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We don’t wade onto the ice very often here at Complex Sports, but when the NHL dunks all over the NBA we gotta give them their props.
And that’s what we’re doing on this Monday after the National Hockey League, in partnership with adidas, released their new “Reverse Retro” jerseys for the upcoming 2020-21 season. While I beg your pardon for blanking on the appropriate language to use when it comes to describing clothes (our Complex Style squad does it so eloquently), we can’t stop gushing over how awesome and, frankly better, the NHL’s new alternates are than almost every NBA City Edition jersey from Nike that's hit our timeline in recent weeks.
Seriously, the NHL hit a home run with the release and whether you want to pick one up to rock because you think its stylish or you’re legitimately a fan of one of the 31 squads, there isn’t a dud in the bunch.
Tapping into nostalgia is often a winning formula and that's exactly what the league and adidas did. Those of us who are older and remember a different hockey landscape compared to today's, like the one featured in the GOAT video game NHL ’94, will go bonkers over the awesome Quebec Nordiques (Colorado Avalance) and Hartford Whalers (Carolina Hurricanes) sweaters, to highlight just a few, that we haven’t seen in what feels like decades.
Another standout is the Kings’ purple and gold jerseys that’s about to become ubiquitous on the streets of Los Angeles for obvious reasons. Props are due to the folks who advocated for the red and green color scheme of the New Jersey Devils' sweater—the red a nod, of course, to the mythical Jersey Devil the team is named after and the green an ode to the Pine Barrens where legend has it the monster resides (Sopranos fans know all about the area).
In a press release, adidas and the NHL jointly said the Reverse Retro ADIZERO Authentic jersey—the official name—would be worn in “special head-to-head matchups featuring exciting and renewed rivalries—both old and new—the league will announce at a later date.” Largely, adidas made tweaks to, or completely flipped, the striping and color schemes of some classics. That or they dug deep into the archives for inspiration like with the Las Vegas Knights, a relatively new franchise, who paid homage to trail blazer Manon Rheaume with the new alternatives. Rheaume was the first woman to play in the NHL in the early 90s and wore similar striping on her sweater when she was in net for the Las Vegas Thunder of the International Hockey League. For the first time in the NHL's history, all 31 teams will sport a new alternate jersey next season.
Meanwhile, we’ve been very disappointed in the slow rollout of the NBA’s City Edition jerseys. While we haven’t officially seen all of them for some odd reason, there have been very few standouts. Huge emphasis on few. Largely, what we’ve seen so far has either been comically misguided or downright horrific. Basically, way more bricks than swishes.
For every San Antonio Spurs or New Jersey Nets throwback and respectfully executed Buzz City Hornets alternative or the Hawks’ MLK salute, there have been absolute abominations. Like the leaked Knicks “City Never Sleeps” alternative (JFC, horrendous) or the perplexing 76ers whatever-the-fuck-that-was fourth jersey (honestly, what the fuck was that?) or the Mavericks incredibly uninspired gold alternatives (I struggle for the right words to describe how bad they are).
The candidates to clown on for their City Edition disgraces are endless. The Bulls’ new alternatives pay homage to somebody 99 percent of the city probably can’t name. We don’t know whether to laugh or be horrified by the Magic’s orange pinstripes. What the hell will the Thunder be rocking? And why did the Warriors feel the need to patronize Oakland after leaving for the more luxurious confines of San Francisco?
We could go on and on and on, but we’ll cut the criticism of Nike and the NBA short and just give praise to the NHL and adidas for crushing it. From the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 1997 retros that were inspired by Mario Lemeuix and Snoop Dogg (yes, Snoop Dogg) to the Anaheim Ducks’ “Wild Wing” alternative that features a cartoon goalie to the Edmonton Oilers’ 1979 retros that are a nod to Wayne Gretzky’s first season in the league, it was an A+ job all around. Especially since all 31 were dropped simultaneously and centered around a common theme, rather than a laboriously rolled out debut like Nike and the NBA seem to be doing with no ties that bind in the design/inspiration process.
I stopped giving a shit about the Rangers a few decades ago because there's only so much bandwidth in this life, but seeing the NHL and adidas bring back those Statue of Liberty alternatives that debuted 24 years ago has me hyped. The jerseys go on sale Dec. 1. Meanwhile, as a Knicks fan, it's cobwebs for the credit card if we're talking about their debacle of a City Edition jersey.