Hockey teams often have a lot happening on their uniforms; with crests, numbers, alternate logo patches, and name bars. Add to that commemorative patches, and now sponsor patches, and your jerseys can start to look like a NASCAR driver’s jumpsuit.
As a hockey jersey customizer, I always aim for symmetry when putting together custom hockey sweaters. However, sometimes hockey jerseys get too crowded, and things can start to look… lopsided.
NHL teams have had to get creative with patch placement over the years. This week, the Keener Jerseys team and I take a look at the most unusual patch placements we’ve seen in the NHL.
1. 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins: I got 75 problems, but a patch ain't one!
Close-up look at the 1992 Penguins jersey, featuring all of the patches donned that year, visible or not.
The 1991-1992 NHL season was heaven for a jersey junkie like myself.
That year the NHL celebrated its 75th season of competitive play, and every team wore an NHL 75th anniversary patch to mark the occasion. This includes the Pittsburgh Penguins, who wore their own 25th-anniversary patch on their right shoulder, as well as a memorial patch for “Badger Bob” Johnson on their left shoulder.
To top it all off, the NHL had the 91-92 Stanley Cup Finals patch stitched on over the NHL 75th patch, which means that the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup wearing four different patches, although only three were visible. Maybe the NHL thought four patches was too much, and I’d have to agree — you should only have three visible patches on your hockey sweaters.
2. Early 80's Vancouver Canucks: Giving Numbers the Cold Shoulder
This one’s more about creative number placement.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, the Vancouver Canucks wore their flying skate logo as a shoulder patch, which forced them to take some liberties with their sleeve numbers.
So, from 1978 to 1982 the Canucks wore their sleeve numbers — get this — down by their wrists, below their jersey’s stylized V arm striping. In 1985-86, the flying skate logo migrated to the front of the sweater and the Canucks again got creative, wearing a Vancouver centennial patch on their right elbows underneath their sleeve numbers which had since been relocated to the shoulder — elbow patches aren’t just for philosophy professors anymore!
Patches on the shoulders, numbers on the wrists! Who would’ve thought?
3. 1992 New Jersey Devils: A little devil tail
The most creative patch placement award has to go to the 1991-92 New Jersey Devils. That year, the Devils marked their 10th season of play, and with the NHL 75th patch occupying the go-to right chest area, the Devils had an anniversary patch sewn to the lower hem on the back of their jerseys — a muted, but dignified affectation, and kind of a fun easter egg for collectors. Also, one of the smaller patches you’ll see out there.
Other notable butt patches can be found on the 1986-87 Vancouver Canucks jerseys, where they commemorate the Rick Hansen: Man in Motion World Tour that started in Vancouver!
The Canucks’ commemorative Rick Hansen: Man in Motion World Tour patch.
4. 1926-2024 New York Rangers: Something in the way
Throughout history, three things are certain: death, taxes, and the fact that the Rangers can’t put a patch on the right chest area of their jerseys.
There hasn’t really ever been any available real estate on the right chest of the Broadway Blueshirts’ jerseys thanks to the cascading “Rangers” that runs diagonally across the front of their sweaters from top right to bottom left. Instead, the Rangers have to circle the block a few times to find a parking spot for patches. In 1991-92 the Rangers placed the NHL 75th patch on their left chest, which ended up crowding Mark Messier’s captain’s C, making the jersey look a tad claustrophobic.
The very next season, the Rangers would place the Stanley Cup 100 patch on their right shoulder instead of the right chest where every other team wore it.
75-C? That sounds like a seat on an airplane- we see how easy it is for jerseys to get crowded!
Mario Lemieux sporting the jersey that did not feature the Stanley Cup 100 patch.
5. 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins: Less is More
The Pittsburgh Penguins also had trouble with the Stanley Cup 100 patches. While it was easy enough to fit them onto the right chest of their home jerseys, the Penguins’ road jerseys had the word “Pittsburgh” cascading diagonally, right to left, and their shoulders were occupied with their new triangular penguin logo patches. So, the Penguins decided to meet nobody halfway, and went without a Stanley Cup 100 patch on their road uniforms — the only team to do so.
Lord Stanley may have taken offence to this snub from the spirit world, and ended the Pens’ 2-in-a-row Cup streak. Ghosts are petty.
6. 1956 Chicago Black Hawks: The jersey Patch Pioneers
We couldn’t talk about creative patch placement without giving a shout-out to the 1956 Chicago Black Hawks!
The Chicago Black Hawks were the first team to use alternate logo shoulder patches, adding the crossed tomahawks in the 1955-56 NHL season. While the practice is commonplace nowadays, back in the 50s it was innovative, and the Hawks were the only team in the league to use alternate logo shoulder patches until the 70-71 season when the Leafs finally started putting a maple leaf on their shoulders.
Only a handful of teams chose to wear alternate logo shoulder patches, until the 1990s, when alternate logo shoulder patches became popular.
Since then, they’ve just been getting in the way of other commemorative patches, like the Calgary Flames’ 15th-anniversary patch which was nearly invisible on the rear bottom hem of the Flames’ 1995 jerseys, or the Avalanche’s 10th-anniversary patch which found a home right underneath Joe Sakic’s captain’s C.
Here is a vintage Hawks photo with those revolutionary patches in action!
Tie Domi trying to take a peek at the Flames’ (very hard to see) 15th Anniversary patch.
Joe Sakic sporting the Avs’ 10th Anniversary patch.
NHL TEAMS AND Jersey Ads: A new era on the horizon
NHL teams have been allowed to add advertisement patches to their uniforms since 2021, and it has caused a bit of a traffic jam on some jerseys. Teams are only allowed to add one ad patch to their outfit, and they may only be placed in one of four places — left chest, right chest, left shoulder, and right shoulder. So, players on teams like the Florida Panthers might start leaning to one side due to the unequal weight distribution.
It remains to be seen if teams will get even more creative with patch placement as we enter the era of corporate sponsorship patches. Frankly, I’m a huge fan of patches, but three is the limit for me. Maybe it’s the jersey maker in me, but anything more than three, and a hockey jersey starts to look like a jumbled mess.
Whatever happens, you can be sure we’ll have our eyes on it, and we will keep you up to date. Just subscribe to the 4 Shots with Keener newsletter to get weekly insights and updates on jersey culture and the world of hockey at large.
Close-up shot of Florida Panther Matthew Tkachuk donning the Panthers’ away jersey complete with alternate logo patches on the shoulder, their jersey sponsor, his “A” patch, and the All-Star patch.