Guest Post: Worst to First Jerseys, St. Louis Blues Edition

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This installment of the Worst to First Jerseys features the St Louis Blues, and much thanks to St Louis Game Time for letting me guest post on their blog. On my own blog, I talk about about graphic design in hockey and I'll be doing the jerseys for the rest of the league over time, so come by Hockey By Design to check it out.

Since entering the league in 1967, St Louis has been one of the few teams to keep a team logo consistent for 40+ years, with some few minor tweaks here and there. And the current logo is the best rendition of it yet, ranking as the fourth best logo in the league. It's deceivingly simple and deceivingly complex at the same time, with great movement and a classic timeless look to it. But unfortunately, this post is not about their logos over the years, but their jerseys. And most of their jerseys don't have even close to the classic and refined look that their logo has.

Here's how this works: I'll count down, from worst to first, all the jerseys the Blues have ever worn. Homes and aways will be lumped into the same category (so, more of a jersey "era") and I won't worry about small changes (like slightly changed positions of piping for example). Third jerseys will stand on their own. And I'm focusing on the jerseys only, not the entire uniform. The jersey images are compliments of the fine people over at nhluniforms.com. For the Blues, there's 6 different jerseys/eras. And we'll start with the worst one:

(Dis)Honourable Mention: Proposed 1996 Third Jerseys

Before we get to the actual 6 jerseys the Blues wore, we'll start with one that was never worn. Luckily these jerseys that were designed, produced and ready-to-wear never made it onto the ice, in one of the few things that Mike Keenan did right after his stint with the NY Rangers. He forbid the players to wears these jerseys on the day they were supposed to, making sure that these jerseys were never seen in an actual game. Because they were never worn, they're not included in this countdown of the Blues' jerseys. If they were worn, you can be guaranteed that they would be in 7th place. They are everything that was wrong with mid- to late-'90s design in the NHL. Could you imagine having seen Gretzky wear this? I shudder thinking about it.

There's absolutely no explanation need as to why they're so bad. If you need an explanation, then I truly feel sorry for you.

Anyway, on with the show!

6. 1995–1998 Home & Away Jerseys

Ha! Was there really any doubt of what would be last on this list? Of the multitude of things wrong with the jersey, the most obvious one is the numbers on the back, forcibly warped into odd and uncomfortable positions like a half-assed contortionist. It's not as bad as it could be in the image to the left, using Hull's #16, because the 1 is the easier number to manipulate in that smallest amount of space. But then look at Gretzky's #99. The first 9 just looks stupid, with odd angles and uneven outlining that is mismatched with the other 9 that's right beside it. Whichever designer thought this would be a good idea was hopefully fired soon afterwards.

The other obvious issue is the unconventional striping on the jersey. The Blues stole a page from the original Mighty Ducks' jersey design using the exact same angles but just reversed to slant the opposite way. Anaheim had the good sense to just let the numbers on the back overlap the design, whereas I guess the Blues just wanted to try something different? St Louis also expanded on this relatively new use of striping patterns by creating four very thin stripes as a pattern, before turning to thicker stripes and then a solid band of colour. I get the allusion: the thin stripes are meant to be reminiscent of guitar stings to play on them being the "Blues" and the name of the team being based on an old blues-jazz song. That's no reason for a bad design though.

To see alternative options, Nashville does a great job with their guitar pick alternate logo, and the guitar strings through their numbers. Simple, classy and subtle, which is the opposite of this jersey's approach: garish, aggressive and badly-designed for a jersey.

This jersey has the same issues that come up with Anaheim's jersey with the same slants (which I talked about in their Worst To First post). It gets very busy very quickly, with the stripes climbing too far up on the jersey and completely taking over. Hockey is unique among the major North American sports in that its the only one where their jersey prominently displays the team logo. It's part of what makes hockey jerseys so great. But these jerseys make the Blues logo (which, again, is fantastic by the way) an afterthought, or at least, not the main feature of the jersey. That alone is worth a bottom ranking on this list.


