If there’s one thing the NHL is good at, it’s marketing nostalgia.
That’s not a one-sided relationship, either. Fans continue to clamor for callbacks to times gone by and the historical perspective of the game. Rules, play styles, hairstyles, and the team’s appearance on the ice. It’s no accident that the Montreal Canadiens’ uniforms have remained largely the same since the 1920s. While the third jersey program was a big step forward into unique jersey design in the NHL during the ’90s, the program has since become inundated with throwback jerseys.
The latest unique spin on this is Adidas’ Reverse Retro campaign. Some jerseys are great, some are bad, but most are at the very least decent enough to intrigue the average fan. It turns out they’re extremely popular when they are designed well. Just look at the Colorado Avalanche’s nod to the Quebec Nordiques. The Pittsburgh Penguins harkened back to the Mario Lemieux/Jaromir Jagr era, and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s sweaters look like the ones they wore in their first Stanley Cup championship season.
While the Minnesota Wild’s design has been praised for using the North Stars colors, it was also criticized for the jersey’s crest. Regardless, it’s been a massive success.
Take that with a grain of salt, though, because, after all, this is Minnesota. Regardless of whether any third jersey the Wild have ever unveiled was a good design, they have all been incredibly popular and sold well. The Wild’s first alternate jersey unveiled in 2003 still makes appearances in official team announcements.
There may not be a more popular sweater in Wild history than their second third jersey, which they unveiled in 2009. The dark green script jersey hit on every note of nostalgia that Minnesota hockey fans crave. The script, the striping, the laces — it all made for a classic jersey that fans bought in droves. There’s a reason the team wore it each year they made the playoffs from 2009-17.
There is something to the lure of the past, but a key factor that allows this hype-train to keep trudging down the tracks: It’s a league-wide effort. In the past, teams would opt-in to having a third jersey. This is still technically the case, as the Wild haven’t had one since they introduced the new green home jerseys in 2017.
The NBA jersey program is leaps and bounds ahead of the NHL, and people have argued that that is both a good thing and a bad thing. Most NBA teams have at least four jerseys in circulation in a given season. Before the NHL’s Reverse Retro program, 20 of the league’s 31 teams had three jerseys, and the other 11 just had two. The NBA showcases both the good with truly unique designs and aesthetically pleasing matchups and the bad of teams expanding far beyond their core identity with some colors and designs.
The NHL could incorporate elements of the NBA’s model without losing fundamental team identities, which is essential to the average NHL fan. More league standardization with regards to a more experimental jersey would greatly impact the game. A lot like this:
Not that the NHL would get such an aesthetically pleasing matchup like this one each night these uniforms are featured. But from a marketing perspective, it seems like a good way to get butts in seats, merchandise off the shelves, and people to tune in.
The Los Angeles Kings’ jerseys are widely regarded as one of the best sets that emerged from the Reverse Retro program. While it may not go beyond giddy fan speculation, some Minnesota fans want the Reverse Retro colors to stick around a while longer, indicating how popular the set is.
In terms of getting one of these Wild jerseys for yourself, good luck. According to a search of the official Fanatics site for the NHL teams’ shop in the middle of the season, there are none currently available. As for the more local retailer, the Hockey Lodge, there is an option to order one, but there are quite a few limitations at this point. Fans will have varied experiences trying to order, but the search yielded few results as of press time.
There were some in stock when I checked on March 19. Unfortunately, they are the three smallest sizes the jerseys are offered in: 2XS, XS, and S. When it comes to adding your favorite player, the options are limited. As you may notice, the Calder Trophy frontrunner has become increasingly popular, so much that the materials to make a Kirill Kaprizov jersey are on backorder.
So why not wear these more than a handful of times each season? If fans tune in to watch them on TV, they’re impossible to keep on the shelves. This season, many NHL teams could get a boost from these unique items. Keep them around for a few years, and the nostalgic NHL fan becomes hooked.
An NHL jersey program that mandates another fresh look for every team could help each franchise’s bottom line, which is especially pertinent right now as the league plans to keep the cap flat in the near future.