Any time the Detroit Red Wings are rumored to have a specialty uniform in the works, the response is more or less the same: just don’t add any black. The team’s jersey has been roughly the same since 1961, and the design they wore for nearly 30 years before that wasn’t much different, either.
When outdoor events include the Red Wings, it’s particularly interesting to see how the design team flexes its creative muscle without a lot of throwback options to draw inspiration from and to work within the confines of the strict two-color scheme.
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Interestingly, the latest rumor about a possible alternate uniform isn’t for a special event. The Red Wings, one of 11 NHL teams without a third jersey, was recently included in speculation by Icethetics, a hockey uniform watchdog, of sorts, to have an alternate jersey in the works. The leaked design is reportedly part of an effort to get every team in a throwback jersey for the 2020-21 season.
The first rendering of a possible jersey is an inversion of the home reds.
Jersey Creativity: D
If that’s the case, jersey creativity deserves a failing grade, but there are a couple of things to consider before condemning the design on sight.
As mentioned, whoever designed these puppies was handcuffed by the Wings’ limited color scheme and the fact that they’ve basically worn the same uniform for the better part of a century.
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The Red Wings have also unveiled five specialty uniforms since the 1991-92 season, including four outdoor games since 2009. After the second outdoor event in 2014, people were already saying, “OK, where do they go from here?”
To be fair, the creative team did really well with both the 2016 Stadium Series look (the white gloves helped) and 2017 Centennial Classic digs, using opposite approaches. Since playing in their first Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, Detroit has averaged an outdoor game about once every two-to-three years which means they need a new uniform design about once every two-to-three years.
There are only so many ways to reinvent the winged wheel, so maybe being stingy with a new design is one way of keeping specialty uniforms fresh and interesting. Still, there’s just not much new to the look.
Grading the logo is tricky given that it’s just the standard winged wheel, so let me be clear: The winged wheel is one of the greatest logos in sports. Detroit has had success taking a chance on new logo designs for special events, and there’s no reason to believe that this jersey would be any different if they went in that direction again.
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Plus, as Icethetics pointed out, the design is supposed to be an homage to the uniform worn by Detroit from 1934-61. That logo features a smaller and less streamlined wing. Why not use that design and tinker with the angle of the wheel, or even its size, as they did with the 2014 Winter Classic jerseys? That look has an historical element to it, and neglecting to take advantage of older winged-wheel designs seems short-sighted.
Even so, there’s a chance that this design, if accurate, is still a work in progress, and that they will end up altering the winged wheel for the final design. But until we see a different rendering, a ‘C-‘ is as good as it gets.
Alright, there’s not much to analyze here. The rumored third jersey is just an inversion of the red home jersey we all know and love, and a fraternal twin of the classic whites that so many Cups were raised in.
But hey, that’s a great look, no?
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Now, your first reaction to hearing that the uniform was an inversion of the home jersey was maybe like mine: “Wait, isn’t that just an inversion of the home jersey?” Maybe you’re more attentive than that and know that there are two distinctions between Detroit’s away jersey and the rumored alternate:
- Detroit’s home uniform is a solid red, while the road whites feature full red sleeves.
- The accent stripe on the bottom of Detroit’s home jersey is raised a few inches from the bottom seam, providing another layer of red below. On the road uniforms, the red accent strip envelopes the bottom of the jersey.
At the end of the day, it breaks down to this: The rumored jersey is still a pretty classic look, and the white sleeves look downright sharp.
It’s a clean jersey. There’s no arguing that. Not to mention, pairing the white socks with matching white sleeves will put a jolt into the getup, especially with a sheet of ice as the backdrop.
With all of the interesting digs that Detroit has rolled out for its specialty uniforms, this new jersey falls flat on first look. As a standard alternate, there’s nothing about it that says, ‘You need this in your closet.’ It doesn’t even really work as a throwback.
If Detroit didn’t want to take too big of a swing on the design and was required to draw inspiration from a throwback, the better, conservative, option would be to use the 2009 Winter Classic jerseys. It’s loved by fans, is as clean as can be, and pays tribute to a very specific era in which the Wings were a dominant force.
Nolan Bianchi is a Detroit sportswriter covering every major local professional sports team for The Detroit News and host of the Locked On Red Wings podcast.