Winnipeg Jets Logo History

The Winnipeg Jets have always been a bit of an odd bunch in the aesthetics department.

Their World Hockey Association days saw them change their uniforms nearly every single year. Once they reached the National Hockey League, they wore a stolen jersey template (from the New York Rangers) for an entire decade before coming up with their own (iconic) design. The return of the Jets to Winnipeg in 2011 saw 15 years of pent-up ideas crammed into one design, making the overall look busy and muddled.

Adam Lowry Winnipeg Jets
Adam Lowry, Winnipeg Jets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Aviator third jersey introduced for 2018-19 contained no imagination or appeal whatsoever but the current Heritage Blue third jersey is gorgeous. The Jets’ first Reverse Retro was a flop, but the second was a much better effort.

Related: Winnipeg Jets Jersey History

However, the centrepiece of Winnipeg’s ensemble — their logo — has almost always been a triumph, providing us with some of the most beloved imagery in NHL history.

The Jets’ Short-Lived WHA Wordmark

The Jets made their World Hockey Association debut in the league’s inaugural season of 1972-73, taking their name from the Winnipeg Jets of the Western Canadian Hockey League (now the Western Hockey League.) The “Jets” name seemed appropriate, given that Winnipeg is host to the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, but was also influenced by Jets owner Ben Hatskin’s fandom of the National Football League’s New York Jets.

The Hockey Writers Substack banner Winnipeg Jets

Regardless of the origins of the moniker, “Jets” is an excellent choice for a sports franchise. The noise, power and explosiveness of the jet, combined with the vivid imagery of military planes engaged in combat, form an aggressive, energetic, overpowering brand perfect for the blindingly fast, excruciatingly tough sport — especially in the 1970s — of hockey.

Unfortunately, the Winnipeg franchise didn’t get the memo.

Winnipeg Jets 1972-73 Primary Logo (WHA)
Seriously? THIS is the best Winnipeg could come up with for a team called the Jets?? (Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net)

Wordmark logos are a tough sell at the best of times but, come on now, how on earth do you not do more than this when you’re named the Jets?

The string is jauntily angled upwards from left to right, and features a blurring effect on the “t,” the lone indication of any jet-related content in the crest.

The “J” is shaped in such a way as to represent a hockey stick, with the blade supporting an image of a hockey player in flight – just in case you forgot who plays the sport you’re watching.

The typeface as a whole is off, and the letters are not properly proportioned, especially the “e” and “s.” Really the only redeeming feature is that the Jets created two separate versions of this logo – one for their white sweaters and one for their blues.

Winnipeg Jets 1972-73 Jerseys
As you can see, there’s nothing really wrong with the execution of the logo. The problem is simply the logo itself. (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The WHA Uniform Database)

The resulting effect is very much for the better. Had the Jets only used the white jersey’s emblem, which features blue text with red trim, the crest would have looked utterly dreary and washed out on the blue jerseys. Likewise, the dual use of the blue uniform’s logo, that of red text with white trim, would have made the white uniform’s jersey front just a little too sparse.

Why so much time is being spent on this seemingly trivial point will become clear momentarily.

The Winnipeg Jets Roundel Debuts One Season Later

Mercifully, the wordmark logo only lasted a single campaign, with the team overhauling their entire look for their second season.

Included in said overhaul was a brand-new primary crest, which was a marked upgrade over the original.

Winnipeg Jets 1973-90 Primary Logo (WHA and NHL)
The first-ever version of Winnipeg’s now-familiar roundel design, worn from 1973 up until 1990, through their transition to the NHL. (Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net)

The logo is round, composed of a blue backdrop trimmed in red. The inside of the roundel features a stylized, italicized “WINNIPEG JETS” wordmark, flanked by an image of a jet.

The best part about this new crest, by far, is the creative use and balancing of colour. The “WINNIPEG” and “JETS” of the wordmark are red and white, respectively, while the jet itself, while the same colour as the logo background, is in its own red bubble.

The J in JETS has been made even more like a hockey stick, and appears to be cradling the jet’s red bubble – a puck. That’s some excellent design, right there.

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These small, subtle elements take this logo from merely good to unquestionably timeless.

It’s not without its faults, however. Not only are the two parts of the wordmark in two different typefaces, their arrangement leads the eye to read “JETS WINNIPEG.”

