. That Seals team won 19 games. Given what we've seen from San Jose this season, perhaps it's just dressing the part.
3. Montreal Canadiens (1979)
The Youppi! of Reverse Retro jerseys.
Montreal claims this is meant to honor its 1979 look, when it won its fourth Stanley Cup in a row. Adidas claims the light blue is "inspired by the city of Montreal colors." But for the love of Tim Raines and Larry Walker, we know what's up with these sweaters: It's the Habs as the Montreal Expos, and we salute them like Andrés Galarraga admiring a home run.
4. Los Angeles Kings (1982)
The most remarkable thing about this Reverse Retro Kings jersey, which honors the 40th anniversary of the "Miracle on Manchester," is that one swears that it has previously existed. But the crown logo in the 1980s was on either a gold or "Forum Blue" jersey.
This is the first time the iconic sweater has been executed in white, and it looks awesome. Bonus points for creating raised gems on the crown for a 3D look.
5. Colorado Avalanche (1995)
The Avalanche topped the 2020 rankings with their ode to the Quebec Nordiques. This year's model could be seen as an homage to the NHL's Colorado Rockies, but their logo inspiration was the same as this Retro jersey: the Colorado state flag.
Nothing is going to top the remixed Nords sweater. But this looks clean and sharp, and like other Avalanche alternate logos is an improvement over their primary one.
6. Vegas Golden Knights (1995 ... OK)
The Golden Knights had a Reverse Retro jersey last year inspired by the now-defunct Wranglers minor league franchise. This time, they're inspired by a team that doesn't exist.
This sweater "imagines what a Golden Knights third jersey might have looked like in 1995." The font and numbering are inspired by vintage hotel signage on the Strip. Oh, and just to make sure you get the full Vegas ostentatiousness: There are hidden glow-in-the-dark stars incorporated in the crest that can be seen in the dark and under a black light.
"When you think about the glitz and glamour of Vegas, it requires a little ingenuity," Near said.
7. St. Louis Blues (1966)
The Blues chose poorly last season, resurrecting a nauseating jersey design and inexplicably making red the primary color. This time, they understood the assignment.
The Blues' Reverse Retro is based on a 1966 prototype worn by the team's ownership a year before the expansion franchise actually hit the ice, which is like giving an Oscar to a teaser trailer. Despite being their second most prominent color, this is the first primarily gold jersey the Blues have worn. It incorporates the light blue seen on their Winter Classic jerseys.
Sound the trumpets: These rule.
8. Arizona Coyotes (1998)
This is the most "meta" Reverse Retro jersey in the collection.
In 2020, the Coyotes honored their much-maligned 1998 thirds, which magnified the head of the "kachina jersey" logo, made green the primary color and ceded the waistline to "a painfully obvious desert landscape complete with cacti," as the Five For Howling blog noted. Their first Reverse Retro jersey swapped the green for purple from the team's crescent moon alternate logo, and it was one of the best of the lot.
Now they've gone Reverse Retro on their Reverse Retro, swapping out the green for sienna, marking "the first time this trending earth tone color has been worn by any NHL team," according to Adidas. The million-dollar question: Are these supposed to abstractly evoke Arizona State athletics colors or is that simply coincidental?
9. Boston Bruins (1995)
The Pooh bear has returned!
The Bruins wore this logo 1995-2006 on a third sweater. The blog Stanley Cup of Chowder called it "the greatest jersey in Bruins history." The Pooh bear was originally featured on a gold jersey. This time it's a white background, all the better to see the kind eyes, parted hair and Marchand-esque smirk on the bear's fuzzy mug. Put one on and snuggle up with a pot of honey.
10. Edmonton Oilers (2001)
I once asked comics artist Todd McFarlane about creating this logo, which Edmonton used as a third jersey from 2001 through 2007.
"What's the design I could do that could pay homage to the Oilers but also just be cool to look at?" he pondered. "Selling it to someone in Edmonton is preaching to the choir. How do I sell it to someone in Miami?"
We're not sure how it played in Florida, but its initial run in Edmonton wasn't unanimously beloved. But this version might be an improvement.
His "dynamic gear surrounding an oil drop" logo has been enhanced by being raised in some areas and with that splash of orange in the middle. Each spoke represents a different Oilers Stanley Cup championship, and sadly that hasn't needed to be edited since it debuted in 2001.
11. New York Islanders (1995)
The Islanders have slowly reclaimed the ill-fated legacy of the "Fishsticks" logo that reigned 1995-97, selling gear with that logo and color scheme in their official store in recent years.
