Islanders Reverse Retro Jersey Was Inspired By Passion And Pride

NHL/Adidas

When the National Hockey League and Adidas met with the 31 teams to discuss the “Reverse Retro” jersey program, there were some key headlines and words that teams were asked to consider when coming up with a design and a concept.  Among those words were “your colors”, “your retros”, “remixed”, “passion” and “pride”.  Around the league, the teams honed in on different words and a specific year of their history that would resonate with their fan base.

For example, the Colorado Avalanche used to be the Quebec Nordiques so they decided to zero in on the word “remixed” and combined the old Quebec Nordiques design and the current Colorado Avalanche colors.  So did the Los Angeles Kings who combined their old purple and gold colors to go along with their current silver and black to create a jersey that encompasses the team’s entire history.  The Anaheim Ducks went back to their 1995 third jersey and used the “Wild Wing” character breaking through the ice and gave it a modern look.

When it was the Islanders’ turn to have their brainstorming session with the NHL and Adidas, they looked up at the white board and saw their entire jersey history.  As they looked at the timeline from their early years to the Stanley Cup dynasty to the fisherman era (or error as some people would like to call it) to the switch back to the classic look but with darker blue, to their orange, black and Stadium Series third jerseys, to the traditional Islanders look that they have today, the decision for the Islanders was very easy.

“The Islanders really honed in on passion and pride,” said Jim Haskins, the NHL’s Group Vice-President of Consumer Products.  “I believe that when they heard words like passion, pride, intense feeling and deep love of the game when we were putting some of the DNA and definitions for the program up on the white board, they zeroed in on that very very quickly and that really landed them on 1980.”

The Islanders Used 1980 For Inspiration:

On Monday, the NHL revealed the “Reverse Retro” jerseys for all 31 teams and the Islanders’ inspiration was the snapshot of Captain Denis Potvin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in their home white sweaters on May 24th, 1980 at Nassau Coliseum.   They took the passion and pride of the Stanley Cup dynasty era in team history and combined it with the darker blue that they wore from 1998 to 2010 along with elements of the jersey they currently wear to create a look that is traditional but with a modernized approach.

When the 2020-21 campaign begins, the Islanders and the other 30 NHL teams will wear the “Reverse Retro” jerseys anywhere from two to six times during the season.  The new jerseys will go on sale December 1st at adidas.com, adidas.ca, NHLShop.com, NHL Shop.ca and team stores with a wider release at additional retailers starting on December 6th.   The jerseys will retain in the United States for $180 to $225 and from $200 to $250 in Canada.

Did The Islanders Consider Bringing Back The Fisherman?

The reveal of the jersey on Monday sparked quite a reaction and discussion by Islanders fans on social media.  There were fans that were happy with the traditional and clean look.  Some fans had hoped that the Islanders would have done a little more in terms of a remix or perhaps using past third jersey concepts.  And there was also a passionate group of fans that were clamoring for the Islanders to bring back the beleaguered “fisherman” logo and the secondary “lighthouse” logo that was on the shoulders of the “wave” jerseys between 1995 and 1998.

So, was the “fisherman” logo discussed during the Islanders’ meeting with the league?

“All of the teams put their brand portfolios up on the white board pretty much in their entirety,” said Haskins.  “With that in mind, the fisherman was certainly part of the portfolio and they have sort of reintroduced that as a retail product even in recent years and this idea of what’s old is new and there’s a lot of folks who have passion for that.  I think, at the end of the day, when they were looking up at that portfolio, passion and pride won out and this connection to hockey excellence and what 1980 represented in all of that.”

But for the fans who were disappointed that the Islanders didn’t do something more radical or for those who were upset that the “fisherman” logo didn’t make a return, don’t be completely sad or angry about it because you can still have hopes and dreams about it.  You have to remember that “Reverse Retro” is a program that could turn out to be much like the NBA has with some of their alternate jerseys so it’s possible that the Islanders will have different looks in upcoming seasons as the program evolves.

“I think a lot of teams are sort of like well there could be a 2.0 or a 3.0 and that would give the Islanders and a lot of clubs a lot of runway to go back to that portfolio and say alright maybe there are some other identities that we bring forward given where this program might be going,” said Haskins.

