Red and White Sweaters: Where We Are And Where We Could/Should Be going.
Examining how the Detroit sweater was born, has evolved, been discarded, adjusted, and spun.
*Midwest Mom Voice*
“Ah, Sweata Weatha!”
That’s been my personal war cry for every hockey season. Each day the Wings play, I make sure to have a hoodie or jersey at the ready. This should come as a surprise to none of you as I’m sure you do the same. Choosing which jersey or hoodie to sport can be just as hard as playing the game of hockey itself. Don’t argue. I have spoken.
Of course there are plenty of fine options out there for us to choose from. However, I’ve found myself wanting as of late. When the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators unveiled their Winter Classic threads, they were met with more cheers than mehs. This made me yearn for the Wings to get announced as the next team to head outside which would mean a new jersey for fans. Next, the NHL unveiled the unis for the 2020 All-star Game in St. Louis. I thought, surely, they would be as clean as the 2020 Winter Class—-
*distinct gagging sounds*
You know what? This is a good thing. Why? These “jerseys” fit into the theme of today’s discussion. First, let’s take a look at the patch on these things:
Look at how beautiful this patch is. The horns! The word mark! The Arch! It’s an example of one design being used primarily, whilst an even better logo is relegated to patch status. This has bitten every team, including our beloved Wings, in ways baffling and puzzling. It’s disappointing, really, because in this writer’s opinion the fans and the All-Star game itself deserve so much better. Even more so given the recent re-tooling of the format for the league’s showcase of the best and brightest on ice. So, in light of the ASG having yet another case of curious sweater choices, I wanted to take this opportunity to examine/muse upon where the Red Wings have been in their history of sweaters and where they maybe/could/should be going. Big thanks to https://www.sportslogos.net/ and http://www.nhluniforms.com/RedWings/RedWings.html for having a timeline of logos that, combined with recent technology, allow this writer to re-create the looks as best as possible. So, let’s feed our eyeballs, shall we?
Detroit Cougars - 1926-1929
*Pulls up a chair, spins it backwards, sits with arms crossed on seat back*
This is where it all started. Simple. Straightforward. This sweater likely enjoyed some brand recognition due to the Tigers. These are the first sweaters worn by the team that would make it to the 1929 Stanley Cup playoffs, only to be brushed aside by the team from the Greater Toronto Area. During that period, a striped version with “DETROIT” emblazoned across the front was added to the rotation, as seen above. This kit would be worn for just 4 years as the struggling Cougars would undergo a name change in 1930. You will no doubt recognize the first design as it would be resurrected for use in the 2009 Winter Classic Wrigley Field.
Detroit Falcons - 1930-1932
I know, I know, this is strange to look at. This would be the only point in Red Wings history a color that isn’t red or white graces the uniform. Just trying to imagine the current jersey with yellow in it hurts my head. Not only aesthetically, but because I’m color blind and colors hurt my eyes. Anyways! the Cougars were struggling so the team was re-named to the Falcons. The struggles.....continued! Though with Jack Adams behind the bench, that wouldn’t last forever. The lines on this one also remind me of the aforementioned St. Louis ASG jerseys so I’m glad this one is retired. Now, let’s put this strange and distant era to rest as we move to the iconic look that would define the organization.
DRW - 1932 - 1948
New owner James E. Norris, previously unsuccessful in acquiring an NHL team, wasted no time making the team truly his own with a name change. He was a member of the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, a multi-sport organization that had an emblem with a winged wheel as an homage to the group’s cycling roots. With a team finally in his hands, he modeled the team’s new logo after the MAAA’s visage. With the team playing in the “Motor City”, the winged wheel was born for the Detroit team. Think of this as the Mark I of the Winged Wheel. Fun fact, the white Wings jersey was made to be worn against the Canadiens as they had a predominantly red sweater. I guess when you’ve run the table in hockey historically, you can just ask other teams to make other uniforms so you don’t have to change. Classic Montreal.
DRW - 1949 - 1972
*Rene Belloq from Indiana Jones voice*
“This....this IS history.” Welcome to the sweater that would be worn for the bulk of Detroit’s early Stanley Cup wins. Gordie Howe? Wore it. Sawchuk? Wore it. Abel? Kelly? Delvecchio? Wore it. Ted Lindsay using his stick as an imaginary rifle to mock a Toronto fan who threatened to shoot him and Howe? Wore. It. The amount of hall of fame careers played in this kit is impressive to say the least. The Mark II Winged Wheel sees the design elements that will stay with the jersey for decades to come, with the wheel being centered and at a slight, clockwise rotation. Since this was worn during the war effort, the Wings had a war bonds patch and a V for Victory patch which lent some nice design accents. Well? What are you waiting for? Go cue up film of Red Wings legends and bask in their glory.
DRW - 1973 - 1982
*thunder clap* *lightning strike* *horse neighing*
Yes....it’s the Dead Wings era. While this time period yielded pain and sorrow, it did give us a few bright spots, such as Mickey Redmond scoring 50 goals and Reed Larson in this updated uniform. The Mark III Winged Wheel arrives with a color inversion on both jerseys, same slight rotation, and sets the table for what would become the look we’re all sporting today. The home white iteration also features a raised lower red stripe, where previously the bottom of the sweater was solid red.
