Friday, November 26, 2010
This being Black Friday, today we feature the first black jersey in NHL history.
When the NHL was founded in 1917, it consisted of just four member clubs. At the time, the custom was that each club wore only one sweater for both home a road contests. With the limited number of teams in the league, this was possible since each team could adopt a unique color and look which was unlike any of the other three. By 1917 the Montreal Canadiens had already adopted their signature red sweaters with the blue band across the chest, while the Montreal Wanderers wore white sweaters with a red band. The Ottawa Senators had long been wearing their distinctive black, red and white striped "barberpole" jerseys and the Toronto Arenas wore solid blue with white trim.
The green clad Toronto St. Pats joined in 1919 and in 1920 the Hamilton Tigers arrived on the scene. Now an argument could be made for the Tigers to be given credit for the first black jersey, as they wore vertically striped gold and black sweaters, but with the colors being divided 50/50, we can't honestly call it a "black" sweater since it's really a "striped" sweater with black as one of the colors.
Now the first team that likely comes to mind when thinking of black sweaters would be the Boston Bruins, who arrived on the scene in 1924, but for their first ten years of their existence, the Bruins wore various styles of brown and gold sweaters, taken from their owner Charles Adams grocery store chain, First National Stores. The other to join the league in 1924 was the Montreal Maroons, who wore, obviously, maroon sweaters.
The league continued to expand in 1925 with the arrival of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who favored gold sweaters, but did use black as a trim color. Meanwhile, the Tigers relocated to become the New York Americans who dressed in the expected red, white and blue.
1926-27 was one of change for the NHL. The Americans welcomed the New York Rangers into their Madison Square Garden home and we all know of the Rangers nickname of "The Broadway Blueshirts", a color they have worn from day one. When the Western Hockey League folded, two of it's teams rosters were purchased by the expansion Detroit Cougars, who took the same route of the defunct Wanderers and went with white sweaters with the red chest stripe, and the Chicago Black Hawks, who wore white sweaters with multiple black stripes for their inaugural season.
Dick Irvin in the Black Hawks original white sweaters
worn in their inaugural season of 1926-27
Finally for the league's 11th season, the first black sweater saw action on NHL ice when the Black Hawks reversed the colors of their white sweaters to more accurately reflect their club's name "Black Hawks" and donned their new imposing black sweaters with multiple white stripes in what was certainly the most art deco jersey in league history.
Adopted in the Black Hawks second season, this style would remain in use for seven seasons, concluding with a Stanley Cup championship in 1934.
The Stanley Cup champion 1933-34 Chicago Black Hawks
The cup winning jersey was immediately replaced by a new style the following season which would later be revived for the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.
Patrick Kane wearing the revival of the 1935 Black Hawks sweaters
from the 2009 Winter Classic
While the Bruins would change from brown and gold to black and gold in 1934, the black was a trim color on a white jersey and there would not be another black jersey until the 1948 season when the concept of separate home and road jerseys was now becoming the norm and the Bruins debuted their first ever black jersey for games on the road.
Today's featured jersey is a 1927-28 Chicago Black Hawks Teddy Graham jersey. This was the first black sweater in NHL history, created when the Black Hawks reversed the colors of their original white sweaters worn during their inaugural season in 1926-27. This style was worn for seven seasons, which concluded with the Black Hawks first Stanley Cup championship in 1934.
Graham was a member of the Black Hawks for five seasons and would later play for the Maroons, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Eagles, Bruins and Americans in his ten year NHL career.
A defenseman, Graham played 359 games and scored 14 goals and 39 points in his career.