It’s the holiday season and we here at SB Nation NHL are celebrating the ugly sweater trend by looking back on our favorite teams and pointing out a time when the sweater on the ice was just awful — and not even in a tacky-but-cute way. Some teams have worn truly hideous sweaters in their histories.
But here’s the thing: the San Jose Sharks have never had a bad sweater.
It starts with the logo. Since coming onto the scene in 1991, the Shark chomping an orange hockey stick that the boys in teal have worn on their chest has been the very definition of iconic.
This logo atop a bright teal and silver uniform was exactly what would be expected of a brand new 90s hockey team, in the absolute best way. The color scheme and logo allowed the Sharks something essential in marketing themselves to a new era of fans: the Sharks, simply put, were cool. The merchandise created in that era is still so highly sought-after because the aesthetic still manages to be edgy and modern, standing out from a boring league of blues and reds and yellows.
The Sharks’ original sweater was voted the best in NHL history in The Hockey News’ Top 100 Hockey Sweaters of All-Time.
The Sharks have only done one full updated version of this logo since, ahead of the 2007-08 season. The original artist, Terry Smith, was brought back on to re-design the modern logo and once again, he delivered. This update was a perfect way to bring the sweater into the late aughts, keeping the team fresh and moving forward, without compromising its iconic visuals.
The teal of the sweater was darkened, again adding a more modern feel, but still standing out as distinctly San Jose.
The teal and white sweaters, while seeing some changes over the years, have never strayed far enough from this original concept to lose the incredibly strong branding of the Sharks, nor the beauty of the original sweater. Even their one-off warm up sweaters or giveaway jerseys have always been top-tier, and by hiring local artists for many of these, have also tied into the community who have grown up alongside Terry Smith’s design.
Of course, I’m not naive enough to think that I am without bias. So let’s talk potential contenders for the worst sweater worn by the Sharks.
2015 Stadium Series
This is usually the first jersey pointed out as being the worst the Sharks have worn, but I have to ask — is it really that bad? Sure, it’s the furthest San Jose has ever strayed from the original sweater design, but I think that’s more of the issue people have with it than the design of the jersey itself.
Color blocking is modern, simple, and most importantly, it creates a great foundation for merchandise. A color blocked beanie to match this sweater? Yes, please. For a one-off event like the NHL’s Stadium Series, that’d exactly what you need in a design and with a color palette as distinct as the Sharks, nothing is really lost in choosing large color blocking over smaller stripes.
Personally, the only issue I have with this jersey is that the stripes don’t go all the way around to the back of the jersey and instead stop at the sides. Even though that probably makes reading the back of the jerseys easier, it takes this from a 10/10 jersey to maybe an 8/10 at worst.
2008-09 Black Armor
I can’t figure out if Sharks fans actually dislike this jersey or if everyone is just distracted by thinking that it is cursed. Friends, I’m here to tell you that this is an extraordinary take on the all-black jersey.
Of course, the Sharks later perfected it with the unveiling of the Stealth jersey last fall, but for a first go at it, god damn these jerseys are sharp. There’s the potential that something is lost in removing the triangle background from the logo, but visually that is more than compensated for by how stark the teal and the white are on the black background.
The Sharks have this advantage over every team in the league when it comes to black jerseys. Other teams’ colors can look muddled or too busy against black. But teal is perfectly paired with a dark background and the small orange details are somehow both subtle and striking.
The numbers on the front are another stroke of marketing genius, allowing fans every opportunity to identify their favorite players on the ice, as well as represent them from all sides when purchasing their own replica jerseys. And for once, I don’t hate the ties on the neckline.
If anything, this jersey could be a bit too busy in terms of the number of smaller logos (a large white logo on the shoulder yoke, below the numbers on the arm, on the wrist of the glove, and on the breezers), but that’s just splitting hairs. It’s beautiful.
Every other sweater worn by the Sharks has been a variation of the original or of the Black Armor jersey and they’re all stunning. The strongest quality of the Sharks as a franchise has always been their team identity. They’ve stuck with iconography that works, making only the smallest tweaks over the years to keep it fresh. There’s a reason that it’s so difficult to find Sharks jerseys on the reseller’s market or at a discount and it’s because they’re that good.
So we’ll leave you with this ugly sweater design by our graphic designer, JD Young, to fulfill any Sharks-related ugly sweater needs you may have this holiday season, because you certainly won’t be getting any on the ice.