In 1877, Montreal Gazette outlined the first known hockey rules in one of its publications. Ten years later, the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada was formed with teams hailing from Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City. In 1895, the first international series of matches comprising of four games was played between college athletes from the United States and Canada.
In 1904, the International Hockey League was formed by five teams in the United States and Ontario which lasted for three seasons. The IHL was the first league of professional teams. Then finally in 1917, four teams from the National Hockey Association - Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Arenas (later Maple leafs) reorganized to form the National Hockey League. The Boston Bruins became the first U.S.-based team for the 1924-25 season.
The Early Uniforms
The first hockey jerseys were mainly blue, red and white with the name or first letter of the team in the front and a number in the back. Yellow was introduced by the Hamilton Tigers, probably the first team to sport a graphical image (of the Tiger) in the early 1920s and soon Brown and Maroon were also introduced by the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Maroons. Chicago Black Hawks had white Uniforms with black stripes but later changed it to fully black with white stripes. Then in 1925-26, the New York Americans came up with a patriotic uniform dotted with stars and red, white and blue stripes.
In 1955, one of the Original six, the Chicago Black Hawks (other five includes the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs) made a major change in their Uniform by switching their black jerseys with red jerseys bearing the Indian head crest. The Boston Bruins followed suit by introducing gold jerseys the same season.
Six new teams joined the 1967-68 season who introduced shades of orange, green, sky blue and purple into hockey uniforms. By then, the uniforms worn by the Original six had become comparatively conservative and outdated, with the basic colors still being red, blue, black and gold.
With the commencing of the 1977-78 season, it became compulsory for all teams in the NHL to display last names on the backs of jerseys. The next season, a widely criticized combination of gold, orange and black was introduced by the Vancouver Canucks to their uniform, with the traditional crest being replaced by a V sign.
Innovations to Hockey Uniforms
The early 1980s saw the introduction of Manufacturer’s tags and Sponsor’s logos on the tails of hockey jerseys. Maska, Sandow and Sanknit were some of the first manufacturers to have their names displayed on hockey jerseys. CCM became the exclusive provider of all game-issue jerseys towards the end of the decade.
One of the most radical innovations to Hockey Uniforms was initiated by the Philadelphia Flyers who introduced long pants for the 1981-82 season. The Hartford Whalers followed suit the next season but the long pant uniform was soon banned by the NHL, after the 1982-82 season.
In 1990, the manufacturer’s label was accompanied by the NHL shield to the right. In 1996, five teams introduced the third jersey, to be worn either on Saturdays or on special occasions. The 1990s saw Specialty patches like patches commemorating anniversary seasons becoming more common on Hockey Uniforms. The NHL also started introducing common patches for all teams. For example, all jerseys sported a patch commemorating the NHL's 75th anniversary in the 1991-92 season.
The Vintage Jersey Program
This program was initiated by the 2003-04 season, following the third jersey program in which more than 15 teams had already taken part. Vintage jerseys were to be worn only for a few select games per season. Along with the Original six, six other teams - Boston, Los Angeles, Montreal, the New York Rangers, St. Louis and Vancouver – were included for this program.