USA Hockey unveiled the jerseys the US will be wearing at New Era Field for the World Junior Championships outdoor game. The reception wasn’t quite as warm as they may have expected.
The jerseys, just a long sleeved Bills jersey, are not easy on the eye. The sleeves and high numbers on the shoulders look terrific. As does the back of the jersey and the collar. It’s the front where everything falls apart. Numbers on the front of a hockey jersey don’t always look out of place, but it’s easy for things to get out of hand.
Donning a special jersey for the game is a great decision, one that would have seemed silly to avoid from both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada’s perspective. So the impetus for the Bills mashup jersey is obvious. What isn’t obvious is why the powers that be decided to go in such a drastic direction.
The typical recipe for an outdoor game jersey is to take a vintage look or two, pull the good pieces from each and call it a day. The US has done this perfectly with the 1960 uniforms they’ve been wearing all the way back to 2010. They’ve had a fair bit of success in those jerseys too, I’m amazed they wouldn’t just wear those given how great they look and how popular they are. Instead we’ll get to see an awkward jersey on the ice in front of a massive TV audience. Sound familiar?
USA Hockey has a host of vintage jersey choices to choose from, which makes the decision to create this Bills version more confusing. Here’s a ranking (yay listicles!) of the jerseys USA Hockey should have considered for the outdoor game at The Cap.
- 1996 World Cup of Hockey
I spent a bunch of time saying how a vintage look is the way to go for an outdoor game, so logically my first entry is a jersey from 1996. The 96 World Cup win was a monumental triumph for USA Hockey and it just so happened to come against Canada. The kids competing in this year’s WJC wouldn’t have been born at the time the US defeated Canada in 1996, so these would technically count as a throwback if you want to split hairs. These are very 90s in terms of design and while legendary thanks to the team that wore them, hardly an all-time favorite USA uniform. But considering the final choice is a very out-of-the-box design, these would look conservative by comparison. It’s unfortunate this year’s WJC doesn’t better align with the anniversary of the 96 World Cup because the #synergy would have been tremendous.
- 1976 Canada Cup
These uniforms would either win plenty of favor or plenty of criticism from people like me on the internet. The eagle crest is a bit simple and the socks are a little much. But I’m a big fan of the stars on the shoulders and the color scheme is ideal for a vintage outdoor game look.
This design has featured once before for USA Hockey, at the 2004 World Cup. The 2014 Sochi uniforms also bore a striking resemblance to the classic crest of the 1932 uniforms. Given the results at each of those events you couldn’t fault USA Hockey for wishing to avoid the look. But it would certainly be right at home as a throwback outdoor uniform.
- 1960 Olympics
The USA Hockey alternate is the go-to for big games and are the very jerseys worn to win gold against Canada last year. These are fan favorites and flew off the shelves in 2011 when they were sold in conjunction the last time the Sabres hosted the WJC. It’s a classic design, the Amercians play well in them and they’re aesthetically pleasing. Win-win-win.
It’s hard to pin down how many events these uniforms were worn for, and if there were minute changes made from year to year, but the jerseys worn over this time period don’t get nearly enough love. The stylized font is terrific while the rest of the look has ties to both the 1960 and 1980 uniforms. Whether white or blue, these would have been a terrific throwback for the United States to wear when they take on the Canadians this winter.