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How to design the Montreal Canadiens’ third jersey

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Honour the history, but don’t be held against it.

2017 Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic - Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators Photo by Olivier Samson Arcand/NHLI via Getty Images

Many teams have been releasing third jerseys for the upcoming season, notably the Golden Knights with their gold jersey and the Dallas Stars with their ‘Blackout’ jersey. In addition, the National Hockey League and Adidas are getting ready to unveil a ‘Reverse Retro’ jersey allowing teams to come up with creative jerseys that hint to the past.

Montreal Canadiens owner and president Geoff Molson had hinted that the Canadiens will have a third jersey for next season. The question now becomes how can the team design a unique jersey, whether a regular alternate or a “Reverse Retro” jersey without straying far from their iconic look.

The Logo

First off the the CH logo itself first appeared in 1917, coinciding with the inaugural season of the National Hockey League. A capital letter ‘H’ replaced a capital letter ‘A’ inside a stylized capital letter ‘C’. Over time the logo was tweaked a few times, ultimately achieving its final form as we know it today around 1956. To change this iconic logo is certainly unimaginable, but there are ways to modify it to give a nod towards the past.

Sportlogos.net

There is one variant of the logo that exists, but was seldom used since the 1919-20 season. In fact I’ve only seen it in two places since then: As a patch on the left arm on the Howie Morenz Memorial Game jersey and on the Regina Pats jersey, when they were Habs junior farm team back in the sponsorship days.

This particular variant removes the white colour from the ‘H’, and makes the ‘CH’ entirely red, with a white and blue outline. It certainly opens up some possibilities.

The Red Jersey

The red jersey as we know it today, with a dark blue bar with white borders across the chest has been the standard since 1913 after the team switched from the “barber pole” jerseys.

An early prototype with just a blue bar actually emerged a year earlier in 1912 as an alternate to the barber pole jersey when playing against the Ottawa Senators. The Senators complained that the Canadiens’ jerseys were too similar and therefore the Canadiens had to wear an alternate jersey for games between the two team, and the rest was history.

You can thank the Ottawa Senators for the Canadiens iconic jersey design

The White Jersey

The white jersey has seen a bit less variance, with the first confirmed ones emerging in 1935 in order to avoid confusion when the Canadiens would play against the Detroit Red Wings. This jersey was essentially duplicated for the NHL100 Classic game. Eventually that white jersey added red shoulder pads in 1941 and lasted until 1945.

I said ‘confirmed’ earlier, because the Montreal Canadiens historical site depicts a white jersey with a sash across the chest, apparently used for the 1911-12 season, but there is no photographic evidence of this jersey, and is a topic of debate as to whether it even existed.

In 1945, the white jersey took on a different appearance by adding the blue stripe across the chest, with red top and bottom borders to keep with the colour theme. This jersey was used again in 2003, 2008, and loosely inspired the hodge-podge 2016 Winter Classic jersey that amalgamated multiple design concepts. Despite its modern-day popularity as an option for a third jersey alternate, this look only lasted one season initially, and would essentially revert back to the previous look in 1946 that saw a plain white jersey with red shoulders and sleeve tips, and that look has lasted until today.

The Centennial Collection

In 2008-09, we had the Centennial jerseys, which essentially were modern takes on all the looks the team had during their years in the National Hockey Association, plus the popular 2003 retro white jersey. Should one of these jersey simply be alternate jersey, and leave it at that? Or should the organization introduce a new look into its lore?

Is it time to update the jerseys?

Sure, there have been some minor tweaks here and there over time, but there was never a drastic rethink of the jersey for over a century.

I recently had a dream where the Canadiens introduced a new jersey as part of the Reverse Retro series which is meant to take risks and deviate from the traditional conservative jersey designs. When I awoke I was so struck by the uniqueness of the design that I opened up Photoshop to recreate it.

The basis for the jersey is the first white jersey, with the thin white stripes at the bottom of the jersey, but I reversed the colours on the shoulders and sleeve tips from red to blue, adding a thin red stripe just to accent the blue-blanc-rouge pattern. Added blue laces as well. Across the chest rather than doing a single large band with a border, I borrowed a segment of the barber pole theme. The primary logo is on the sleeves as it was on the red jerseys on several occasions. Perhaps the all-red logo that was discussed above could be used here instead? The most controversial decision is the use of the CAC logo in a white maple leaf from the barber pole design.

Obviously this jersey is very risky, but what I think it demonstrates is that there is at least opportunity to re-think the Montreal Canadiens jersey without straying too far from some basic guidelines.

Another idea I had was to take the original 1909 jersey, the only blue-themed jersey in Canadiens lore, but I would update the logo from the original ‘C’ to a modern take of the 1917 logo which included two concentric ‘C’s, one white and one red, a logo that amalgamated the acronym for Club de Hockey Canadien, which is the full registered name of the Montreal Canadiens. I like the simplicity of this jersey, with every element easily explained. (Perhaps throw a red logo patch on the sleeve as well?)

After posting my ideas on Twitter, a suggestion came my way which also played around with some traditional elements but changed the colours around.

This is very similar to the one used by the St. John’s IceCaps when they honoured the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Another variant to the design above could be the one used as a variant by the Hamilton Bulldogs, which also keeps the palette.

Blue is the only colour on the palette to feature its own dominant coloured jersey. But is going with a blue alternate jersey a little too close to the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers?

The question of an alternate jersey for the Montreal Canadiens is a tough one to answer definitively. On one hand people compare the current team to the franchise history, and it’s clearly an impossible standard to achieve. On the other hand any drastic changes would certain incur the wrath of the traditionalists who like things the way they are and would brush off any changes as a PR exercise.

One thing is certain, that the Canadiens will have an additional jersey for next season. As demonstrated above there are sufficient elements in the team’s past to create something new. The question now becomes whether the team believes it is time to introduce a modernized concept, and the answer to that question will only be known once they reveal the jersey.