Well, hell has officially frozen over.
The Devils will be finally getting a third jersey after roughly 25 years of the NHL first introducing third jerseys on a large scale across the league.
The good news? It will be black. The no-brainer that many fans have been calling for since the mid-1990’s.
The bad news? Well, it’s just not very nice looking.
Pictures of the jersey (and remember, this has not been 100-percent confirmed as the real jersey – as Chris Creamer of SportsLogos.net reminded us in his article on the subject) leaked by @GTAC13JERSEYS via @Scottyk9 on Twitter back on November 20.
The base of the jersey is black with white stripes throughout. It has a thin white stripe at the hem (similar to the black stripe at the bottom of the regular home and away sets) and two thick white stripes on either arm with three thin white stripes in between them. The shoulder yoke is three white stripes of equal size on the front and back of the yoke.
The collar sees the now-standard NHL logo on the front. The inside of the collar is red with “’95 ’00 ‘03” in white on it – the three Stanley Cup championship years, which also appears on the inside collar of the regular sets. The front of the collar also features a lace collar.
The crest sees the word “Jersey” in script font in white on the front outlines in a red drop shadow.
I’ll forego the jokes about a new New Jersey jersey with the word “Jersey” on the front that everyone sees compelled to make, well, everywhere.
To begin with, the base of the jersey. As reported by Creamer on SportsLogos.net, the main design is an homage to the Newark Bulldogs. The Bulldogs (whom the Devils also pay tribute to with the aforementioned stripe on the hems of their regular jersey sets) only played one season in Newark. They played in the Cam-Am League in 1928-29 according to Creamer, so there is not a whole lot of history there to begin with.
Creamer points out that the black-and-white jerseys are very similar aesthetically to jerseys the Chicago Blackhawks wore in the 1930s. The Hawks have worn this design more recently in a completely black-and-white color palette.
The logo on the front is the only real splash of color for now (we have not actually seen the entire uniforms yet, so no helmets, pant shells, socks, gloves or names and numbers) so that is what draws the eye to it right away.
And, unfortunately, it’s a bit of an eyesore.
The plain script does not pop like the Devils iconic logo does or would on a black jersey. It is just a word mark there.
Creamer does ask why the designers and the team went with “the slang nickname for the state?” He says that “[s]ure Vegas did it with their name, but that doesn’t mean it was a good move.” Now on this one, I will defend the Jersey jersey.
The team is named after the Jersey Devil. Since the cryptozoological beast from the Pine Barrens was called the “Jersey Devil” and not the “New Jersey Devil” as pointed out by a comment by a guest on an article by Nick Villano on PucksandPitchforks.com, this would be the correct verbiage. The commentor does concede that the “design” of the jersey “is admittedly awful” however.
(As a side note, the team did issue lapel pins to Season Ticket Members a few seasons ago that featured this exact “Jersey” word mark. I cannot remember the exact year, but a family member of mine who has season tickets was issued the pin in their preseason Member packet. So this is not a brand new logo.)
And this brings me to another point. From the mid-1960s to the early-1970s, there was a team in the old Eastern Hockey League that played out of the Cherry Hill Arena in South Jersey that was called the Jersey Devils.
These minor league Devils were eventually bought by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1970 and operated by them until the Jersey Devils folded in 1973. At that time, they used their parent club’s orange, black and white color scheme.
But before that, from 1964 to 1970, they used a red, black and white color scheme. Their white jersey was originally on display in the Prudential Center when the building opened in 2007 until the space that it was shown was refurbished into the Little Devils Kid’s Zone a few years back.
The jersey featured similar complex striping to the Newark Bulldogs/New Jersey Devils third jersey, but with red mixed into the black and white. The crest, a circle with a map of the state within stitched in black and the Jersey Devil himself creeping up behind it in red, is extremely busy and a bit messy.
However, the base jersey is very nice and could have been looked to as an inspiration for this third jersey. Likewise, the crest could even have been cleaned up and modernized and put to use for this endeavor. Or they could have just slapped the current team’s classic logo on the front and it still would have looked good.
Personally, I don’t know why they did not go in that direction in this case. No one alive likely has memories of the Newark Bulldogs’ single season of professional hockey.
The Cherry Hill-based Devils, on the other hand, are within living memory for some people and had cool jerseys and a good, albeit complicated, logo to boot. Add to that that the NHL team’s name is influenced by it and you have yourself a recipe for a potential winner.
It might be the connection to one of our biggest rivals, but we need to remember that the Flyers did not have anything to do with the team and, in fact, did not exist for a few years, when the red, black and white color scheme was used. They also changed the logo to a stylized “JD” monogram featuring a hockey stick once they bought the club. Their jerseys more closely resembled the Flyers’ original expansion-era uniforms as well.
While I certainly do appreciate the Devils and Adidas looking deep into the past to celebrate pro hockey history in the state of New Jersey, the obvious answer might have been staring them right in the face if they wanted to reach back into the mists of time.
Either way, this is a learning process, I guess. During the Lou Lamoriello years and even after that for a few seasons, the franchise became notorious for resisting a proper third jersey. Sure, we’ve had “Heritage Jerseys” and “Reverse Retro Jerseys” in recent years, but not a legit third jersey.
We will become the final NHL team to have one. This was not a great first step into that sphere, but it will probably not be our last. Maybe we get things better as we move along here. The Devils have only had three main jersey designs in their nearly-40-year history in the Garden State. There’s only so much to draw from. Short of creating something completely new and modern – a tactic that has seemed to have gone out of fashion with many current jersey designs –you kind of need to go to obscure lengths to find inspiration.
I feel that there will be time to experiment with other designs. Especially next year as the team celebrates their 40th season in New Jersey. Maybe they reach back to the days of the Kansas City Scouts or the Colorado Rockies (although the Avalanche have co-opted their history a bit in recent times)? Maybe they look to the EHL Jersey Devils? Maybe they improve upon the Newark Bulldogs design? Maybe they look elsewhere to New Jersey hockey history or go in a completely different direction.
Time will tell if the Jersey jersey lasts or fades back into the past from whence it came.