Leave it to the National Hockey League to spark a major controversy over a Blues hockey sweater.
In September 2015, Adidas acquired the rights to NHL jerseys/sweaters, beginning with the 2017-18 season. The first year there were only two options for each team: a home and an away. Last year they introduced the retro jersey as a third/special option. Many who live and die by the ‘note were fearful the mid 90’s clown version would be used. It turned out those fears were founded when the team announced they would wear the jersey for 90’s nights.
Now I need to be completely honest. I am in the minority here. I loved the jersey of Hull, Gretzky, and MacInnis. These colorful uniforms were full of symbolism and in my eyes connected the team to the city. The use of the trumpet patch, putting “St. Louis” in the Bluenote, the 5 lines going diagonally representing a musical staff of blues music, finely adding red to the mix. The Blues have had a small amount of red as an outline going back to 1984 in the home jersey. Now they were going to feature the color predominantly along the bottom of the jumper. This decision has caused pain and conflict amongst the fan base ever since. Shortly after the team started sporting then the nickname being whispered not too softly was “Clown Jersey.”
Some 25 years later the “clown” is making more people cry than cheer. The Blues were able to sell a decent amount of this reverse retro edition but many in the fan base still made beelines to the porcelain throne. Cries of “why are the Blues wearing red” and “there is just too much going on” could be heard throughout the “Heartland of Hockey.” Yes, the color red, the primary color of our biggest rival was on our jersey!! What kind of sacrilegious voodoo is going on? Now again in 2020-21 we are faced with the red again!!!
Blues Reverse Retro Jersey
Ok… let us hold the phone for a second.
Remember I said the “Clown Jersey” was full of symbolism? Well, there is an urban legend that speaks to this symbolism by connecting the red of the St. Louis flag to the red in the uniform. First let me say I am one of those that agrees and believes in this tale, whether it is true or not. The other symbols are there, the patch, the St. Louis name, the five lines (yes there are 5, not 4). With all those other symbols staring us in the face why is it so hard to believe that the red is not a connection also?
The second part of the legend is Mike Shanahan, the owner at the time, wanted the city to connect with the team so it would make it harder for a group like Saskatoon to try to steal the Blues away as they had attempted twice before. Shanahan had bought the Blues from Harry Ornest, who stepped in and prevented the sale of the Blues to Saskatoon in 1983, then he almost sold the team to Saskatoon in 1986 until Shanahan stepped in with some local leadership. This was a period of great upheaval within the fan base and Shanahan wanted to do some damage control. Knowing the sport’s history of our fair city why is this so difficult to believe.
The ’90s were the time of Gretzky, Lemieux, and Hull. Great goal scorers light up the league with their skill and one-liners, why not light up the league with some new threads. Bruce Affleck, who has been the organization since he was dealt in January of 1975, called the jerseys and abomination. Affleck does not hide his disgust of them. Just as many fans, in the numerous Facebook groups and other social media platforms, also have voiced a certain bloodlust to these infamous pullovers.
Now not only has Adidas brought back this controversial style, but they also went and reversed it. Reverse Retro Jersey (as they are known) are jerseys from each team’s history with the colors and/or logos switched. The red in the Blues jersey is now where the blue was. Adidas did this in conjunction with the NHL and the teams. The goal was to take a significant jersey from the team’s past and flip-flop the colors. Some of these creations are works of art, while others simply miss the mark.
In the heartland where the team, named after a song about sad days in the city, the uproar could be heard throughout the league. Why this jersey, why not go with a gold one? What about reversing the Winter Classic jersey? This very loyal fan base was seeing red. There was no middle ground, either you hated them, or you loved them. Those who love them bought them up to be worn with great pride. Flip the coin over and the other side cannot even look at them, the mere mention of retro and their eyes grow beady and the vessels narrow to the point they look like Ren from Ren and Stimpy. The debate over these sweaters can get as heated as the most political subject. Even the best of best of friends can argue for hours over the red.
I must give Adidas credit: By picking the most controversial jersey in the Blues arsenal, they created a jersey that will be talked about for years to come…thus bringing in the adage, no press is bad press. Making Blues fans see red could help the Blues bring in greener and give us all greater memories to cheer for.
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing