The Fifth Line: A History of the Colorado Avalanche Sweaters

A contribution to The Fifth Line from ProStock Hockey.

Throwback Avalanche Jersey Brings Back Best

When Adidas took over as the jersey supplier to the National Hockey League, the apparel manufacturer mostly played it safe.

Most teams’ looks for the 2017-18 season were tweaked ever so slightly, if at all. Among the more complete makeovers were some unfortunate misfires (Nashville and Minnesota basically got nightshirts).

Fittingly, though, Colorado’s Avalanche went back to the mountains — at least part of the way — and scored, perhaps, the nicest redesign of Adidas’ 31-sweater collection.

A Long Hike Back

Let’s be honest; Avalanche fans needed a reminder of their team’s storied past. They’re coming off a 22-win season, their worst since they were known as the Nordiques, and about as far removed from their glory days as Quebec City is from the Pepsi Center.

The Adidas jerseys recall the first togs worn by the Avalanche after they were relocated from Quebec to Colorado for the 1995-96 season. They are no doubt meant to inspire memories of the Stanley Cup championship the club won that season behind Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Patrick Roy — the first pro sports title for the Mile High City.

A Foot From Perfection

The most glaring omission from the original Avalanche jersey is the shoulder patch in the image of a yeti footprint, replaced by a holdover from the outgoing Reebok jersey, a “C” emblem taken from the Colorado state flag. The zig-zag striping from wrists to collar — meant to recall the Rocky Mountains, at least in the initial photos — appears to have been straightened a bit, but the stripe at the waist fully retains its mountain range effect. 

One new detail improves on the original design. The black-and-white stripe breaking up the color fields has been replaced with silver — an homage, the Avalanche said, “to the state’s history in the silver mining industry.” As with the originals, the primary colors are blue, burgundy and white, a color scheme “based on the local panorama, including the lush earthy tone of the red rocks to the west, the deep blue sky visible most days out of the year.” The design also highlights the many “snow-capped peaks that line the horizon.”

Here are the peaks, and valleys, in the Avalanche jersey catalog:

1979-95: Call it sky blue, call it baby blue, but, sacre bleu, these jerseys that took the Nordiques from the WHA to the NHL evoke a time and place no less certainly than a lava lamp. Hey, nothing says hockey like fleurs-de-lis trim on a field of powder blue, right? And what is that logo? A lowercase “N”? A baby elephant playing bocce?

1995-2007: The team is moved to Colorado, and with the move comes a logo with a puck-led avalanche sweeping from a snow-capped “A.”  Two Cups won in these jerseys, plus well-considered design cues, make them indisputably the essential Avalanche sweater.

2001-2007: Alternates arrive, without much love. OK, so they’re derivative of the Rangers’ iconic diagonal script. But in burgundy — with a nifty black-blue-white-burgundy-white-blue-black striping package on the sleeves — the jerseys are given a modern twist. Yes, it would have helped if the waist stripes matched the sleeves.

2007-2017: Reebok erases the mountains altogether from the waist; goes with sort of an S-shaped wrist-to-collar shoulder yoke; and, perhaps to emphasize the more modern fit of their jerseys, runs apron-shaped piping from the collar to the waist. Underarm side panels match the shoulder yoke color. Not a train wreck, but not what adidas would bring to the party.

Kerri Polizzi | Flickr

2009-2017: A slight variation on the third jersey is adopted. This one is blue, with a burgundy shoulder yoke. The sleeve stripes and lace-up collar of the original stay, the waist stripes go.

Kerri Polizzi | Flickr

2017-?: All hail adidas …

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Specialist at Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. Lee picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet. He’s an avid Blackhawks fan and is an expert in all things hockey equipment. 

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