Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Curious, Weird and Ugly™ makes it's way out to the west coast today for one of the most notorious jerseys in the history of the NHL.
The dye-sublimation printing process rears it's ugly head once more with this 1995-96 Los Angeles Kings Alternate Wayne Gretzky jersey. The jersey features a large swooping stripe that crosses the jersey from the upper right shoulder to the lower left side, fading from dark grey (never quite black) to light while getting narrower in the process. The basic striping pattern of the jersey is unusual, if not odd, enough, but then the Kings got busy customizing it, first adding an angry stylized King's head logo, offset to the upper left chest, something no other jersey of the era, or perhaps in the history of the NHL, dared to do. But that was not all. While the Kings home and road jerseys were exclusively black, white and silver, the King's head logo was done in a garish purple and with a metallic gold crown, one of the earliest uses of metallics in the NHL.
Once the basic jersey was completed, the individual player's identity needed to be addressed. The font chosen for the back and sleeve numbers was a flamboyant, italicized font done in purple, trimmed in metallic gold and outlined in black. The same treatment was given to the names on the back, with the letters also italicized in the same three color combination.
While purple and gold might be associated with royalty, the net effect of the strange swooping stripes, grimacing King's head logo and flashy font executed in the royal purple and metallic gold was much more ridiculous than regal.
Fans dubbed the jersey "The Burger King Jersey", adding it to the list of jerseys so heinous that it earned a coveted nickname. The resemblance between the Los Angeles Kings logo and the fast food chain's creepy monarch is undeniable.
The Kings began wearing this jersey midway through the 1995-96 season, when the first NHL alternate jerseys debuted, beginning with a game against the Mighty Ducks of Anahiem, who also wore their new "Wild Wing" alternates for the first time, on January 27, 1996 in what has to be easily be The Worst Dressed Game in NHL History.
The Kings only wore their new alternates for a mere eight games before the negative reaction of the players and fans caused them to be retired permanently.
It's not known if being forced to wear this jersey caused Wayne Gretzky to ask for a trade out of Los Angeles so he wouldn't have to wear it any longer, but he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues for the last 18 games of the 1995-96 season.
This style jersey was never made in an authentic version for retail, so there are none available outside of game worn or team issued with fight straps. They are highly sought after by collectors and usually attract multiple bidders when they come up for auction, no doubt due to their scarcity, but more importantly the fact this style was worn by Gretzky, meaning not only collectors of ugly jerseys want the "Burger King" jersey, but also collectors of rare jerseys as well as people who specialize in Gretzky items are all after the same limited supply of one of the worst jerseys to ever see the ice in an NHL contest.
We classify this jersey as "Weird", due to the curving, radiating grey stripes that fade from dark to light, the newly introduced grimacing Burger King logo, the name and number font that would look more at home at Mardi Gras than on an NHL jersey, the addition of the color purple to a Kings jersey during the black and silver era, and finally the use of the flashy metallic gold for the number trim and King's crown.
Also weird is the fact Wayne Gretzky agreed to wear it at all. There's really not a single element of this jersey that isn't weird.
Let us reword that last sentence.
There's not a single element of this jersey that isn't really weird.
Here are the Los Angeles Kings debuting their new alternate "Burger King" jerseys against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who were wearing their "Wild Wing" jerseys in what ranks as The Worst Dressed Game in NHL History.
Next Ugly Fest '96 between the Kings and Mighty Ducks continues as Wayne Gretzky sets up Jari Kurri for a power play goal.