The Winnipeg Jets have always had pretty nice jerseys…
Except when the original (more or less) Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes, embracing Southwestern kitsch for a few unfortunate years. Or when the NHL franchise that would become the current Jets existed in Atlanta, where for 11 seasons the Thrashers never wore anything that wasn’t ugly.
Since relocating from Atlanta in 2011, the new Jets have dressed — and played — much better. A first-ever trip to the conference finals this season gives the current squad a chance to show the world just how sharp the Jets look.
In the Beginning …
The first Winnipeg Jets were a junior team formed in 1967 in the Western Canada Hockey League. When the World Hockey Association, an upstart challenger to the NHL, came along in 1972, they grabbed the name — and the attention of the hockey world by signing none other than the NHL’s Golden Jet, Blackhawks star Bobby Hull, to a then-unheard deal that included a $1 million signing bonus.
Winnipeg won three championships in the WHA’s seven seasons, after which it was one of four of the struggling league’s teams to merge with the NHL. In 17 NHL seasons, the original Jets won exactly two playoff series.
Here’s a rundown of the major changes to that team’s wardrobe.
1972: The road jerseys were blue, with three stripes — two white and one red — at the waist and elbows. On the back, a white nameplate was stitched with red letters above a white-trimmed red number. The logo, “Jets” spelled in red, featured a stick-like “J” and the image of a skater in the negative space of that letter. The home whites added a blue shoulder yoke, while the numbers and logo were blue, trimmed with red.
1973: Essentially, the same jerseys with a new logo. This placed “Jets” in a circle, made the “J” look even more like a stick, blended the top line of the “E” and the “T” together, added the silhouette of a passenger jet in a puck-like circle above the “J” and “Winnipeg” in arcing red letters below.
1979: For their NHL debut, the Jets took on a new look — borrowing heavily from the New York Rangers’ old look. Former GM John Ferguson had put the Rangers in full-length sleeve stripes for the 1976-77 season and brought it with him to the Jets. White stripes trimmed in red ran from cuff to cuff over the shoulders of the blue jersey, blue trimmed in red on the white.
1990: The original Jets get their final redesign, which would hold until the Phoenix move in ’96. Simple, wide stripes at the elbows and waist made for a classic look, as did another home run of a logo — this one a sharp updating of its predecessor. The nose of a jet moved to the space to the left of the “J,” “Winnipeg” above the line formed by the top of “E-T-S.”
Riffing on the R(C)AF
The Jets took their time deciding to be the Jets again, making that call at the 2011 NHL draft. A month later they debuted their new logo, which, like the jersey on which it rests, they’re still using.
That’s a good thing. Though it doesn’t resemble the Jets jerseys of old, the current, classically simple one mirrors their best traits. The home jerseys are dark blue with lighter blue and white accent stripes at the waist and elbow. The road whites add a dark blue shoulder yoke that runs all the way to the wrists. But the best part is the logo, which deftly mimics that of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Both logos feature a red maple leaf on a field of white inside a blue circle. The Winnipeg logo adds a gray fighter jet atop the leaf. You’d have to figure an alternate jersey is coming for the 2018-19 season, but when a team looks this good, they don’t need it.
Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet. Check out Pro Stock Hockey at https://www.prostockhockey.com/