DRW - 1982 -1987
The Dead Wings era was beginning its long awaited departure just as the final iterations of our beloved sweaters came into focus. The Mark IV Winged Wheel is rotated to have the wings level and then centered on the torso. The red version has an elevated bottom stripe for just 5 years before resting at the bottom for the journey to our present unis. There was also a jaunt into the fancy with a large white border emblem and old-timey number font. Last long, that did not. Early on in this period, to our collective horror, the logos were screen printed on the jersey. Thankfully, the screen printing was abandoned and the embroidered logos would make their way onto the front of the jerseys for good after this weird design choice.
DRW - 1987 - 2007
Welcome to the fun times! Your Red Wings would re-ignite Hockeytown in these kits. Moreover, this uniform would go unscathed for two decades, Mark V Winged Wheel and all. Yzerman, Lidstrom, The Russian Five, The Grind Line, Robitaille, Hull, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Holmstrom, the whole lot of them wore this set to glory. This is the jersey that’ll be in your closet, hope chest, car trunk, equipment bag, gym bag, etc. for eons to come. In 1991, for the NHL’s 75th anniversary, Detroit resurrected their 1926 stripe design with some updated space for numbers and a nifty patch.
DRW - 2007 - 2017
Post ‘04-’05 lockout, the NHL entered into a deal with Reebok to exclusively manufacture the league’s jerseys. Some teams got complete overhauls, some got tweaks, but the Wings? They stayed pretty much the same, save for a new v-neck collar. These were the water-proof sets that Gary Bettman demonstrated at the 2007 All-star Game in Dallas and were used league wide...until players said the novelty caused sweat/water to cascade and pool in the gloves and pants so bye-bye to the over-the-top waterproofing. The Red Wings would win their 11th Stanley Cup while sporting this version. This would be the base set until the Wings moved into the Little Caesars Arena, which coincided with Adidas taking over sweater manufacturing in 2017.
Winter Classic 2009 - Wrigley Field
Let’s! Get! Alternate! Beginning with the second annual NHL Winter Classic, this decade would mark the first time since the late 20’s - early 30’s that the Red Wings would get multiple alternate looks in their locker. The 2009 set would resurrect the Cougars 1926 look to face-off with the Blackhawks in the friendly confines. I was at this game. It was a genuine pleasure to watch the Hawks go up, then get shelled for 6 goals by our Wings. Even more enjoyable was the fact that everyone in the upper deck didn’t know their pregame seat signs would spell “Detroit Red Wings”, thus causing them to rip them up and toss them to the lower seats at Wrigley. Diaper babies! All of them! This is a clean alternate but I was dismayed that a major jersey for the team featured their greatest logo get relegated to a shoulder patch. I get the nod to early days of the league, but when you have the Winged Wheel, you use it.
Winter Classic 2014 - “The Big House” Michigan Stadium
This was the best atmosphere that the NHL could have hoped for with its new seasonal event and the uniforms did not disappoint. Although, speaking as a color blind person, it was tough to discern red from blue at a distance of the last row, dead center to the rink. The Wings jersey would, for the first time, sport the name “Detroit” and the Winged Wheel on the front. The name and number font scheme seems to have been lifted from the 1982-83 experiment, and the Winged Wheel itself is a variation of a lesser used version of the emblem. These unis also sported a neat diamond patch on the sleeve to denote Captains and Alternates, a detail I wish teams would have a little more fun with. Yes, the Leafs won, but they won via the worst distillation of the game: the shootout. I would love to glimpse a version of this game that saw both teams duking it out in playoff style overtime. That LITERALLY would have brought the Big House down. Still hoping to snag a Datsyuk version of these. Of the two Winter Classic kits, I say this is #1.
Stadium Series 2016 - Red Wings vs Avalanche
It was pretty much inevitable. The NHL clings to the great stories of the game and the Wings/Avs rivalry still gets people’s hearts racing. In an effort to once again capitalize on this great hockey grudge match, the league told the teams to take it outside in the newly minted Stadium Series of NHL games. Outdoor games would no longer be confined to New Year’s Day as the league wanted to expand the novelty. Sadly, the jersey designs for this new series of games has been dismal. While the Wings/Avs Alumni Game featured the classic jerseys, the actual Stadium Series game featured what I believe to be the single worst expression of Detroit hockey. The last time the letter “D” was used, it was at least a callback to the team’s genesis and city history. This....is some stylized, streamlined BS. Yes, the Wings won the game but both teams lost as they looked ridiculous wearing what could be described as, “The MLB Turn Ahead The Clock, But So Very Much Worse.” I’m overjoyed that this was a one and done uni. May it rest in peace with the Detroit Falcons Red, White, and Yellow sweater. tl;dr - Once again, you should never make a jersey without one of the best hockey logos EVER.