Other issues: there's too many colours happening. These are the only Blues jerseys to (prominently) bring red into the mix, which makes the jersey look like raw sugar (not very refined). Also, the slanted numbers on the sleeves. The recent Stadium Series introduced that on their jerseys, and even 18 years later, it still doesn't work. It's like raw flour (unenriched).

Over-thought and over-designed, these jerseys are a good example of late-'90s design in the NHL, which I like to call the Dark Ages of NHL design: when bad typography, stupid logos the worst examples of the third jersey program existed. A lot of teams went through strange designs during this time. St Louis is no exception.

Jersey Recommendation: #14 Courtnall. Geoff Courtnall played for the Blues almost exclusively while these jerseys were being used, so it's a good fit that way. He was serviceable and filled a need, which is all these jerseys should as well. Get it in the road blues. Because Blues. Get it?

5. 1967–1984 Home & Away Jerseys

The pick for last place on this list was pretty obvious. The remaining rankings are much less obvious. An argument could be placed for all of the jerseys still to come (including this one) to be placed in first. That sounds like a cop-out (We're all winners! Yay!), but there's both positives and negatives to all of these jerseys that make it difficult to make one or two better than the rest. That being said, these jerseys are placed at 5th. We'll start with the negatives.


First, those shoulder yokes are just ridiculous. The only other team that has really maintained shoulder yokes with even close to that many stripes in the NY Rangers, which they first adopted in 1951 for the white jerseys. Aside from a brief stint in the '70s, they've worn them ever since. Other teams, like Columbus, use stripes as well. However, everyone else's shoulder stripes are relatively simple, consistent and straight-forward compared to the hot mess that the Blues used, especially on the home white jerseys. It's just too much for an area of the jersey that's either (a) solid colours, (b) solid colours with a single stripe added or (c) nothing at all. The stripes are inconsistent, don't seem to follow any sort of pattern (compared to the sleeve stripes and the stripes at the bottoms of the jerseys), and in practice, just look odd.

Granted, the jerseys shown here are what they wore from 1979–84. From 1967–79, the blue jerseys didn't have any stripes on the shoulder yokes, and it's a much better jersey because of it.

Apart from that, it's actually a really decent jersey, following the standard aesthetics at the time, and when introduced, they were the first team to have a blue and yellow combination, making them fairly unique. Buffalo followed suit in 1970 and today, Nashville has joined that party as well. The Blues were the first to introduce it, and it looks great. The blue is a slightly lighter than royal blue (more on other blues later) and looks great on the ice.

The other stripes on the jersey are consistent and solid, complimenting the main logo crest rather than competing with it (like the shoulder yoke stripes do). Just remove those shoulder patterns, and this jersey would have climbed up the rankings easily.

Jersey Recommendation: #24 Federko. Easy pick for this jersey, as he was a huge leader on the Blues teams in the late-'70s and early-'80s. And aside from a final season with the rival Red Wings (why do they always do that?), he played for the Blues his entire career. Get it in the road blues, preferably without the shoulder yokes if you can find it.

4. 1984–94 Home & Aways

The jerseys that came immediately after the preceding ones on this list are up next. And yes, the shoulder yokes are gone which is automatically an improvement. But they did something else that stayed with the team until the late-'90s: they threw some red into the branding that did more to hinder rather than help their look.

Consider teams that have been historically successful and have some of the best designed logos and jerseys in the league. Detroit wears only red and has so since their inception. Boston, yellow and black. Chicago (although their logo has a bunch of different colours in it) wears only red and black. Montreal, red and blue. When dealing with colour, simpler is often better than its opposite. Blue and yellow really worked for the Blues. Adding unnecessary red outlines to the their logo, numbers, names and stripes does absolutely nothing other than create more visual clutter. And it's all the primary colours to boot. And red symbolizes fire, which is the opposite of ice, which is blue. So it's like you're melting your team away! I'm surprised the players didn't go all Raiders of the Lost Ark when they wore these.

Okay, enough facetiousness. You know which other team uses red, yellow and blue in their branding? The Panthers. That should tell you right there it's bad news.

