Over this past weekend, an official, originally designed third jersey for the New Jersey Devils was leaked to the public by GabeTM (@GTAC13Jerseys). As I wrote about the leak, it was a bad look. A majority of the comments from the People Who Matter both here and on social media concurred with that assessment. I regret to write that GabeTM’s leak was legitimate. The New Jersey Devils officially announced their third jersey. It is indeed the black and white inconsistent-striped sweater with a “Jersey” word mark befitting of a knock-off brand.
What I did not expect was the apparent involvement of Martin Brodeur. Martin Brodeur! The legendary goaltender! The Most Accomplished Goaltender in Hockey History! The only member of the organization with a statue erected outside of the Rock! The! Martin! Brodeur! Was involved in this ghastly third jersey design!
The official website said he influenced it. This article at The Athletic ($) by Sean Shapiro (and others) reported that Brodeur was the lead designer. Other members of the organization, such as team President Jake Reynolds was involved. Vice President of Marketing Jillian Frechette was involved. Designers from adidas were involved. Multiple people were involved in this design. In reading Shapiro’s article, it was noted that this effort took three years. It was also decided among six or seven mockups from adidas. There were two designs tested out on players on the ice. Which means Brodeur, Reynolds, Frechette, and the other decision makers thought there were worse designs than this. Something I am not sure I can really believe.
This honestly took three years. This, a design that looks like it was made in three minutes before a “urgent two-hour lunch break,” took three years:
Was the three years in researching more obscure minor professional hockey teams in New Jersey? Of course, the Newark Bulldogs are referenced as an influence. You know the Bulldogs. The mighty 16-24 team that moved down from Quebec and existed for one season during The Great Depression. It’s the team jersey designers just love to reference and no one really has heard above before. Well, the wizards involved found two even more obscure squads in the River Vale Skeeters and Jersey Larks. I guess this will help the few fans who actually like this or, worse, dropped hundreds dollars hoping for something better but got this instead and need to cope about it.
Let me and HockeyDB help with that coping. The River Vale Skeeters, unlike the Bulldogs, lasted more than one season. They played in the minor-professional Eastern Hockey League, which did last from 1933 to 1973. There is a shot in the dark that someone may have heard of the league. Less so for the Skeeters as their three seasons were from 1939-40 to 1941-42. Like the Bulldogs, they stunk in their league as the Skeeters won just 63 games out of 181 and earned 37.4% of all standings points. The Jersey Larks also played in the EHL. Based out of Cherry Hill, they lasted for just one season in 1960-61. The franchise began in Washington DC in 1954 as the Lions, rebradned to the Presidents in 1957, and the franchise moved to Knoxville, Tennessee after their lone season in Cherry Hill where they lasted until 1968. The Larks made the EHL playoffs, but they still were not a good team as they went 24-36-1.
So the inspiration for the third jerseys of the New Jersey Devils, the largest and most successful hockey franchise in the history of this state, were three minor pro teams that virtually no one was talking about until adidas or the Devils brought it up in their marketing material. Not to mention that I personally think those designs are not good ones anyway. Multiple people worked on this for three years.
And this announcement comes with other, shall we say, reaches for inspiration. The unnecessary lace on the front of the jersey? Apparently, that is to invoke Martin Brodeur. A man who was legendary for keeping pucks out of the net, so let it remind you of a piece of netting. I was there when he cut the net off at the Rock. It was a moment of greatness. Still, it does not mean anytime I see a piece of rope, I’m reminded of Win #552.
The 21 stripes are to represent the counties, except the five thicker ones are to represent the five numbers retired. The former is silly as county pride is not really a thing in New Jersey. County complaints, sure; but the first person who bellows “MIDDLESEX FOR LIFE” would be the first I hear of it. The latter may become obsolete should the Devils decide to retire anyone else’s number. And, again, how is a stripe supposed to remind me of a number retirement? At least when the Edmonton Gear-meteor came out, it was a clever and subtle touch. This is just lazy and nonsensical.
