Since Jan. 1, 2008, the Pittsburgh Penguins have sported blue on their alternate uniforms in one form or another. The revival of the franchise’s original color scheme was triggered by the first Winter Classic, in which the Penguins eschewed black and gold for the first time since 1979 while beating the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The light blue jerseys worn during that iconic game were popular enough that the Penguins made them their alternate uniforms for two full regular seasons. When the Penguins were awarded the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, another jersey set was created for the occasion, this time featuring dark blue as the primary hue.
The dark blue design was more of a “mash-up” than the first blue alternates, which were very close to what the Penguins actually wore from 1968-71. The aesthetic merits of a faux throwback (faux-back?) can be debated, but the team has donned the unique threads as part of a third uniform set since New Year’s Day 2011.
However, the Penguins’ latest alternates developed a negative reputation right from the start. It began with the Winter Classic at Heinz Field, a soggy loss to Washington during which Sidney Crosby sustained the first of two concussions that put him in the press box for nearly a full year.
The bad vibes continued to linger even after Crosby returned to health and the Penguins put together a winning record while wearing dark blue. That feeling only amplified last Saturday when No. 87 was hit in the mouth with a shot, suffering a broken jaw that has him out of the lineup indefinitely. Yes, the team was wearing blue that afternoon, too, as they were when Evgeni Malkin was concussed Feb. 22.
The Penguins were scheduled to have another blue game Tuesday when they battled the Sabres, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi reported that management changed those plans on game day. Pittsburgh wore its black jerseys in a 4-1 home loss that ended the team’s 15-game winning streak.
That wasn’t huge news in itself, as Tuesday was scheduled to be the last time the Penguins wore blue during the regular season. Teams rarely wear alternates during the Stanley Cup playoffs, so it’s going to be all black and Vegas gold the rest of the way this spring.
Wednesday morning, Rossi was on the uniform beat again, this time to relay information he received since filing Tuesday’s jersey-related update:
No #pens trade, but about uniforms that didn’t make notes: No alternates at all next season. Maybe new ones in future. Vegas gold staying.
— Rob Rossi (@RobRossi_Trib) April 3, 2013
This news runs counter to what Rossi and the website Icethetics have reported in the past (scroll about halfway down here), as NHL jersey manufacturer Reebok had planned for the Penguins to unveil a new alternate next season. Maybe plans have changed at Penguins headquarters and they will “cleanse the palate” next season, relying on the same black and Vegas gold color scheme they’ve had for over a decade.
Personally, I’d be disappointed if the Penguins didn’t at least bring back a more vibrant shade of gold on their uniforms in the near future, if only as a third jersey. In my opinion, the metallic hue the Pens have worn since 2002 is rather dull, especially on the black sweaters. Going back to a brighter gold would also align the Penguins with the Steelers and the Pirates again, which was the reason for their initial color change in 1980.
I can do without the blue, but the Pens’ uniforms could use some freshening. Here’s hoping the braintrust at Consol Energy Center has another change of heart before next season.
Thanks to the phenomenal website NHLUniforms.com for the visual aids.