Next, the angling of the jet image almost makes it look more like a rocket ship than an airplane.

But by far the most disappointing component of this redesigned logo is just that – that there’s only one logo.

Winnipeg Jets 1976-77 Jerseys
The blue-backed logo looks wonderful on the white jerseys, but is almost invisible on the blues. (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The WHA Uniform Database)

The new emblem looks spectacular on the white uniforms, but its blue background washes in with the blue backdrop of the Jets’ dark jerseys, minimizing its overall effectiveness. This lack of contrast is not only detrimental to the logo, but also the kit as a whole, rendering it rather dull and dreary.

Thankfully, accompanying the Jets’ entry into the National Hockey League in 1979-80 was a white-based logo for their dark uniforms.

Winnipeg Jets 1980-90 Jerseys
A colour inversion really makes all the difference here, with the blue jersey’s logo finally achieving the same pop as the white’s. (Illustration by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database)

As you can see, the improved contrast really helps balance these Winnipeg kits out, providing the league with one of the all-time great uniform sets.

It wouldn’t be too long, however, before the Jets repeated their previous mistake.

The Winnipeg Jets Roundel: Version 2.0

From the 1990-91 season until their move to Phoenix following the 1995-96 campaign, the Jets sported the second edition of their roundel emblem – a much-improved version of an already grand design.

Winnipeg Jets 1990-96 Primary Logo
There’s a lot to like in this classic crest, most notably the impression of movement, such as the jet streaking through the wordmark. (Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net)

This time, the background of the crest is white, while the red trim has been retained. The WINNIPEG JETS wordmark has been rearranged and streamlined, while the jet has been turned on its side. Most strikingly, the components of the crest seem to be spilling out the sides of the roundel.

Starting with the wordmark, the fact it now reads WINNIPEG JETS instead of JETS WINNIPEG is a definite improvement, while the typefaces for each word now appear to be the same – also good, with a more modern design, to boot. The stem of the J is the first stroke of the second N in WINNIPEG, further unifying the logo’s wordmark.

One interesting theme to this crest is the illusion of movement. The jet, though now turned on its side and looking even more like a rocket – or even a bomb or missile — appears to have streaked through the JETS part of the wordmark, leaving a sort of contrail behind, separating the tops of the letters from their bodies, à la “Blade Runner.”

Shane Doan Stanley Cup Winnipeg Jets
Shane Doan during his rookie season with Winnipeg, showing how washed-out the Jets’ white jerseys of the time were. (Photo courtesy of the Arizona Coyotes)

Further movement is indicated by the fact the design now seems to be bursting out of the roundel, breaking the circle at three points. The crest also now has a three-dimension element to it, thanks to drop shadows on each of the protruding parts.

These are all subtle improvements, but they all add depth and meaning, taking the look to a whole other level.

Again though, the Jets only brought out a single crest.

The white-backed logo looks wonderful on the updated blue jerseys, but comes dangerously close to washing out the white kit entirely. Making matters worse, unlike the last time, the Jets never bothered correcting this major flaw in their aesthetics.

The Jets rolled out another classic logo design for 1990-91 which fronted another classic uniform template. Unfortunately, they also made another bewildering decision with regards to how to combine these two new elements, and the resulting kits are worse for it.

Winnipeg Jets 2.0 Debuts Striking and Modern Roundel

The Winnipeg Jets 2.0 began play in the 2011-12 season, sporting version 3.0 of the roundel crest. The logo is essentially the RCAF roundel with a fighter jet – finally, a realistic-looking one – atop the red maple leaf at the centre of the design.

The use of the RCAF emblem is a tribute to the Ottawa RCAF Flyers, who wore said logo proudly on their chests en route to winning the gold medal at the 1948 Winter Olympics. (from ‘Jets fly with air force logo,’ Winnipeg Free Press, 07/23/2011) There is no more wordmark to speak of, and both the jet and the roundel’s trim are silver.

Winnipeg Jets 2011-Present Primary Logo
The more I look at this logo, the more I appreciate it. If there were ever such a thing as an “instant classic,” this would be it. (Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net)

Of note is the shading effect used on the jet and maple leaf. The use of light and dark, side by side, makes the crest look dark and subtly aggressive. When this shading strategy is combined with the silver trimming of the logo, the overall effect is that of some sort of metal, perhaps signifying steely resolve or, more literally, a tough team to play against. The fact there’s an actual fighter jet — and one that actually looks like a jet — in the picture only adds to this impression.