The good news: going with the three-colour branding scheme is balanced with a very traditional and classic jersey design. It's almost too traditional and classic in the sense that it's pretty stereotypical, but sometimes you don't want to mess with what works, especially if you're trying something new with the colours. It's balanced and, more importantly, makes sense. The striping is strong, consistent and simple.

For this era, they darkened the blue to more of a darker royal blue. Still looks good on the ice and works well with the yellow. Nothing but good stuff there. And we're just going to glaze over that horrible phase when they plastered the word "BLUES" on the front and shrunk to logo to little more than an afterthought. Awful, awful, awful.


It's still a pretty good jersey, but someone has to come in fourth (and again, it's very close with the rest of the jerseys) but the red is this jersey's undoing. Luckily not the franchise's undoing, like Red 2 perhaps being the movie franchise's undoing? Use your red judiciously kids.

Jersey Recommendation: #16 Hull. No question here either. Behind Gretzky and Lemieux, Hull was pretty much the most prolific scorer in the NHL for a few years, and those were the years he spent with St. Louis, mostly in this jersey. Get it in the home whites.

3. 1997 Third Jerseys, 1998–2007 Home & Away Jerseys

Do you see the relationship between these jerseys and ones on #4 on the list? Ah yes, those shoulder yokes. The difference though is that these stripes are simplified and are actually (mostly) consistent with the striping on the rest of the jersey. It's still pretty dominating over the rest of the jersey and that keeps it in third place. But there's definitely more than works than doesn't on these jerseys.

Keeping the stripes minimal and more consistent allows it work with the rest of the design much easier, and actually accentuates the main logo crest much better. Also long gone is the red, exchanging it for a different tone of blue. This colour addition actually makes sense, because Blues. If you're called the Blues, use blue and use it often. If you can use two tones of the same blue, hell, why not. Sure, it's a third colour, but it's also the same colour, so it's like 2.5 colours really. Throwing in a baby blue instead of the yellow would have been pretty cool too. If you're blue, own it.

That being said, the yellow works as a nice accent colour and as stated earlier, it works well. But the point made here is that the two-tones of blue works really well here too.


The use of the darker blue though, is where an issue lies. Because the navy blue is so dark, it verges on being black. And if you're going that dark, there's not much difference between the blue and black. Like we said earlier, if you're going to be blue, just own it and be blue and use a shade of blue that looks unmistakably blue. The blue jerseys use the darker blue well, as the main accent colour to compliment the lighter blue. It's also consistent over the entire jersey. The white jerseys, however, would have been better with the lighter blue at the cuffs and bottoms and darker blue in the striping, like the shoulder yokes. Much better.

Could I get a count on how many times 'blue' has been written so far? Thanks.

But otherwise, solid jerseys. A huge improvement and, even with shoulder stripes provide a nice little nod to their heritage of jersey design, much in a much more refined way. It's a bit busy with that in there, but it still works well.

Jersey Recommendation: #7 Tkachuk. There's a few different possibilities here (Pronger, MacInnis, even Demitra), but let's give it to the guy who led the Blues during this era and wore a Blues jerseys for his last 9 seasons, retiring a Blue. We just won't talk about that Thrasher episode. [ed. note: yes, please, let's not - Hildy] Get it in the super-bluesy home blues.

2. 2008–present Third Jerseys

As third jerseys go, these are one of the best ones out there, creating something that's unique from the team's regular home and away jerseys, making it feel less like a money grab and more like a jersey people would actually want to own. It's strong, simple and creates something new and exciting for the team's brand. But it's still not the best jersey the Blues have ever worn.

Part of that is because this is the darkest a St Louis Blues jersey ever got, using a navy blue that's dark enough to be mistaken for black. What was said about the previous jersey can have extra emphasis here, because it's the only blue being used on the whole jersey. People familiar with Hockey By Design will know this rant: hockey is a game played on a sheet of white ice, where one team almost always also wears white. When the other team only wears black (or, in this case, a very dark blue that's almost black), it makes for a very monochromatic visual experience. Leafs/Red Wings? Awesome. Kings/Third-Jersey Sharks? Boring. This jersey in a slightly lighter blue (so you could actually easily tell that it is blue) would truly be awesome.

