Our guest contributor, AJ Lee of ProStockHockey, gives us a look back at the generations of Washington Capitals hockey jerseys. How many of you have any of these hanging in your closet??
They had the worst first season of any expansion team in National Hockey League history, ending the 1974/75 season with eight wins in 80 games — a desultory record for a new team in a major sport “bested” only by the win less Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976. They did so wearing jerseys adorned with a logo derivative of their owner’s other team, the Washington Bullets — as if Abe Pollin, what with building a new stadium and all, couldn’t spring for another graphic designer.
They are the Washington Capitals, with an “A,” never mind the Capitol, with an “O,” that was part of an alternate logo employed by the team from the late ’90s to the early oughts.
Looking Good, Playing Less So
Seriously, why aren’t more random fanboys hitting the hockey store to prove their pucks bona fides by donning Caps jerseys, the way you’ll see a Cowboys jersey or Celtics tank among just about any sporting throng in any North American city? Although the DMV clearly Rocks The Red, we don’t see too many Caps jersey’s outside of the metro-DC area.
After all, the Capitals have the requisite superstar: Alex Ovechkin, he of the seven 50-goal seasons, was anointed the greatest goal scorer of all time by Sports Illustrated.
Alas, what they don’t have are trophies. Washington has never won a Stanley Cup. Despite winning the President’s Trophy for most points in a season in 2010, 2016 and 2017, they have only been to one Cup Final.
Still, over time, the Caps have arrived at a pretty nifty jersey. This season the NHL awarded Adidas the contract for new jerseys across the league. Here’s a look at the evolution of Washington’s game sweaters:
Caps Jersey Timeline
1974-75: The Caps went with the obvious choice in a red, white and blue color scheme, with stars on the chest and sleeves, and an uppercase “WASHINGTON” above the larger, lowercase “capitals,” in which the “t” was formed, unconvincingly, by a hockey stick.
1980-81: The “WASHINGTON” above the logo was reduced in size, a de-emphasis designed to increase the team’s appeal across Maryland. Unfortunately, the tiny lettering seemed not to be very consistently placed, floating between the logo and the stars just below the shoulder yoke.
1983-84: Is there such a thing as a battlefield demotion? The stars on the Caps’ sleeves were reduced to four from five. Two years later, the sleeves were five-starred once more.
1995-96: In a wild departure, the Caps redesigned to a blue, black and bronze color scheme, with an eagle — in profile, talons extended — as the logo. “Capitals” appeared below the eagle on both the home and road jerseys. The blue jersey is often considered the worst Caps jersey ever.
1997-98: “Capitals” was eliminated from the home jersey. An alternate jersey, black with arched letters over an image of the U.S. Capitol building, debuted Jan. 25, 1998, and was worn nine times during the season. This was the season the Caps went to the Stanley Cup final, so these togs will always hold a place in the hearts of fans, if not the closets of fashionistas.
2000-01: The black jersey replaces the road blue jersey, but the lettering is no longer arched.
2007-08: To coincide with Reebok becoming the NHL’s jersey supplier, the Caps went back to red, white and blue. Only three stars made the cut — ostensibly to represent the fan bases of D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Subtle differences in the logo made all the difference — the lowercase “capitals” font was italicized and the hockey stick “t” was more gracefully interpreted as both an implement and a letter.
2017-18: Adidas took over the jersey duties and left them well enough alone. The logo stays the same. Minor changes to the chest stripe and collar were the most noticeable tweaks.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 21, 2017
Forty-three years after the Caps’ debut and a return to and tweaking of their original design, if you’re a fan of the simple script team jersey, is there a finer example east of the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Specialist for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. Lee picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and has yet to put it down. He went on to play hockey at the college level for Illinois State University while earning his bachelor’s degree in marketing.
Photos from NHL Uniform and other on-line resources.