The Toronto Maple Leafs saved the best jersey for last. The team has worn five different jerseys in their previous five games, but the black jersey unveiled for the annual NextGen game takes the cake. The enlarged front logo has just the right amount of dark added, and white letters and numbers make the jersey pop. The dark blue bands on the sleeves that incorporated the Toronto skyline add just the right amount of cool-factor to make these threads clean, bold and refreshing. After a successful debut, these sweaters deserve to be in the regular lineup.
Fans vote with their wallets, and it seems they were opening them up just moments after the team hit the ice. Before the end of the first period of the Next Gen game, the black jersey was the top seller on NHLShop.com in Canada and the U.S. That alone should be enough proof for the team to keep these new threads around for more use. But wait, there’s more. It’s the first reversible jersey in North American sports, a nice two-for-one bonus when you have to shell out $200 to $300 for a new look. If that wasn’t enough, the jersey is a collaboration with international music superstar Canadian-born and Maple Leafs’ superfan Justin Bieber. The reverse side features the drew house-themed Leafs’ logo.
Maple Leafs Black Jersey Makes up for Recent Fails
The design is the 15 alternate jersey the team has tried on in franchise history. It’s an about-face from the Reverse Retro fail from the 2020-21 season. Those jerseys drew sharp criticism from fans and announcers. They looked like cheap knockoffs found in a bargain bin, but the play-by-play people could also not make out the numbers. If you missed out when these duds were selling for $200, you could now grab them for $80. I’d hold off, they are likely to be discounted further, or they will be paying people to take them out of the Adidas warehouse.
Related: Maple Leafs Reverse Retro Jersey Mixes a Century of Styles
Toronto was sporting another failed attempt at an alternate for the Heritage Classic outdoor game a few weeks ago. Not only did the team play badly, but they also looked terrible. The Leafs were embarrassed by the Buffalo Sabres, and Auston Matthews got suspended while wearing the jersey. That is enough to get rid of them for good. It was supposed to be a throwback to the Toronto Arenas. The word “arenas” was not visible, but you could not miss the giant T on the front of the sweaters. It looked like the Maple Leafs stole the jerseys from the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on their way down to Hamilton for the game. If you’re curious, yes, the Heritage Classic was brought to you by the letter T. Shout out to those who grew up with Sesame Street.
Of course, there are the special St. Pats green and white jerseys that the team gets to put on for the game closest to St. Patrick’s Day. They pass the eyeball test but wearing a different look just once a year is not enough for a genuine alternative. Other teams have a third that is worn on a much more regular basis. Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers regularly dawn their dark navy and blinding orange jersey. They have been doing so since the 2019-2020 season.
Alternate jerseys are quick cash grabs to lure swag-addicted fanatics. That said, the black jersey, even without the Bieber drew house collaboration, is worth the purchase price if the team is going to wear them again. If not, they will look like the bizarre knockoffs you can order from overseas. These jerseys deserve better.
Matthews Signs with Lids
In other merchandise news, Auston Matthews has teamed up with Lids. The sports retailer and the NHL’s leading goal-scorer are teaming up to create Matthews-inspired content. He becomes the first NHL player and first athlete from a pro sports team to partner with lids.
Lids is the latest in a growing list of companies associating themselves with the superstar. Matthews has worked with Apple, Nike, Scotiabank, Verizon, CCM, Dream Water and Marsblade. Perhaps he will be the next designer of the 2023 Next Gen game jersey? Or he will go to bat for the new black Bieber jersey to become a mainstay.