A History of Yellow Uniforms in the NHL

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced earlier this week that the club would be sporting a yellow (they call it “Pittsburgh gold”) alternate uniform for 12 of their 82 games this season; the design an amalgamation of two previous yellow jerseys the team has worn.

With the Penguins now in yellow, at least 15% of the time, that gives the league two teams wearing yellow uniforms, the Nashville Predators have used the colour as the base of their home jersey for the past seven years.

While it’s not unheard of, it is still relatively uncommon to see yellow as the main colour of a pro sports jersey. The National Hockey League has seen nine franchises in yellow at least some point in their history over their 100+ seasons going all the way back to the 1920s.

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In 1920, Quebec’s NHL team relocated to Hamilton, Ontario, and as was common practice at the time, they took on a name and colour scheme already used by several Hamilton-based teams – they’d be the Hamilton Tigers, and they’d wear black and yellow. The first NHL team to wear something other than other than red, black, or blue.

The Tigers first uniform had the look similar to a modern on-ice official’s uniform with a series of vertical black stripes, unlike today’s referee it was on a yellow base instead of white with a detailed tiger head logo on the chest. This design only lasted one season before the yellow stripes were reduced in and turned onto their side for 1921, in all the Tigers would wear four different uniforms in their brief five-season history, all of which were yellow and black.

The NHL wasn’t without a yellow team for long following the end of the Tigers, an expansion team popped up in Pittsburgh the very next season and adopted Hamilton’s yellow-and-black look (a good 20 years before baseball’s Pirates went with those colours). The Pirates wore yellow for the next four seasons over two different designs before switching to orange in 1929 and eventually moving to Philadelphia where they would drop out of the league after the 1930 season.

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A good decade would pass before another team would try out a yellow uniform, the Boston Bruins would become the torchbearer of the colour when they introduced an alternate yellow jersey (yes, they had a few alternates back then) with “Bruins” scripted across the front in black for the 1940-41 season. Boston used this uniform here-and-there for four seasons, but it wasn’t until their next uniform that yellow would come back to the league in a big way.

In 1955 the Bruins decided to switch from wearing black as their dark colour to yellow, using the same jersey design and spoked-B logo design as had been featured on their whites for the past several seasons. This yellow jersey wouldn’t be worn for any Stanley Cup championships but was the style the club would wear for the remainder of the “Original Six” era in the NHL using it as their primary home jersey for twelve straight seasons.

Where the Bruins hopped off the yellow jersey bandwagon, the expansion era jumped right back on in their place. The first season Boston switched back to black, the new Los Angeles Kings took to the ice in their very yellow uniform with purple (sorry “Forum Blue”) stripes. This uniform style would lead to the only head-to-toe yellow uniform the league has ever seen.

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Yellow helmet, yellow jersey, yellow pants, yellow socks. There it is. You can’t get much more yellow than that, and the Kings went with this look for a full decade before switching back to purple pants in 1979-80.

During the Kings yellow era, the California Golden Seals joined in giving us the first time in league history that two teams wore a yellow uniform at the same time. The Golden Seals switched to a yellow and green colour scheme in 1970 to match the local baseball club in Oakland who were both owned by Charlie Finley; like the Kings, the Seals chose yellow instead of white as their home uniform colour and would do so until the end of the 1973-74 season.

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But have no fear, the Canucks are here! Vancouver’s radical design, introduced in 1979, gave us another yellow jersey and helmet pairing (black pants though) with a black “V” on the chest restoring the NHL to two yellow teams. Vancouver continued wearing yellow until the end of the 1980s but dropped the “V” idea in 1985.

In 1980 the Penguins changed their colours mid-season from blue and white to yellow and black to celebrate the recent championships won by Pittsburgh’s Pirates and Steelers and with that came a yellow alternate (and eventually their home) uniform in 1981. For these brief few seasons, you had three NHL teams wearing yellow uniforms at the same time, the *golden*-era of yellow in the league (sorry).

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With the end of the 80s came an end to yellow, the Penguins were the first, dropping theirs in 1984, the Kings were next in 1988, and finally the Canucks in 1989. Each of these teams dropped their yellow uniform in favour of that unique combination of black on the road and white at home.

It wasn’t until 1996 when the NHL introduced an actual alternate-uniform program that the Boston Bruins brought it back with, what the fans dubbed, their “Winnie-the-Pooh” jersey. Boston was all alone on this island until the Nashville Predators came out with a yellow alternate in 2001. Both teams continued with their yellow thirds until the mid-2000s, by 2008 the league was yellow-free once again (aside from a few Bruins or Kings throwback games).

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The Nashville Predators brought back yellow in a big way in 2011 opting to wear it as their home jersey colour, the first team since the 1989 Canucks over twenty years earlier to wear it on a home or road jersey. The Sabres followed with their so-bad-you-already-forgot-about-it bizarre half-yellow/half-blue alternate in 2013 (which they dropped just a season later). Nashville became the champions of the yellow when they swapped their blue helmet for a yellow one (still sticking with the blue pants though) for the 2016 season, still worn today.

In 2017, the league finally joined the fun by having the Atlantic Division All-Stars wear a yellow jersey at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles. The Penguins wore yellow for their Stadium Series game a few months later and that June the Predators and Penguins faced-off in the Stanley Cup Final, for games played in Nashville the Preds wearing their yellow helmet/yellow jersey combo, the Penguins in their white jerseys with yellow sleeves, and all fans wearing yellow t-shirts. It was a big year for yellow in hockey.

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That brings us to the Pittsburgh Penguins who, as we mentioned at the top of the post, introduced their new yellow alternate uniforms for 2018 on Tuesday. Pittsburgh will wear the yellow a dozen times, all at home, their last game in yellow will be against those same Nashville Predators who will be wearing their white (but still yellow-heavy) road jerseys for the game on March 29, 2019.