NHL Uniform Scheduling Explained

Carolina Hurricanes Alternate Uniform 2013-14

Ever wondered the process behind an NHL team choosing their uniform schedule?

The Carolina Hurricanes have given us our real first look at what goes on behind-the-scenes when determining what dates their home red, road white, or alternate black uniforms are worn.

First, the minimums and maximums:

“NHL teams are permitted to wear their alternate uniforms 12 to 15 times a season”

The NBA has a similar policy in that any alternate uniform must be worn at least 6 times during a season. We can safely assume that this is to keep teams from introducing a jersey only to rarely wear it, which really cheeses off manufacturers and retailers (fans too, probably)

How about those occasional reverse jersey games, where the home team wears white?:

“The Canes had to receive permission from Tampa Bay and Columbus to wear their new white sweaters at home … a one-off trip is ideal since wearing both white and black on a multi-game trip would require lugging two sets of equipment. For the same reason, wearing white at home is ideal against a team who is on a one-off trip”

Makes sense, and this was reportedly the driving factor behind the NHL swapping the homes and roads prior to the 2003/04 season. In the past, if a (usually white wearing) home team wanted to wear their (almost always dark) alternate, the road team they faced would have to bring along two sets of everything – helmets, sweaters, and socks – during their road trip… it just wasn’t practical.

Carolina wears their white road jerseys at home on March 29, 2014
Carolina wears their white road jerseys at home on March 29, 2014

We’ve also (rarely) seen in the past a team on a reverse-jersey road trip, in which they’ll play several games on the road in a row wearing their home or alternate uniform against a series of white wearing home teams. Anaheim has done this a couple of times in recent seasons.

So what exactly determines when the team will wear their alternate sweater, and when they’ll wear their regular home uniform?

“When planning out and submitting the alternate schedule to the league, a few caveats are considered. The Canes prefer to wear their black third uniform set against opponents who do not wear black pants. Looking at current uniform combinations, that eliminates Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Jose. Out of 12 third jersey dates this season, 11 were against non-black teams”

Neat to hear the personal preference of the team. The no-black policy makes sense, if the players feel a matchup in which their teammates and opponents are both wearing a similar colour could cause any sense of confusion, it’s best to avoid such matchups wherever possible. There are several teams who wear red pants like the ‘Canes regular home/road set, but they’ve also elected to wear black against many of them throughout this season: Rangers (Mar 7), Capitals retro (Dec 20), Coyotes (Oct 13), Blue Jackets (Jan 27).

Hurricanes wearing black against a non-black-pants team
Hurricanes wearing black against a non-black-pants team

Special thanks to the Carolina Hurricanes for making these details public, very interesting!