What helps is that the yellow accent was changed to something brighter and more electric, giving almost a neon glow to the trim of the uniform. And the yellow is used just enough to be a good accent to the blue: a little bit here and there to give the whole jersey a visual punch. Not a real punch though. Calm down there Morrow.

The only other fault on this jersey is that, with the white trim, it has some pretty extreme contrast: it's almost black, with a white and electric yellow trim. It's intense and brash, which is somewhat fitting for the hockey team's current identity under Hitchcock, but visually it's doesn't give anyplace for somebody's eyes to relax. Which, again, is also very Hitchcock.


These are relatively small complaints though. There's a lot to like on this jersey, from the consistent and minimalized striping patterns, to the laces, to the use of a crest that makes sense on a third jersey: a little more detailed and visually interesting on a minimal jersey. This new alternate logo works as an alternate logo. However, there's rumours it will become the new primary logo next season. If that happens, it will be the biggest Gob Bluth ever pulled in hockey. The Blues logo is perfect is it is. Please never change it.

Jersey Recommendation: #27 Pietrangelo. This guy is one of the best defensemen in the game today, making everything look easy…and he's still young. He may not be the next Chris Pronger, but he'll probably come extremely close.

1. 2007–present Home & Aways

The Blues' current jerseys also happen to be their best. The introduction of the Reebok Edge jerseys gave them the opportunity to play with new lines and edges to the jerseys, and the Blues were one of the teams that made the most of it. The mixture of classic styles with modern innovations is almost perfect, creating a jersey that's definitely leaning more towards something new and contemporary but doesn't look out of place with classic hockey jerseys.

I'm not sure if it was intentional, but the choice of having the yellow trim follow the lines from the bottom of the jersey up and around to the collar, is great in that it mimics St Louis' Gateway Arch, giving the jersey a simple and elegant sense of place. The use of a different colour to at the top, coming out of the collar, is – to me – what makes that visual connection a lot more obvious, making sure that the arch has some weight and substance to it, rather than just being a line on a jersey.


But what that line on a jersey does is well is frame the logo in a really great way, making it the focus on the entire jersey.

And that curve and striping pattern is mimicked on the sleeves as well. And that slight curve is used on the shoulder yokes. It makes for a consistent and refined look across the entire jersey.

But there were also decisions made to keep things simple, like not having any stripes along the bottom of the jersey. The rest of the striping is complex enough that it becomes unnecessary to have stripes there and not have it look like a practice jersey like some other teams did with the Reebok Edge jerseys when they first came out (I'm looking at you Edmonton). And they didn't do anything stupid anywhere else on the rest of jersey, like on the sides for example (I'm looking at you Calgary). It's a great mix of complex and simple, new and old, and it used the Edge jerseys' new lines to its full potential.

Jersey Recommendation: #42 Backes. A Blue his whole career so far and the emotional leader on the team. He may not be the best or most prolific player on the team, but there's no question he is the epitome of the type of game the Blues like to play. Get it in double-blue blues.

We Need Your Help

What do you think is the biggest goal scored in Blues' history? Or, what's the most memorable play-by-play call made for a big Blues goal? Let us know in the comments below and it could be epitomized as a poster similar to these ones, available at the Hockey By Design store. Also, now available at the store, made specifically for this post, is a Blues entry into the Vintage posters series, pictured here. You can buy yourself one right here.

Comments

it's all a matter of taste ...

but this list is crazy. yes, you nailed the worst jersey. after that? my list is totally different. again, it’s my own tastes, but my no. 1 is the originals and no. 2 is easily the 98-2007 jersey. after that, there’s a slight dropoff to no. 3, the current thirds. then you have the the scott stevens era jerseys and fifth is the current threads.

I have the '98-2007 first and then the originals second...

… but other than that I think my list mirrors yours. I dislike the current jerseys because they are the RBK design, and those templates should be lit on fire.

