It should not be that difficult to design a decent-looking hockey jersey. Especially when it comes to international play. Each country has a flag and a colour scheme from which to work, setting the designer up for success simply by walking through the door.
Alas, that has not always been the case. And the past few days have shown just how easy it is to misunderstand the assignment.
Canada, in particular, has a mixed bag of international outfits throughout their tenure of international play. Some are phenomenal, and some are fashion disasters.
What we’re going to do today is focus on the former category, counting down the four best Team Canada jerseys from the nation’s illustrious history.
Why not top-five? Because I’m different. That’s why.
4. 1972 Summit Series
What if the logo…was the jersey???
That’s basically what Canada had in mind when designing their kits for the 1972 Summit Series. And, shockingly, it works.
The maple leaf is such a great central logo. It’s simple yet powerful, recognizable to all who see it and should be featured prominently on all of Canada’s official uniforms. The 1972 kits take that to the next level, having the maple leaf take up roughly 80% of the entire jersey and even expanding the sides of it to the cuffs on the arms. It’s a distinctive design, one that looks just as good up close as it does from the very back of the cheap seats.
What holds these unforms back, however, is Canada’s fatal flaw in jersey design: the color black.
To take such a gorgeous sweater and accent it with black pants should be a crime. It’s despicable. And yet its continued inclusion on this list should speak to just how much I love the jerseys themselves. Still, they were so close to perfection. Using white pants on the red uniforms to blend with the white maple leaf, therein turning the player’s legs into the stem, seems like such an obvious home run and yet the powers that be fumbled the ball on the one-yard line.
Oh, well. Life is about taking the good with the bad.
3. 2016 Hockey Canada
This jersey gets bonus points for accomplishing the impossible: Making black look good on a Team Canada jersey.
It shouldn’t. But it does. I’m just as surprised as you are.
Using black merely as an accent allows the red to shine as the jersey’s primary color while also ensuring that the all-black shoulders blend nicely into the black helmets, therein segmenting the jersey’s color scheme in a way that pleases the eye. The black stripes on the arms work in a similar fashion, melding well with the black gloves in the kit while still ensuring that the red is the star of the show – as it always should be.
If you’re going to stray from Canada’s two official colors, you better do so with a purpose. The 2016 Hockey Canada sweaters do exactly that, using black accents in a way that only ties the design together and makes their overall kits sleek and modern without sacrificing the historical design.
2. 1987 Canada Cup
I have no idea why Canada has not doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down on this design in the years since.
Everything about it is perfect. The color scheme. The sleek half-logo that looks like a razor-sharp maple leaf waiting to dice opponents up. Even the weird three-pronged maple leaves on the arms. Everything about it just works.
Canada struck gold with these kits. They’re the perfect blend of simple and stylish, taking the general idea of the 1972 Summit Series and adapting it into something timeless, and, dare I say, better.
If Nike did a re-release of these bad boys in the year 2021, they’d sell like hotcakes.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And these uniforms are as solid as they come.
1. 2010 Vancouver Olympics
There was no other choice.
Hosting the games on home soil, Canada needed a uniform that was worthy of the postage stamps and Heritage Moments it would be featured in for decades to come. And not only did they understand the assignment, they crushed it. Like, out of the park. It simply could not have been better.
Do you want to know why? Because they didn’t overthink it.
Canada’s flag features two main colors: red and white. Those colors are nice colours. One could even say they “pop”. And instead of getting funky with black or throwing some gold in there for no reason, Canada sent their hockey players out on the biggest international stage in their nation’s colors for all to see.
The kicker, however, is including a West Coast First Nation’s design. Created in tandem by Nike and Musqueam artist Debra Sparrow, the jersey features a thunderbird and an eagle stationed within the maple leaf to protect the crest.
This is extremely important because here’s the thing: First Nation’s history is Canada’s history.
The 2010 Olympic Games were held on First Nation’s land – land that was unfairly ripped from them by colonizers against their will. To exclude First Nation’s culture in the cultural expression that is hosting the Olympics would have been a gross oversight. Hockey Canada did well by acknowledging their integral place in Canadian society First Nation’s people play.