Centennial Classic 2017 - Red Wings vs Maple Leafs
The National Hockey League celebrated its 100th Anniversary with fanfare, a cool centennial logo, a botched greatest 100 greatest players list, and a celebratory New Year’s Day outdoor hockey game in Toronto in tandem with the Winter Classic in St. Louis the next day. It’s a rematch of the 2014 contest, this time with Mike Babcock wearing Toronto blue instead of Detroit red. And I gotta tell ya, these uniforms SHINED in this game. Thin red striping spaced on the sleeves and lower torso, a solid red collar and the Winged Wheel we know and love stitched in silver thread. THIS is a solid remix, blending old and new to mark the 100th year of Pain and Glory that the league has more or less brought on itself. I received this jersey as a birthday gift, it’s currently blank, which somehow lends an even more classic quality to it given the era it is symbolizing. My favorite detail? On each of the sleeves, the years of Stanley Cups won, not unlike the stars on soccer kits. I’m really hoping to be alive for the Wings catching and passing the Leafs in total cups so I can sew new years onto this fine sweater. (Though teeeechnically, the Red Wings and The Maple Leafs are tied since Toronto won the cup twice as two different teams before becoming the Maple Leafs. Again, I have spoken.)
DRW - 2017 - Present
The sky is blue. Water is wet. Death. Taxes. New jersey manufacturer contracts must be signed prior to the expiry of previous contracts. Ahhh, the indisputable facts of life. In 2016-17, Reebok’s era with the NHL ended and Adidas took up the mantle. In a sport that used to have several companies making the sweaters for teams (CCM, KOHO, NIKE, etc.), we’ve now been in the age of singular jersey output for over a decade. Since that consolidation, thankfully, the look of the Red Wings has gone largely unchanged. The new AdiZero line outfitted Detroit road jerseys with an awesome rounded, red collar that satisfies my nostalgia reflex. There’s a perforated, grated texture on the shoulders that’s a nice departure from the norm. Funny enough, the construction of these jerseys will also allow for player tracking tags to be seamlessly integrated to play into the leagues analytics push. Yay form AND function! So because nothing has really changed, this is the look the Red Wings have taken the ice with for coming up on 100 years. Still deciding on when to pull the trigger on one of these. Perhaps a Lafreniere? *sinks to the bottom of the ocean*
What Have We Learned?
The Detroit franchise was blessed very early on with a logo that’s just as recognizable as the Mcdonald’s golden arches and the Nike swoosh. As such, when they’ve stayed with it, every jersey has looked sharp. Obviously, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, when they have strayed away from their shield the results are pretty bleh. The team appears to be very conservative with the Winged Wheel logo and while that is nice, it also enacts an unintentional blandness. They have largely stuck to Winged Wheel designs that are already in existence, and they’ve kept the striping & coloring in place for close to 50 years. While other teams have struggled to maintain their proprietary iconography, the Red Wings have been pillars of consistency, largely for the better.
Where Could/Should We Go From Here?
Ok, remember when I said if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Well, perhaps that should’ve come with an asterisk. Why? While the Detroit design is an iconic look that should remain in use, there are still special occasions and events that warrant either a creative tweak or a facelift to the ‘ol gal. Rumors have swirled about league mandated third jerseys, thus making me abuzz with anticipation on what the Detroit powers that be will do. Quite a few teams have been able to do some re-hashes of their look with success so why not the Wings? Whichever direction the team heads towards, it’s this writer’s opinion that the team should stick with the Winged Wheel. No more “D”. The Tigers have a monopoly on that and the Wings have built their success on being themselves in the looks department.
With all of that in mind, I’ve taken this opportunity to create a design that efforts to blend the old and new together in an attempt to make something pleasing to the eyes and hearts of Wings fans. Taking into account the Wings’ jersey design path and other examples of 3rd jerseys in the history of the league, it is my extreme pleasure to unveil...
The Detroit Red Wings Heritage Concept!
*Lightning strikes lightning rod*
*Jersey sleeve twitches*
It’s ALIVE. The Heritage Concept seeks to bring some of the best elements of third jerseys whilst maintaining the spirit of the Red Wings signature look. Laced collar? Boom. Home white color scheme? Boom. Diamond Captain patch? Boom. V for Victory patch? Boom. A re-tooled Winged Wheel with a modernized spoke? Boom.
The basis for this design comes from one of my all time favorite photos of Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe:
The plain white sleeves just look better on the white uni. The V for Victory patch is a throwback to this kit sported by Terrible Ted:
The retired numbers of Red Wings Legends adorn the inner collar. I like the idea of Red Wing greats having your back now that you’re wearing the same crest as they did. In essence, this hits all the positive design points the Wings jersey has experienced in its existence. I truly believe the Home White jersey needs to make its return since it’s just so damn clean, hence its use in the design. Obviously, mileage will vary on this because people can either be on board with or vehemently against change. In an effort to sway you a bit towards the change camp, let’s take a gander at what some scrub named Dylan Larkin might look like donning these new threads:
I dunno about you, but I think this looks pretty damn slick. Most of the historical and recent success of the Wings has come wearing the white sweater. I think it’s high time to revive the look for both the old and new generations of Detroit fans. My hope is that the next iteration of our beloved sweater is worth the history and style that the Red Wings have given us. Despite the struggles, good things are coming for this team. I would sorely like them to look fine as hell lifting Lord Stanley a few times more.