The Rangers made a nod to the past with a slight twist when unveiling a remixed version of their 1996-2007 Liberty alternate jersey as part of the NHL’s newly-introduced reverse retro jersey program.
It’s a clean-looking, uncomplicated jersey that’s going to satisfy millennial-aged fans who’ve been clamoring for the return of Lady Liberty. Longtime fans will remember Wayne Gretzky skating with Lady Liberty on his chest during the 1997 NHL playoffs where he recorded 20 points in 15 games. In 2005-06, Henrik Lundqvist burst on the scene wearing the jersey during a 30-win rookie campaign.
Jaromir Jagr captured the Ted Lindsay Award (then-known as the Lester B.
Pearson Award) by recording 123 points in the 2005-06 season and captained the Blueshirts from 2006-08.
That said, the reintroduction of the Liberty jerseys will also recall bad memories for some fans. The Rangers went seven consecutive seasons without making a playoff appearance between 1997-98 and 2003-04 while wearing those alternates. Traditionalists will also claim that the Rangers only need to don their historic diagonal R-A-N-G-E-R-S blue, red, and white home and away uniforms as the Blueshirts are an “Original Six” franchise.
Not everyone is going to be a fan of the NHL’s 31 teams adding reverse retro alternates. Some will view it as a cash-grab by the league, its teams, and Adidas. Frankly, I think the popularity of the reverse retro program will simply depend on whether your favorite team’s new jersey is a hit or a flop.
The Arizona Coyotes went with a distinctive purple Kachina jersey, with the club’s alternate logo used from 1998-2003 with a desertscape design at the bottom.
It’s uniqueness and eye-catching color scheme will make the Coyotes the winner of the reverse retro program. This is a 10/10. It looks incredible. A+ to the Yotes.
Meanwhile, the rival Devils receive high marks for reversing their inaugural 1982-92 uniforms by making green the primary color. This is a strong 9/10 and a solid A grade to the Devs.
As for the Isles, they get an F- for a lack of creativity by simply going back to the navy blues worn from 1998-2007. The Islanders could have gone bold and reintroduced the infamous fisherman logo – but instead chose the tamest option possible. Look, I’m not a fan of the eyesore that was the fisherman unis. That said, the fisherman jerseys have character and nostalgia and would have sold like hotcakes. Isles deserve a 0/10 for a lack of imagination.
So, where do the Rangers land on the grading scale? The reverse retro program offers teams the opportunity to get experimental with nontraditional designs, similar to when teams began adding alternate uniforms in the mid-1990s.
In terms of the spirit of the reverse retro program, the Rangers got it right by bringing back the Liberty crest. Yet, it feels like there’s something lacking.
What made the original Liberty jersey striking was the combination of navy, red, silver and white. The first thing that’s noticeable about the 2020 version compared to its 1996-born cousin is the lack of red. It lacks the red lower sleeves and red, white, and silver collar accents.
There’s also something off about the numbering. The lack of white doesn’t make the numbers “pop” like the original unis. It’s a bit drab in this respect.
In all, the 2020 Liberty jersey has the appearance of a long sleeve t-shirt or a practice uniform. It’s not as bold or as exciting as the 1996-2007 alternates.
For that, the Rangers get a C+. It’s a 6/10.
Follow Sean Hartnett on Twitter: @HartnettHockey