Yep

1. 1998-2007
1a. Current jerseys – Hated them when they debuted, but they’ve grown on me.
4. 1984-1994 – Numbers changed to indicate a big drop.
5. Current thirds – I love everything about this jersey but the crest. The Blue Note is perfect all by itself, and should never be changed. Would Detroit every wear anything other than the winged wheel? No they wouldn’t. And we shouldn’t either.
6. Originals – That blue always looks too light to me, and I’ve been a fan since they wore them.
7. 1995-1998 – Known to me and my friends as the “clown suits”

And yes, I have an example of every one of these except the originals and the current thirds hanging in my closet.

The biggest goal scored in Blues history hasn’t been scored yet. It’s the goal that wins the team’s first Stanley Cup. Please, hockey gods, let it be soon

I disagree about the use of red on the 84-94 jerseys.

The red stripe on the collar wasn’t good. The red piping around the gold stripes makes the gold really pop due to contrast.

If you want to keep the current design you need to ditch the “arch” piping and go with a solid blue shoulder yoke. Add a thicker gold stripe on the sleeve where the current thin stripe is located.

Still, going back to the original 1967 jersey design and colors would be best for everyone involved.

Probably in the minority here...

but I think our current set is among the worst in the league. Originals are the way to go. Bluenote and all. The current home and aways just don’t look like hockey sweaters to me. Maybe I’m the one with the bad taste, but I’m always surprised by how much people like our current set compared to the originals. Not sure if anyone has seen this, but looks like we are getting a change for next season: http://www.icethetics.co/blog/2014/2/9/nhl-jerseywatch-2014

I tend to agree.

The big bold beautiful Bluenote forgives a lot of ills, but I’m tired of the “RBK EDGE” design. Seems like it promotes Reebok more than the Blues.

I miss hem striping. Vertical piping doesn’t work with hem stripes, so my love of the stripes has become a dislike for the piping.

When the eventual redesign comes, I’d like to see the logo remain unchanged and the rest of the uniform designed around it.

This.

I love the Blue Note, but I’d be a-okay with a new jersey design.

Mostly agree

I don’t hate them, but they’re not good either. They’re…just boring I guess.

Biggest goal in Blues history?

Monday Night Miracle goal by Doug Wickenheiser easily.

Can't come up with a better one.

The overtime goal that cliched the first-round sweep over the Blackhawks is great, but almost more for Belfour’s reaction than for the goal itself.

As baroose mentioned above, though, I’m hoping that the MNM goal gets eclipsed, and soon.

Mike Crombeen’s dlb. overtime series winner vs. Pit. Liut and Millen put on a hell of show in overtime. The Barn was burning up.

Memorable calls

As wildthing said. The Monday Night Miracle call is a great one

“Here’s Ramage, for Federko too far, Federko steals the puck from Reinhart, over to Hunter who shoots, blocked, Wickenheiser scores! Doug Wickenheiser! The Blues pull it off and it’s unbelievable!”
Ken Wilson, May 12, 1986

Also, since it’s the Blues one from a memorable fight would be great too. Maybe the fight with detroit in 1993. “Here comes Cheveldae” followed by Cujo coming after him.

The '84-87 design really shouldn't be combined with the '88-94 sets.

Yes, the red piping appeared in the earlier design and migrated to the next, but the big difference — the huge, unmistakable, regrettable, eyeball-searing difference — was the presence of the curved wordmark over the logo. That difference is enough, I think, to warrant two separate reviews. (Besides, the Wordmark Jersey has an accompanying backstory that sets it apart from the rest.)

Van der Woude may not have been aware of the Harry Ornest Era when he wrote this article. Briefly: the NHL nixed a deal to sell the Blues to a group who wanted to move the team to Saskatoon. Instead, the team was bought by California businessman Harry Ornest, who proceeded to run the franchise as cheaply as possible. To increase revenue, he mandated new jerseys; to cut costs, he let his wife design them. Ruth Ornest is singularly responsible for the creation of the Wordmark Jerseys.

When Ornest sold the team to a group of local businessmen in 1987, they ordered an immediate redesign — dropping the wordmark, restoring the logo’s proper size, and leaving everything else pretty much the same. Thus, the Wordmark Jersey specifically and exclusively denotes the time period when Harry Ornest owned the Blues.

Nope, didn’t realize it. Thanks for the history, it’s always interesting to know more about the process and backstory to the designs.