One thing that’s decidedly missing is the impression of movement, which this logo’s predecessors incrementally strove towards. And yet, this crest is implemented so nicely that it almost immediately commands reverence, without any need to convey any message or hammer home any point.

Like the emblems of the original Jets (excluding that inaugural campaign wordmark), as well as other classic crests from across the NHL, Winnipeg’s current logo is a case of a good design made exceptional by attention to detail.

Jets’ Secondary Patch Gives Them Wings

Also in 2011-12, for the first time in their history (histories?), Winnipeg added a secondary logo to their aesthetic ensemble.

Like its primary counterpart, this shoulder patch is also rather nice, though a little busy. It’s composed of a set of pilot wings (an aviator badge for you aeronautical aficionados – or, more specifically, given this is a Canadian team, an aircrew badge) backed by a pair of crossing hockey sticks, and fronted by a WINNIPEG JETS wordmark and a red maple leaf.

Winnipeg Jets 2011-Present Secondary Logo
This crest is a little busy, but the elements are so intertwined and complementary that it’d be tough to take anything out without ruining the look. (Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.Net)

There’s certainly a lot going on here, but nothing that necessarily needs to be taken out. The wordmark frames the logo nicely. The red maple leaf provides continuity with the primary crest – even shaded identically. And the hockey sticks are helpful, reminding everyone that, no matter how much we might like to believe it, the Jets are a hockey team, something that has literally nothing to do with serving one’s country.

In contrast to the relative simplicity of the Jets’ primary crests throughout their history, this secondary logo is quite complex. That said, like its primary counterparts, it’s a collection of elements that just sort of…works.

Overall, the Jets 2.0 have done a very good job with making both their logos modern, yet classic; simple, yet interesting; objectively sufficient, yet subjectively great.

Aviator Wordmark Crash Lands

Unfortunately, the Jets’ jersey designers did not keep their momentum going and made a dandy of a dud with their first attempt at a third jersey, including a spectacular flop of an alternate crest.

Ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, the Jets unveiled their first-ever full-time alternate kit: the Aviator. It’s pretty awful — barebones, uncreative, and definitely not worth the near decade-long wait.

Related: Jets New Alternate Jersey Misses the Mark

Most awful of all, however, is that horrid logo adorning the chest, a white Jets wordmark written in a handwriting-like script and trimmed in the team’s polar night blue. The colouration of the crest looks pretty sharp atop the aviator blue backdrop, but that’s about of any praise for this design.

Mason Appleton Winnipeg Jets
Mason Appleton wearing the Jets’ (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Straight up? It’s boring. None of the design features of previous Jets wordmarks – the stand-alone crest as well as those embedded within the roundel designs – appear to have been incorporated. The J isn’t a hockey stick. There’s no contrail through the letters. There’s not even the blurring effect of Winnipeg’s inaugural emblem.

The team claimed in a press release after the unveiling, “The new wordmark and logo includes a Jets script that draws from a long line of team wordmarks that have incorporated Jets shapes and motion.” Where there’s motion in this wordmark is beyond this author, and to make matters worse, the wordmark not being backed up by anything on the shoulders further isolates an already-disappointing design.

The team also noted the logo “is highlighted with the “t” in “Jets” being crossed with the outline of a fighter jet.”

That’s actually a very nice touch, but is so subtle that it has to be explained for anyone to notice it. With the Hartford Whalers’ logo or, more recently, that of the Vegas Golden Knights, these subtle design features are hidden in plain sight, available to any and all with the right perspective.

Dave Keon of the Hartford Whalers
Dave Keon during his time with the Hartford Whalers, showing off one of the greatest logos in NHL history with one of the greatest hidden elements in design history. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios / Getty Images)

In contrast, were the Aviator’s jet not explained in the press release, the crossing stroke would simply have looked like just that, a crossing stroke, to anyone other than the most astute observers with magnifying glasses.

The sad part is, if they were so stuck on using a wordmark design, why didn’t Winnipeg just update one from their past? Even though a wordmark-only crest would have been a disappointment, at least it would have represented the team in some way.

This logo is as dull and generic as they come, utterly indistinguishable from something you’d see in your beer league.