For the team's 50th anniversary, Adidas has added "the most requested uniform" for its Reverse Retro series.
Here's the thing: The slight modifications they've made to the logo -- like the Tron-esque orange highlights and the current color scheme -- tone down the kitsch and the charm. One could argue the original Fishsticks jersey's Aquafresh palette and queasy waves are more in keeping with the Reverse Retro aesthetic.
12. Vancouver Canucks (1962)
There's an interesting separation between Canucks fans and outsiders when it comes to this Reverse Retro jersey. It's inspired by their Western Hockey League look that featured Johnny Canuck, only this one has raised embroidered gloves and suspenders.
But the Canucks Army blog notes that Vancouver fans (A) feel this look is too close to that of the Abbotsford Canucks, who also use Johnny Canuck, and (B) were hoping for a less predictable experiment, like "a green and blue edition of the Flying Vee or Flying Skate jerseys."
13. Washington Capitals (2005)
In 1995, the Capitals went from red, white and blue to blue, black and bronze. They had a black third jersey for 10 years during that fad, with the Capitol dome logo seen on the shoulders of this Reverse Retro jersey.
Now they've turned the "Screaming Eagle" into another black alternate sweater, with some really nice tweaks to the formula. This jersey features metallic copper and "Capital Blue," giving the whole thing a sleeker look.
14. Detroit Red Wings (1991)
You can't improve on perfection, which is why the Red Wings' first Reverse Retro attempt looked like a practice version of their iconic sweater. But give the Red Wings credit for taking a swing with version 2.0.
An homage to their 1991 NHL 75th anniversary jerseys, which were red and white, this bold red and black look is accented by a DETROIT wordmark inspired by the 1920s Detroit Cougars. For a young team developing its swagger, we'll allow it.
15. Anaheim Ducks (1993)
This Ducks jersey is cool. It's clean looking. It's got the proper logo on the front. They're going to slap "ZEGRAS" on the back of these and move racks of them.
But after much debate inside the ESPN fashion offices, we came to a consensus: If Anaheim is dipping back to the inaugural Mighty Ducks season and its Reverse Retro doesn't have even a hint of jade or eggplant, then what is it even doing this for?
16. New York Rangers (1996)
The Rangers finished No. 2 on the 2020 rankings by simply bringing back to the Liberty Head logo for the first time since around 2007. They went back to that well for this Reverse Retro jersey, slapping it on a royal blue jersey with red sleeves.
The whole thing honestly feels like one of those sweatshirts that costs $50 more than it should and hangs untouched with its friends in some distant corner of the NHL Store.
17. Pittsburgh Penguins (1992)
ROBO PENGUIN! Memories of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Petr Nedved come rushing back as we celebrate the majesty of this flightless fowl.
But we had to assess some demerits for what could have been: This is the Penguins' 1992-93 jersey flipped from white to black, leaving out some of the more audacious Robo Penguin gradient designs from the latter part of the decade. It's a jersey that thinks the 1990s stopped with grunge, when "Bills, Bills, Bills" actually dropped in 1999.
18. Dallas Stars (1993)
The most interesting aspect of this Stars jersey, which is an homage to their inaugural season look back in 1993-94, is the dimensional embroidery on the crest to give the star a 3D quality.
Otherwise, the current "victory green" color integrated with this classic design makes for a fine-looking sweater. But we're now two Reverse Retro jerseys deep and the "Mooterus" has yet to return, so we really can't go any higher than this for Dallas.
19. Winnipeg Jets (1990)
The Jets' first Reverse Retro jersey was one of our favorites, but this one isn't nearly as bold.
Winnipeg remixed the Jets 1.0 jersey from 1990 with the team's current color palette, minus the red. A great sweater for Teemu Selanne completists but one that doesn't come close to the streetwear grandeur of the previous Retro hit.
20. New Jersey Devils (1982)
More debate inside the ESPN fashion offices on this one.
The Devils pay tribute to the Colorado Rockies 40 years after the team relocated from Denver to East Rutherford. It's certainly a fun look, with the Rockies' gold, red and navy accenting the jersey. But we're a little disappointed that the color scheme carries through to the logo only via a blue circle around the "NJ," when this could have been a fun opportunity to play around with that logo.
As it stands, this sorta looks like when a pro shop irons the right crest on the wrong jersey.
21. Minnesota Wild (1978)
"Say, kids, did you like the Minnesota North Stars-influenced Reverse Retro jersey? What if we told you that it's now available in ... green?"