I hate the current third jersey alternate logo!

To me it’s formulaic and goes against the less is more philosophy. I can see why it popular but this only serves to illustrate the decline of society ; )

The current note is perfect other than the outline should either be all yellow or all white. The yellow and white outlines bleed visually creating a lighter shade of yellow.

I’d really like to see them return to the original blue and ditch the over saturated royal blue. This would allow for the midnight blue to shift to more of a dark blue.

In terms of jersey design, I prefer the original 1967 style but I don’t like the hem stripes on the edge jerseys so I’m OK with the current design. It’s actually grown on me and the the tapered striping strikes a nice balance between traditional and classic. The only thing I question on the current jersey is the way the yellow piping continues all the way down. I’m not sure I don’t like it but I’d like to see how it would look with out it.

The third logo

only feels “formulaic” because every other third jersey copied ours after it looked so good.

Actually no. The Blues were far from the first team to do a third jersey with the circle crest template.

It’s not a bad design but when you have a symbol as powerful as the note do you really need to embelish it? I get that they wanted something to show comunity support for St Louis while having a little different look and that’s fine for a third jersey but when the regular jersey is so awesome, I have to question the notion of a third all together.

For me the arch is the thing that saves the logo. I’d probably opt to take the note out of it all together and go with a cityscape similar to the old Peoria jerseys. The note shouldn’t be molested with in an ensemble design.

The only current-era* circle logo

To come before the Blues thirds were Minnesota’s. After our fantastic 3rds came out, came Florida’s, Columbus’, Buffalo’s (even if it was a retro look for them), & Winnipeg’s. Not to say it was a new, first of its kind idea, but it wasn’t a trend before the Blues’ third logo, and thus was original at the time.

*The Bruins logo doesn’t count since they’ve had it for decades. Plus, that’s less of a “logo-in-a-cricle” as a circular logo. Same with the Isles.

I don't believe this was a case of teams seeing the Blues 3rd and deciding to copy it.

I believe Reebok was allowed to force the 3rd jersey designs down teams’ throats and it appears that the basic circle template was used a lot by their design team. My understanding is they were pretty much all designed in conjunction. A pretty safe and cheap way to generate revenue for Reebok.

In any event the circle crest logo is about as original as the script with a tail used on baseball jerseys.

The worst thing about the current third is the logo itself.

Everything else — said logo in a circle, lettering around said circle, color scheme, stripes, numbers, font — is fantastic.

If I had to redesign the home/away set, I’d do the following:

- start with the current 3rd.
- replace logo-in-a-circle with the current Bluenote.
- adjust the color scheme for home and away.
- nothing. Nothing more would need to be done.

I think the design of the third would translate well into a primary jersey

If I were going to alter the current third like you suggest, I’d probably swap the yellow for a bright blue matching the color if the note or add that color in addition to the yellow. Changing the team colors to navy and yellow doesn’t sit well with me.

I do think the stripe pattern on the third is classic though I’d probably go with the original striping over it if I were going to abandon the current modern stripe pattern.

I have one of the Vintage jerseys the Blues wore against the kings in 2004 (early 80s style) and those colors flat pop! If you put those exact colors, possibly keeping the navy, on the current jersey or third jersey you would get back to the heart and soul of Blues hockey.

I don't understand the dislike

of the 3rd jersey. I think it is so far ahead of every other design we’ve had that it’s not even close. They’re certainly waaaay better than the every day reebok jersey they wear.

Brett Hull's

500th. his second 500th.

until a cup is won, what could really top it? the miracle was a prelude to a loss, the most recent charge into the third round, on turek’s back, lead, sadly, to the third round,

argueably the greatest blues greatest goal in his greatest game

sad that the fact he had to score #500 twice that night and the second time most fans had already celebrated the not-hattrick. but still WHAT A GOAL WHAT A GAME WHAT A BLUE

I think the whole thing's available on NHL.com's Vault.

I’ve watched it a few times – it’s just tremendous. I honestly miss the way that the sport was played back then. I love it now, obviously, but there’s just something fun about how it used to be.

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