Reverse Retros Remix Roundels 1.0 and 2.0 to Mixed Success

The Jets’ first attempt at a Reverse Retro jersey brought the first roundel out of storage again after being used for the gorgeous 2016 Heritage Classic white jerseys and in 2019 for the Heritage Classic blue jerseys (the Heritage Blues became the team’s full-time alternate ahead of 2021-22 when the Aviator was retired.)

Related: Jets’ 2019 Heritage Classic Jersey Is Gorgeous ’70s Throwback

Unlike the Heritage jerseys, which kept the colours the roundel had on the 1.0 era’s white jersey, the Reverse Retro redesigned it.

Unveiled in November, 2020, the kit features the roundel in white and the two blues used in the Jets’ primary uniforms, connecting past to present. The JETS wordmark and outer circle are white, the WINNIPEG wordmark and bubble around the Jet are aviator blue, and the Jet itself and backdrop are polar night blue.

Winnipeg Jets Reverse Retro jersey
The Jets’ first Reverse Retro jersey. (NHL/adidas)

The logo is nicely balanced and the white contrasts well with the greenish-dark grey (dubbed “fighter grey” by the team) of the uniform. There’s some continuity between the logo and the colours of the vertical stripes that stretch from cuff to cuff in an upside-down ‘U’ shape and the stripes at the bottom.

The NHL and Adidas described it as such in a document provided to The Hockey Writers:

This Reverse Retro jersey combines the classic style with the team’s current colourway, a throw back to 1979 honouring the Jets’ first year in the league. This remixed design integrates the iconic heritage plane crest with the bold “Winnipeg” lettering. Remastered in fighter grey, this jersey takes the classic heritage look that the 1980’s era Jets — including legend Dale Hawerchuk — wore and gives it a modern twist.

The Winnipeg Jets' 2021 Reverse Retro Jersey.

The logo is probably the best part of the design (despite being the third time in five years it was used.) The kit as a whole underwhelms and it quite honestly seemed designed in a couple of days. It looks like a practice jersey and like the Aviator, desperately needs some red to contrast with the grey and blues.

The second Reverse Retro, unveiled in November, 2022 also remixed a roundel. This time, however, it was the 1990s version getting a makeover.

The entirety of the “WINNIPEG JETS” wordmark is polar night blue, while the inner Jet and outer circle are aviator blue, continuing the trend of using the 2.0 colour scheme on 1.0 logos. The logo is prominent on the white jersey and has continuity with the stripes, but disappointingly does not feature the red outer circle and jet the original logo did.

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate
Blake Wheeler, Cole Perfetti and Nate Schmidt of the Winnipeg Jets celebrate a goal in the 2022-23 Reverse Retro jerseys.(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Why True North is so loathe to add red to any jersey other than the Heritage concepts is beyond this author, as the red was a key feature of the jets’ most striking’ WHA and 1.0 uniforms.

This jersey was a much better effort overall than the first Reverse Retro, and excited fans who were clamouring for a much-overdue 90s design. However, a lack of red in the logo — or elsewhere — makes the ensemble less than it could be and gives it a sparse and washed out look like the 90s whites.

Turbulence Doesn’t Spoil Jets’ Flight

While no one gets it right 100 percent of the time, the Jets have gifted us three of the best primary logos in NHL history. At any point in time, they can reach back into their history and repurpose an older design that’s sure to be a hit (as they did for the Heritage designs and Reverse Retros).

Although they’ve dipped into their back catalogue a lot since 2019, their 2011-12 re-entry uniforms and the Aviator unveiling showed they were determined to leave their past behind to a point and strive for something new – something better. The past, after all, was far from perfect, with the 1.0 team never advancing past the second round of the playoffs and ultimately becoming so unviable as a franchise they had to move.

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate
Dylan Samberg, Nikolaj Ehlers, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets celebrate a goal in the Heritage Blue jersey. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

But you know what? Even when it doesn’t work, the willingness to striving for something new is a virtue. In the words of Oliver Cromwell, “He who stops being better stops being good.” The status quo isn’t always god.

There is no better quote to reflect the Jets’ historic attitude towards logo (and overall uniform) design, if not player personnel or on-ice tactics (that’s an article for another day.) They’re constantly looking to get better, so they can remain one of the best.

Yes, Winnipeg’s had the occasional failure in the logo department. But there’s been nowhere near enough turbulence to spoil their smooth, spectacular aesthetic flight.