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Thursday, September 26, 2013
Uni Watch: 2013-14 NHL preview

By Paul Lukas
ESPN.com

For more than a decade now, the term "tuck rule" has been associated with the NFL. But with the 2013-14 NHL season about to begin, it's looking as if "tuck rule" might soon become hockey-associated.

Alex Ovechkin
Alex Ovechkin likes to wear his jersey neatly tucked in, but the NHL says no more.

Here's the deal: The vast majority of NHL players wear their jerseys untucked, which is how they're designed to be worn. But a handful of players, including some big names such as Alexander Ovechkin and Jaromir Jagr, prefer to tuck their jerseys in (a look that, of course, has a strong NHL pedigree). But a new NHL rule is putting the kibosh on that. All jerseys are now required to be worn untucked. Exposed pads will subject a player to a two-minute minor penalty.

Reaction to this rule has been starkly negative, both from the hockey media and from players (well, one player in particular). But the rule appears to be here to stay.

What's the thinking behind the rule anyway? The league responded to a Uni Watch inquiry with the following statement:

"According to Rule 9.5, all protective equipment, except gloves, headgear & goaltenders' leg guards, must be worn under the uniform. Enforcement of existing NHL Uniform Guidelines (including Rule 9.5) focuses on the risk exposed equipment creates for players. Uniform guidelines have been in the rulebook since 1964. Essentially, this rule is being enforced for the players' safety and ensuring that equipment protects the way it is designed to protect."

So that's the league's party line. If you're more of a conspiracy theorist, here are two alternate explanations that have been circulating among NHL fans:

• An untucked jersey could expose a pad imprinted with the logo of a company that isn't an official NHL licensee, so the league is cracking down on anything that could provide visibility for these unlicensed brands.

• The NHL wants to make sure all jersey hemlines are visible because that would be a good place to sell advertising patches, assuming the league ever wants to move in that direction.

Uni Watch
Do those explanations sound plausible? Sure. Are they the real reasons behind the new tuck rule? Impossible to say. But let's face it: A tucked-in jersey doesn't look good, even if it happens to be the signature look for certain players. So the new rule, whatever the real explanation for it, is a net plus for on-ice aesthetics.

But wait, there's another new uni-related rule worth discussing: Starting this season, a player who removes his helmet before engaging in a fight will be assessed a two-minute penalty. But Brett Gallant of the Islanders and Krys Barch of the Devils found a way around that restriction during a preseason game: They removed each other's helmets. Who says hockey players aren't bright?

OK, that covers the major rule changes that will affect hockey uniforms this season. Now here's our annual Uni Watch team-by-team breakdown of all the uniform, logo and related changes you can expect to see on the ice:

• No changes this year for the Avalanche, but here's the schedule for when they'll be wearing their third jersey.

Boston Bruins logo
The Boston Bruins will be celebrating their 90th anniversary, just as their new patch suggests.
• Lots of teams are wearing anniversary patches this season, starting with the Bruins, who'll be marking their 90th anniversary with this patch design. Not quite as cool as what they wore for their 50th anniversary, but it'll do.

• Big news out of Montreal, where the Canadiens have started using accents, umlauts and other diacritical marks for the players' names on their jerseys. What took them so long? And how long until other teams get on board with this?

• The Canucks will retire Pavel Bure's number on Nov. 2. There's also some speculation that they might wear their gorgeous Vancouver Millionaires throwbacks for this season's Heritage Classic, which will take place on March 2. (Speaking of the Heritage Classic, the logo for this season's game is very similar to the last game's.)

• No changes this year for the Capitals, but here are the 16 road dates when they'll be wearing their alternate uni.

• The Ducks will be wearing a 20th-anniversary patch. It looks as if they're also planning a Mighty Ducks throwback night, although details are still sketchy. (Suggestion: Wear Wild Wing throwbacks!) Also: The Ducks have redesignated their alternate logo as their primary logo, and vice versa, although this will have no effect on their uniforms for now.

• The Flames apparently have a new alternate uni in the works. No details yet, though.