The Islanders, Rangers, and Devils Went In Various Directions:

As far as the other NHL locals are concerned, the Rangers and Devils took different paths than the Islanders chose to get to their “Reverse Retro” concepts.

The Rangers used 1996 as their inspiration in bringing back the “Lady Liberty” logo that they had on a third jersey through the 2006-07 season.  Back then, the Rangers had blue and white “Lady Liberty” jerseys, but for the “Reverse Retro” concept, they went on a refreshed blue sweater.

“I think that there’s been some demand for the Lady Liberty icon for some time now,” said Haskins.  “I think the Rangers were very cognizant of that.  When this program came along and they started to look at the criteria of the program, I think they immediately went to that place and said this is perfect.”

In recent years, the Devils have gone back to their original red and green colors that they debuted when the franchise moved from Colorado to New Jersey in 1982.  They used the same concept for the “Reverse Retro” and used the “remixed” headline going to a green base.

“They went very literal,” said Haskins.  “They looked at that word remix and said let’s kind of flip this.  When the league was wearing whites at home, the fan looks at those early years and thinks of the white uniforms and they honed in on that word remixed and said let’s emphasize the green.”

The Process For The Islanders And The Other 30 Teams Was Comprehensive:

The “Reverse Retro” jersey program is something that has never been done before in NHL history in terms of having every team involved with an alternate sweater.  In the past, some teams have had third jerseys and some teams that played in outdoor games like the “Winter Classic”, “Heritage Classic”, and “Stadium Series” but for this project, all of the clubs were involved.  There was a lot of work that went into it, not just in terms of the actual design and production of the jerseys, but also to get all 31 teams on board and excited about the project.

And the teams certainly shared their thoughts and wishes with the NHL and Adidas.

“They had lots of input and that process was heavy,” said Haskins.  “We had to get the teams to buy into a design-development methodology and one of the things that when you go across 31 clubs and the scale of that design project is that we couldn’t just build from ground up.  In this case, we did have to create some wireframe and the wireframe really was rooted in the DNA of the project.”

The overall goal was to create something new, fresh and modern but to also be able to indoctrinate the new jerseys into some of the NHL’s most storied rivalries and iconic matchups.  For example, you could have the Islanders and Rangers both wearing their “Reverse Retro” in a game or perhaps it’s an Islanders/Devils or Rangers/Devils game that gets the spotlight with the new sweaters.

Another snapshot that the league is looking at centers round the 1998 Stanley Cup Final between the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings.  The Capitals used 1997 as the inspiration with the crest that they had at the time and the Red Wings came up with a design dedicated to 1998.  The NHL will attempt to schedule matchups like this for national telecasts both in the United States and in Canada to give the new jerseys maximum exposure.

The Islanders Went With Tradition Over Gimmicks: 

The common thread that the teams were asked to use was “our retros and your colors” and from there the designs came to life.

“We didn’t want to reinvent everyone’s identity,” said Haskins.  “We wanted it to be rooted in some of the existing and intense feelings that fans have for their teams and their historical identities so really tapping into that passion and pride.”

When you look around the league at some of the “Reverse Retro” jerseys that other teams came up with, it’s certainly fair to suggest that perhaps the Islanders could have been more creative with their design and concept.  The fisherman jersey is certainly a part of the Islanders history and there is a part of the fan base, especially younger fans, that were hoping to see it come back.  But the Islanders live in a different world these days with an ownership group led by Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky, a Hall of Fame General Manager Lou Lamoriello, and a Stanley Cup winning Head Coach in Barry Trotz.

The Islanders were six wins away from winning the Stanley Cup this past season and now, along with the opening of UBS Arena in less than a year, there is an excitement about this franchise that hasn’t been felt in a long time.  If there ever was a connection between where this team is now to another time in franchise history, you could certainly point to the time leading up to the first Stanley Cup in 1980.  That certainly has to be a major reason why the Islanders chose “passion and pride” for their “Reverse Retro” jersey.

This franchise isn’t about gimmicks anymore.  They are all about winning and the new sweater reflects a combination of the winning tradition from the past and a refreshed look for the future.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter covers the Islanders for New York Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club. Peter spent 8 years as the radio play by play voice for the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League. He was also the radio play by play announcer for the XFL’s NY/NJ Hitmen in 2001 and the radio play by play announcer for the New York Saints of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League from 1993 to 1996.

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