Tuesday, 23 November 2021

New Jersey, Literally

As a guy who has four black jerseys in his collection of jerseys, the world decided it was time to drop a piano on me with the lastest unveilings that have happened over the last few days. Of the black jerseys I do own, I possess an NHL All-Star jersey from the 1990s, a Dallas Stars alternate "Mooterus" jersey, a Penguins diagonal jersey from the '90s, and a Niagara Purple Eagles jersey. The last one is the hardest to stomach because Niagara are the PURPLE Eagles, but I don't dress Niagara's players. Hockey needs to be more colourful in this writer's opinion, so I avoid black jerseys as often as I can because hockey has more to offer than black and white.

I struggle with the decision to introduce black jerseys into any team's closet unless they already use black prominently in their colour scheme. Boston and Pittsburgh get a pass because that's one of their main colours. Arizona gets a pass for the Kachina jerseys, but only those jerseys. Teams like Carolina, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Jose need to avoid black jerseys altogether and find ways to re-work their current schemes rather than just being lazy with a black jersey. But this is just one man's opinion on the subject, and I certainly have no control over what NHL teams decide to wear.

New Jersey was always the shining example of not giving into a cheap, black jersey when Lou Lamoriello ran the show in Newark. Yes, they wore the red-and-green a few times for special occasions, and the throwbacks always got rave reviews. When the Devils changed their ACCENT colour from green to black, they removed one of the great colour combinations from being seen by hockey fans, but that was as far as Lou went when it came to tinkering with jerseys. And then Lou left, a new regime took over, and now we're being introduced to an abomination.

Jersey's New "Jersey" Jersey

I feel like this jersey was created as a joke before someone of influence saw it and said, "Yeah, you have something here." This is the New Jersey's new "Jersey" jersey that they'll wear as an alternate this season, and I can already feel the anger in me bubbling to the surface.

Martin Brodeur was good at stopping pucks, but he's lousy at designing jerseys. And by lousy, I mean they should never let him design anything ever again. Brodeur is responsible for this crime against humanity, and he literally jammed three teams' worth of history into one jersey. I should also add that these three teams have no relation to one other outside of they all called Newark home at some point.

Brodeur "borrowed" the sleeve striping from the Newark Bulldogs, a minor-pro team that played in the Canadian American Hockey League for one season in 1928-29 after moving from Quebec City where they had been the Castors. The Bulldogs were led by Sprague Cleghorn, seen to the right, but he didn't lead them very far as the Bulldogs finished fifth out of six teams that season, missing the playoffs. They amassed a 14-26-0 record that season, but fell six points short of a playoff spot. It would be the only season of play for the Bulldogs as the Can-Am League would drop to five teams for the 1929-30 season, so kudos to Martin Brodeur for selecting a team to base this uniform on that lasted exactly one season before folding.

The shoulder yoke stripes were "borrowed" from the River Vale Skeeters that played out of River Vale, New Jersey - some 40 minutes north of Newark. The Skeeters played in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, and the teams was made up entirely of reservists from the Winnipeg Rifles Regiment. Hughie Bell, seen to the left, was the star for the Skeeters, but the team's existence lasted from 1939-1942. Of the three seasons that they played, the 1940-41 season saw them turn in their best record as they went 29-34-2, but the team only won 16 and 18 games in the other two seasons. The highlight of their existence might have been in 1939-40 when the Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers practiced with the Skeeters at River Vale Arena. Kudos to Brodeur once more for basing a uniform off a team that held a three-year record of 63-110-13. That's the kind of team that should be celebrated.

We need to pump the brakes here because if we look a little closer, those two sweaters look fairly similar. Yes, the shoulder striping spacing has changed from 1928-29 to 1939-40, but that sleeve striping looks very similar in spacing and number. Did the Skeeters base their sweaters off what the Bulldogs wore one decade earlier? There's no definitive proof, but it's hard not to notice the similarities.

The Jersey Larks, the third team mentioned, seem to be tossed in just because they played in New Jersey. The Larks were residents of the Haddonfield Ice House located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey - some 90 minutes southwest of Newark. The Larks played in the Eastern Hockey League for one season in 1960-61, finishing with a 29-34-1 record for third-place out of four teams in the East Division. They'd upset the Clinton Comets in the first round, but they fell in the semifinal to the New Haven Blades. Alex Kuzma, seen to the right, is wearing what the Larks wore that season, and I'm not sure what Brodeur "borrowed" from this team's sweater outside of the lace-up collar? Either way, another losing team that lasted just one season in the league they played seems perfect for what Brodeur's design work represents.

Now that we know the new jersey is basically a modernized copy of what the Skeeters and Bulldogs wore with no new, unique, or distinguishing design elements to build on the Devils' brand, what exactly is the point of wearing "Jersey" across the team's chest? This is as bad as when the Dallas Stars wore "Dallas" across their chests. And spare me the "it's cool" nonsense because it's not new, it wasn't cool when Buffalo and Dallas did it, and it's certainly nothing about which one should be bragging. Your logo is your brand - wear your damned logo!

The rest of the marketing garbage about the striping meaning something and the lace in the collar meaning something and the crap inside the collar that no one sees meaning something is all just fluff. All that entire chatter is about is selling jerseys. It doesn't help the Devils win games. It doesn't make players stronger or faster. It doesn't make one shred of difference if they were wearing garbage bags or these uniforms - they're both black! - because a jersey is just a jersey. Save the marketing speak for the year-end video.

I know I lumped a lot of blame at the feet of Martin Brodeur, but I feel there should be an equal helping dished out to Jillian Frechette, the senior vice president of marketing for the Devils. She was involved in the design process as well, and she should never be allowed to do anything like that again. I don't know Miss Frechette at all, but she's as much to blame for the calamity of a jersey. This is why designers design clothes and marketing people market them to consumers - marketing people are more worried about their catch-phrases, buzzwords, and target demographics than honouring the game properly.

"But Teebz," you protest, "they did honour the history!", and I responded by pointing out that they simply redesigned the same thing that the Bulldogs and the Skeeters wore. They didn't honour the history as much as they stole it from teams that no longer exist and can't defend those designs. You know who else did that? Some Canadian NHL team. And you know where their script-logo jerseys are now? Mothballed. Guess where this jersey is headed if we're lucky?

I'm pretty sure you know what kind of grade these uniforms are going to receive, so let's not make this longer than it has to be. I hate these jerseys, and "hate" isn't even a strong enough word for how I feel about them. If this design was dropped it on to my desk as someone who held the cards in Newark, I'd light it on fire. And then I'd let that fire consume my office before allowing the building to burn the ground. And then I would ask that the remains be allowed to scorch the earth where the building stood. I hate this jersey that much.

I'd tell you these jerseys deserve a special place in hell, but we already know that they're going to be worn by the Devils this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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