The ECHL’s Reading Royals, minor league hockey’s fashion trendsetters, will take to the ice Saturday wearing custom ugly sweater jerseys, and fans will take replicas of the jerseys home from the game. It’s the second year in a row that the team will wear ugly sweater jerseys, and this year’s are even uglier than last year’s, according the jersey’s designer, Jeff Tasca of Athletic Knit.
“This year the Reading Royals wanted to top last year’s jersey,” Tasca said, “so I started with the same basic idea but changed it up a bit. Given their logo, I thought maybe making it look like it was knit into the sweater design itself would work and make it stand out from last year’s.” (This year’s jerseys are pictured above, last year’s at right.)
The Royals are certainly not the only hockey team wearing ugly sweater jerseys, but they are one of the teams that got the trend started.
“Reading was the first team we did it for and it seemed to take off from there,” said Tasca, who first started working on the ugly sweater concept in 2011.
Tasca has designed ugly sweater jerseys for a handful of minor league teams, including the Cincinnati Cyclones, Toledo Walleye, Orlando Solar Bears, Indy Fuel, and Evansville IceMen, but one team almost brought the design to hockey’s biggest stage.
“Even the LA Kings contacted us about it, which totally blew me away,” Tasca said. (He notes that the Minnesota Wild did an ugly sweater night this year, but not through Athletic Knit.)
Ugly sweaters that Tasca designed for other minor league teams reflect unique designs.
“I always want to do something different for a team, and make theirs look unique,” Tasca said. “I incorporated Cincinnati’s new ‘C’ logo into their sleeves, and incorporated the Indy ‘FUEL’ name into the front of their jersey, making them look like it was knit in.”
With specialty jerseys becoming the norm in minor league sports—and creeping in the major leagues as well—we can probably expect to see a lot more of this sort of thing down the road.