Seriously, no points for creativity, but these remain pretty dope.
22. Chicago Blackhawks (1938)
Inspired by Chicago's 1938 uniforms and the team's 2019 Winter Classic gear, this Blackhawks jersey had the unfortunate timing of being immediately market-corrected by a similar -- but much better executed -- Red Wings Reverse Retro.
23. Buffalo Sabres (1996)
Sorry, but this just doesn't work. The "goat head" logo loses its magic when stripped away from the red, black and silver color scheme that evoked images of Dominik Hasek saves and Miroslav Satan goals.
Outside of the nostalgic kick of having this logo back on a Buffalo sweater, applying the traditional Sabres colors to it feels slightly blasphemous.
24. Seattle Kraken (2022)
What's a nostalgic Kraken jersey? A Mark Giordano sweater?
Obviously lacking history, Seattle just decided to make a sea green jersey that makes it look like they're wearing a cummerbund under their own logo. It's not a bad looking sweater. It's just not as audacious as one might expect from a team nicknamed after a mythical sea creature. It's a Reverse Retro with real "Why don't we make our mascot a troll doll?" energy.
25. Nashville Predators (2001)
Missed opportunity here. There was speculation that the Predators were going to put their 2001 third jersey logo on a navy jersey, which would have properly remixed their mustard stain sweater with a currently used color.
Alas, they went with gold, making this jersey practically redundant with their current ones.
26. Carolina Hurricanes (2022)
It's their current away jersey remixed into a red sweater, with two sets of hurricane warning flags on the shoulders.
Your mileage here is entirely dependent on how you feel about nicknames on jerseys instead of full nicknames.
27. Ottawa Senators (2006)
Adidas says this is a remix of the jersey the Senators wore during their 2006-07 Stanley Cup Final run with "the current Ottawa color scheme and breakouts."
Sure. It's very much an Ottawa Senators jersey. But we'll wait and see the full kit, as Adidas notes these Ottawa jerseys will be "presented in a powerful black head-to-toe visual including the helmet, pant and sock" complemented by "a thick super-sized player name and number system."
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (2003)
The Blue Jackets got a little funky last time with a primary red jersey that sported their original logo. This is the first black jersey the Jackets will have worn, with blue sleeve accents that evoke their current third sweaters.
These FrankenJerseys are on the borderline of looking like a stitching accident, but in the end we like our jerseys like we like our steaks: black and blue. But maybe not as cold.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (1962)
Toronto is honoring its 1962 Stanley Cup championship, remixing a primary white jersey into a primary blue jersey with white shoulder pads.
A blue Maple Leafs jersey. Wild stuff. Save us, Justin Bieber.
30. Calgary Flames (1995)
Have you ever seen a movie where one bad performance ruins the whole thing? The Flames have a cool black jersey, with an iconic logo and an eye-catching color scheme.
They also decided to bring back the truly bizarre "diagonal pedestal hem stripe" from their mid-1990s sweaters.
It just ruins the whole thing and makes it look as if the Flames are wearing an achievement belt from a strip mall taekwondo academy.
31. Philadelphia Flyers (1974)
"I don't want my guys looking like a [expletive] crayon box. I don't want them wearing a bunch of whozies and whatsits. Just make a Flyers jersey. Who cares?" -- John Tortorella, maybe.
32. Tampa Bay Lightning (1997)
Nostalgia can be comforting. Nostalgia can be inspiring. But nostalgia can also cloud one's judgement on what should or should not be mined from the past for the benefit of the present.
To that end: These Lightning jerseys should have remained buried under whatever landfill in which they were decomposing. Tampa Bay wore these jerseys 1996-99, during a time when the NHL had its share of ghastly third jerseys. They had storm waves across the waist; lightning bolts on the sleeves; and, in perhaps the single worst aesthetic touch for an NHL jersey in the past 30 years, "bold rain" flecked across the front of the sweater that looked as if it was taken straight from an 8-bit video game.
Whatever Lightning player feigns excitement the most for these monstrosities should win the Lady Byng, full stop.
Dan Near of Adidas offers a brief rebuttal about this jersey: "There were some jerseys from that era that we presented and the teams weren't excited about. There were others that the teams embraced right away. This isn't a permanent choice. This is a celebration of a moment in time and the nostalgia about a team. Maybe we don't have to take ourselves so seriously and bring something back that might have been polarizing but that in today's day and age is very trend-right. I give a lot of acclaim to the Lightning for making a risk well worth taking."