No. It’s not the one you think it is.
When SBNation asked all of it’s hockey sites for their worst (ugliest) sweater in franchise history, the Raw Charge staff darn near unanimously elected me to write the post. I’m assuming the belief is that anyone who would willingly part with money to purchase this jersey
would be the perfect writer to tackle this post. You know what, they were 100% correct. I had no doubt in my mind what I believed the worst jersey in Tampa Bay Lightning history would be. To my credit, I did put up a token act of “asking” all of the other writers/editors their opinion, but the poll was rigged. I had my pick and was sticking to it.
Over the twenty-seven year history of the Tampa Bay Lightning, there haven’t been too many bad jerseys. While the “worst” stuck out in my head immediately, coming up with two more to make an adequate list was a little tougher than I originally thought. Part of that comes from only really having three basic designs over the two-plus decades. While there has been some small adjustments to numbering and lettering design, the only real differences have come in their third jersey designs.
I’m sure some of you out there saw the headline and immediately had a jersey in your mind. Guess what? You’re wrong. And if you believe the Storm/Rain jersey is the worst design in Tampa Bay history, that’s ok, I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand. It’s like a graphic design department’s word cloud of Florida came to life in wonderful 90’s graphics and fonts.
That’s what makes it wonderful. It has character. While style may be too strong of a word, it at least has character, something that’s missing from the three jerseys that made our final list. The recently leaked designs for the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings jerseys for their Stadium Series game have drawn a lot of ire and mocking on social media. While I personally don’t care for them, at least they are something different. The designers tried something new and bold. Perhaps they went a little too far, but hey, sometimes you have to shoot for the stars if you’re going to land on the moon.
So, no the Storm/Rain jersey is not going to be our pick (and if you pick it in the poll below, we’re going to struggle to be friends). While not a Boomer, I am old enough to be willing to die on this hill. Not only that, but if the Lightning ever do get into an outdoor classic, I will lead a letter-writing campaign to insist they wear the Storm/Rain jersey.
After reaching a consensus, here are the three worst jerseys in Tampa Bay Lightning history. May we present them in order from not worst to worst:
3. The Disrupt the Night Third Jersey (2018-present)
Following a season of no third jerseys due to a designer switch (from Reebok to Adidas), Lightning nation waited with eager anticipation for new of a new third jersey. There was a lot of speculation online and hopes and dreams of a design that would live up to the outstanding season the team was having on the ice.
A picture was leaked and met with tepid response. The organization didn’t comment on the veracity of the design, but they also didn’t flat out deny it. Then, on February 7th, 2019, without any prior announcement, the team walked out onto the ice sporting pretty much an identical version of what was released. The response went from tepid to lukewarm.
This is definitely a sweater that looks much better in person than it does on T.V. or in pictures. The gradient sleeves are actually pretty cool and the gray on black color scheme is in keeping with the simplicity of the two regular versions. It feels like with a couple of tweaks, this could be a really great (if still plain) sweater. As time has worn on, it feels like the fan base is starting to come around on it a bit as well (despite the team’s record while wearing them). I do believe a few changes were already made to make the numbers and names on the back stand out a little more.
2. The “Bolts” Third Jersey version 2.0 (2014-2017)
It’s been a few seasons and we can admit it now. Yes, it’s a complete rip-off of the Los Angeles Kings sweater design from that time. The Lightning organization found a lot of blank Kings’ black jerseys and slapped the prior third jersey design (which was one of my personal favorites) on it and called it a day. They changed a perfectly fine third jersey in order to capitalize on the black sweater craze that was sweeping through the NHL at the time.
Remember when it seemed like half the league had a third jersey with a logo in a circle? The same thing happened with black sweaters around the middle of the decade. It’s a solid ok. Not really the most imaginative redesign of all time, but I’m sure it sparked some sales because there is nothing better than wearing a long sleeve, black hockey sweater to a game in Tampa when it’s 95 degrees outside.
1. The Redesigned Home Jersey (2007-2011)
I’m going to admit to a little bias on this one. A full 30% of my personal dislike of this jersey is based on the ownership group during the bulk of this logo’s existence. Oren Koules, Len Barrie, and whoever else was part of their cadre took a perfectly fine organization and damn near ran it into the ground. While the jersey design predates OK Hockey’s actual ownership of the team by a year, they are a stark reminder of the ineptitude of the organization during those days.
After being discussed since about 2000 and finally revealed in 2007 to coincide with new league partner Reebok the new jersey was designed to be lighter, more sleek, and water repellent. Lightning President said of the new design,
“We don’t consider this to be an extreme makeover of any kind, but we think the people at Reebok did a great job at giving the Lightning a crisp new look, while maintaining the essence of the logo we wore while winning the Stanley Cup Championship and the spirit of the original design implemented by Founder Phil Esposito 15 years ago.”
Which fuels the other 70% of the distaste for this jersey – the incompleteness of it all. It’s a redesign stuck in the middle. It’s as if the marketing wizards that came up with it ran out of time and ended up saying, “Let’s take ‘Lightning’ off the front crest, remove the white borders, and add some blue. Oh, and put the numbers on the shoulder. Boom, we’re done. Give us our money”.
Granted, with at least two different ownership groups involved at the time, the decision making was probably a little muddled as well. As the jerseys were being revealed at IceFest in the summer, the Davidson Group was still deciding which group of potential owners to sell the team to.
I attended Saint Leo College in Pasco County. Following my senior year, I hung around and worked at the college for minimum wage (History Major at work!). During that year, the powers that be brought in a consulting company to rebrand the college to reflect its changing nature and the growth of its on-line contingent. From what I gathered, their fees ranged into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the end, their rebranding was a campaign built around the phrase “Saint Leo – A new ‘U’”. The big change – Saint Leo College became Saint Leo University. That’s it.
The 2007-11 jersey reminded me of that. A half-hearted effort that cost way more money than it was worth. If they had gone from the old design directly into the current, that would have been great. It would have accomplished the desire to have a sleek, simple design and still keep the main element related with the organization – the Lightning bolt. For some reason, it’s just the home jersey that bothers me. The road jersey is fine.
It’s also wildly annoying that two of the greatest players in Lightning history (Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman) will forever have their rookie seasons marred by having to wear these sweaters.
Go ahead and vote. Leave your picks/reasoning in the comments below (keep it clean and respectful). Please remember that I basically hijacked the rankings and that the rest of the staff is mostly innocent.