• The Hurricanes have kept their primary logo and colors but have tinkered with the rest of the details on their uniforms. Some observers might call the new look "classic," but from here it just looks generic. The loss of the warning-flag striping at the base of the jersey is particularly disappointing -- it was the team's most distinctive visual signature. And the striping patterns on the new home and road sets don't even match! Grrrrrr. Meanwhile: Here's Carolina's third jersey schedule.

• No changes this season for the Islanders, although they did wear a patch to commemorate their first preseason game in Brooklyn. (They'll probably wear a patch similar to that one, along with a Brooklyn-themed third jersey, when they eventually relocate to Brooklyn, although their team colors reportedly will not change.)

• The Subtlest Uni Change of the Year award goes to the Kings, who've changed the wordmark on their helmets.

• The Maple Leafs will be wearing a spectacular retro design for the annual Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Further info here.

Florida Panthers logo
Believe it or not, the Panthers have been in the league for 20 seasons.
• The Panthers are marking their 20th anniversary with a Dos Equis sponsorship a jersey patch. They'll also be wearing throwbacks for their home opener on Oct. 11, although they haven't yet announced what the throwback design will be.

• The Penguins have eliminated their throwback alternate uniform. They'll likely have a new alternate next season, but this season they'll just stick to their home and road sets.

• The Predators have changed the striping on their pants and road socks. (The home socks are staying the same, but they're wearing the new striped pants at home.) The Preds also have a 15th-anniversary logo, but they're not wearing it as a patch.

• The Red Wings will be wearing these gorgeous throwbacks for the annual Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Additional photos and info here. Meanwhile, in an annual rite of September, the Uni Watch inbox has been flooded with alarmed emails from fans who've noticed that the Wings have been wearing straight, block-lettered nameplates for their preseason games instead of their usual vertically arched lettering. Don't worry, people -- the Wings do this every preseason, so their equipment manager doesn't have to go through the trouble of making the vertically arched names for all the players who don't end up making the final roster cut. The arched lettering will return when the regular season starts. Promise.

• Remember when the Sabres had a third jersey and it was really gorgeous? They have a new third jersey this season, and it's, well, not so gorgeous. Looks more like a Predators jersey, no? Interestingly, the captain's and alternate's designations are Sabres-themed, which is pretty cool. Even more interestingly, the team plans to wear them on the shoulder. Under normal circumstances, that would be a violation of NHL Rule 6.1, which states that the "C" and "A" must be positioned "on the front of [the] sweater," but it turns out that the Sabres received a waiver from the NHL Hockey Operations department.

• Major downgrade in San Jose, where the Sharks' new duds look like practice jerseys. Where's the waistline striping? Why have only one orange stripe on the sleeves instead of two? Why even bother to do a redesign if you're not going to get rid of those ridiculous front uni numbers? Sheesh. Meanwhile, the Sharks are keeping their black alternate uniform, which they'll wear 11 times.

Ray Whitney
Uni Watch is digging the new Stars getup -- for the most part anyway.
• After years of wandering in the aesthetic wilderness, the Stars are uni-respectable again. Would've been even better if they had used green pants with the road uni, but it's hard to quibble when a team has made such a major upgrade. Nicely done.

• The Wild have updated their white road jersey. The new design has more classic styling, but the loss of the red and gold trim is disappointing. The new jersey feels a bit flat by comparison. You can see some action shots here. Also: Here's the Wild's third jersey schedule.

• Are you the kind of fan who gets excited about All-Star Game uniforms? If so, you're out of luck this season because the All-Star Game is being skipped because of the Winter Olympics. Dang.

• Turning our attention to the ice surface itself, many teams have made adjustments to their center ice logos and/or red line designs. The excellent Frozen Faceoff site has provided a handy rundown.

Did we miss anything? Hope not, but it's been known to happen. If you're aware of any uni-related changes that weren't covered here, you know what to do.

Meanwhile, there's another whole category of uni-related stuff we haven't covered yet: goalie masks and pads. We'll get to all of that in a separate Uni Watch column, which should be ready in another day or two.

Paul Lukas, who lives just a few blocks from where the Islanders will be relocating in 2015, is stoked at the idea of being able to take a 10-minute walk to see an NHL game. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch web site, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.