Summer Reading: Heritage Jerseys, History, and the Forcing of Both

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I think I’m tired of the “Heritage Jersey” scheme that Adidas is going on about. The NHL has gone into the NBA territory by having fancy names for their alternate jerseys. While the idea of nostalgia is a great one and one that is a proven moneymaker; the fact we’ve seen some of these jerseys in the recent past proves that the NHL is all about the retread– as if you haven’t figured that out by who participates in the outdoor games. Already, we’ve seen the St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, and the Anaheim Ducks (…kind of) that have put out their “heritage” jerseys. I’m sure we can expect the Capitals, Maple Leafs, and possibly Flames to join this trend.

While it’s nice to have this retro flare– it’s really all fake. If the NHL really cared about the “heritage” aspect of these jerseys; why wouldn’t they want to show off the Colorado Rockies or Kansas City Scouts jerseys that are the actual heritage of the New Jersey Devils instead of their white “Christmas color’ jersey motif.

Therein lies the problem with the NHL and the way they present their history. Sure, it’s the whole “to the victor goes the spoils,” but at the same time– you can’t bury the history of team’s past. Hell, those are the jerseys and logos that it seems that people crave. However, the NHL doesn’t want you to remember the past as it was. They want you to remember the history as they present– which is a raw deal for everyone involved.

Rarely do you hear about the Cleveland Barons, Kansas City Scouts, Hamilton Tigers, or St. Louis Eagles due to those teams not making any kind of positive impact in their few years in the NHL proper. People get force fed the “original” six forever and day, but that’s not really the history. Hell, they’re more like the surviving six over anything else. But that’s not what the NHL wants to portray, which I can understand. With the exception of the NBA, you don’t see many leagues touting the teams that have fallen off their radar. You might get fans talking about those teams, but rare to see the leagues promote the dead teams that relocated.

You rarely hear about players from the old days either. The lack of publicity that Joe Malone gets from the NHL is sickening, especially when you have baseball still hold up things that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did. Malone was one of the greatest players and the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, but the NHL really doesn’t do much to profile their players before 1950. Newsy Lalonde is really talked about for his name, but his goal-scoring prowess was up there with Malone, but you only get his nickname of Newsy as something to remember him by rather than the 124 NHL goals in 99 games over his career and 288 goals in 207 games if you combine the NHA and NHL totals. But the NHL doesn’t even give them a passing glance unless they have to– which is rarely.

The idea of having a team historian is a thing that seems to be a hot topic amongst fans with some teams putting it to use. Granted, some of them have put in the work and then were unceremoniously shown the door after the fact, but the team got what they wanted. In all honesty, it seems that the need for a historian could be a “flavor of the month” for some teams and the league itself. With the NHL Centennial over, you have to wonder how much they’ll promote Dave Stubbs’ work since the history isn’t something they need at the forefront anymore.

Jen Conway (AKA NHL History Girl) and I discussed this on the FOHS Overtime on Patreon, so if you want to shell out of few duckets to hear it– then by all means. All the money goes back into the Media Faction for shows and stuff like that.

You can bet we’ll see more “heritage” jerseys– many of which we have seen in the past, many of which won’t be the real heritage of the team. It’s this idea of history that’s great in theory– but when you put it into practice and you dig up things that aren’t all rosy; that’s stuff people don’t want to hear or pay attention to– so they turn it and it becomes a waste for many. Here’s hoping that many hockey fans can take the good with the bad, but with how things work in this social media era– it’s unlikely to happen.

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