Then there’s the “crest.” The Best Logo in Sports replaced by a wordmark that has made many wonder if the hockey pants should say “PANTS” on it. This is supposed to be an “unabashed proclamation that we play in New Jersey.” No, duh. Who was questioning whether the Devils played in New Jersey? Who saw the Bedeviled “NJ” and thought, “Could this be New Jersey? I do not know.” Who saw the team name of New Jersey Devils and questioned where that was? Yes, I know Ken Daneyko didn’t know where New Jersey was after he was drafted. This is 2021. We have easy access to maps now. This wordmark was poorly done and looks lazy. The reasoning is just as poor and lazy.
It has a “touch of red.” Yes, just a touch. Heaven forbid we see some color for a franchise that has used red consistently and quite well for nearly 40 years. It could have made this jersey design potentially more interesting and we certainly cannot have that. That was the conclusion of adidas, Brodeur, Reynolds, Frechette, and others involved. As was the decision to go with a black base. True, it has never been used before for the Devils outside of practice jerseys and that weird neon blackout attempt a few seasons ago. Black is a neutral and basic color in fashion and sports uniforms, so proclaiming it is new to the Devils really does not mean anything even if it is true. At least the lettering is in white so you can make out who is who. Some would call that meeting the bare minimum. Like me. It is the bare minimum. Thank you, Devils, for not messing that up at least.
What makes this worse are the third jersey requirements that Shapiro went over in the article at The Athletic. Yes, there are requirements for third jerseys. You cannot just make one and rake in the cash. No, they have to be used for 12 to 15 games per season for the next three seasons. Shapiro revealed that this nonsense will be on the ice 13 times this season: 12 times at the Rock and one time on the road against the Red Wings. So not only will you have to see the Devils push this for the next few days, you will have to actually see it on the ice until 2024. Color? Who wants color when you can just have a touch of it. The Best Logo in Sports? No, we need something simpler and stupider looking.
Once again, this did not need to be so hard. This did not need three years and a group of executives and designers who overthink details and miss the larger demand. Yes, there are Devils fans that wanted a black jersey. Yes, there are Devils fans that wanted a third jersey. This could have been a simple color swap of the classic design that went to five Stanley Cup Finals and won three of them. A design that Brodeur wore and won a lot in. Yes, it would have been uninteresting but it also would have been both a whole lot better than this and would have sold a lot of jerseys. As much as the Devils organization has resisted the siren call of the third jersey (and correctly so given this result), fans have been willing to buy and wear practice jerseys, retro jerseys, reverse retro jerseys, and other variations used across the league such as military designs and pink and purple colored versions of the jersey. There is a fanbase willing to spend $150-$200 on a third jersey. But this? This is not worth it.
Obviously, I am not a fan of this jersey design. If you are, great. If you think it looks better on a player, then that is your view and I respect it. If you have come to settle for this reality, then fine.
However, if you are like me and you are not a fan of this mess and (most of all) would not want the Devils to pursue this un-Deviled path for a Devils jersey, then I encourage you to not buy into it at all. Do not get this jersey. Do not ask for this jersey. Do not buy merch like hats and scarves with this design or wordmark. Do not defend this look. Not even for irony’s sake. Do not give this organization a reason to lean harder in this design direction. If you want new merch, I suggest this: stick to the Best Logo in Sports; stick to the red, white, and black; stick to the home and away or even the retro jerseys; and if you want something new, consider the Utica Comets what with all of their winning, they’re making their new look just look great. It is baffling to me that this franchise literally had the Coca-Cola Classic of jersey designs and the Best Logo in Sports, and have opted to do away with both entirely for a cheap knockoff that you would expect to be sold outside the arena after a game or in Seaside Heights or similar. You only get one chance to make a first impression. The Devils blew it with this one.
Martin Brodeur, you are a legendary goaltender. And you (and Reynolds, and Frechette, and others involved) suck at designing a jersey. Lou would have never signed off on this and he would have been absolutely correct to do so.
This took multiple people and three years to come up with. Seriously. Anyway, that is my take. What is yours? Please leave it below in the comments. Thank you for reading.