16 April, 2014

Resurrecting a Lost Capitals Classic

In light of the just-announced 2011 Winter Classic, will we finally see the return of the Capitals’ classic sweaters to face off against the Penguins’ sweet baby-blues?

Full disclosure: I’m a hockey jersey fanatic. My collection of over 100 is getting ridiculous . . . an adjective heartily confirmed by Mrs. OC as she seeks closet space. They range from classics (gameworn autographed Dale Hunter away red; auto’d Kolzig Germany) to uncommon (signed Esa Tikkanen Jokerit ; auto’d Bondra Detroit Vipers) to I’m-never-wearing-this-again (signed Jagr All-Star; Jakub Cutta Czech Juniors). Those in the latter category you’ll likely see on eBay soon.

Of all the entertaining designs out there, it’s the Capitals’ original red-white-and-blue classic that I truly love. That Hunter jersey is my prized possession. It still has some blood stains . . . whether his or an opponent’s I don’t know (any budding forensic scientists out there with some spare time?). Sure, the design isn’t particularly innovative, and the new sweaters pay homage to it while adding the clever Weagle crest on the shoulders. But something about its simple, retro look speaks volumes to 23 years of Capitals history in those threads.

Strangely, the Caps’ original sweaters are truly lost classics. Seriously, you cannot buy an authentic throwback anywhere—the only way you’re getting a game-ready Capitals throwback is buying one made in that era on eBay. Name a defunct team or design and someone’s making them — Montreal Maroons, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, California Golden Seals. But nobody’s making authentic throwbacks of the Caps’ original jerseys.

Oh, classic replicas abound—but any devotee of hockey couture will tell you a replica just doesn’t compare. For starters, the replica’s front crest is just a patch, and woefully small. The real deal has each letter (and the hockey stick/puck) individually sewn to the jersey, while the “WASHINGTON” is separately embroidered. The replica material is thinner too, and of course it has no fight strap.

Even the Capitals don’t seem to have access to authentic versions of their own original jersey. When the team honored Mike Gartner last year, the players actually wore replica jerseys for the pre-game warm-up which they later auctioned off to fans. How much more would the bids have been were those sweaters fight-strapped authentics—or if they’d been worn in the actual game instead of just warm-ups? Obviously a thin-skinned replica wouldn’t withstand the rigors of gameplay.

A few months ago I contacted a source at well-known manufacturer of throwback jerseys about the Caps’ old sweater. The company produces a wide variety of fight-strapped classics, but no Capitals throwbacks. He did, somewhat mysteriously at the time, hint that I should “check back in the summer” and would say no more. In light of the Winter Classic announcement, perhaps he had some inkling of things to come.

I also reached out to Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, and also of ESPN.com. He’s basically the Obi-Wan Kenobi of sports jersey obsessives like myself, and writes some really entertaining articles about the minutia of sports uniforms (with impressive photo research to boot).

Lukas was enthusiastic about the Caps’ throwbacks. “Hockey has some of the best uniforms in all of sport,” he said. “I always liked [the Capitals' classics].” While he wasn’t particularly concerned by the team’s replica jerseys for Mike Gartner’s event, Lukas clearly would favor their return for the Winter Classic: “I don’t worry too much about what’s worn for ceremonies and such. I’m more interested in what’s worn during the game.”

From a self-interest perspective, I am pleased that the Caps’ classic is such a tough get—it’s pretty cool to have a rare sweater, and if you troll eBay for authentic throwbacks be prepared for sticker shock.

But I’m thrilled by the prospect of seeing the Caps pay tribute to their past by resurrecting the stars-down-the-sleeves classics of yore. And it will be wonderful to finally have access to a high-quality throwback Capitals sweater without relying on the limited, and expensive, supply of vintage sweaters.

A couple years ago I proposed a design for a Capitals third jersey. And perhaps some day we’ll see a Weagle-focused Sunday Sweater. But for now, I’d much rather see the red or white throwback premiere on New Year’s Day 2011.

Let’s bring the stars back when the superstars meet at Heinz Field.

Tomorrow: Vote for which throwback you’d like to see open the new year!


  1. RAY IN BOWIE wrote:

    Sat on the Metro for ECQF game 2 across from a guy with a white stars and stripes jersey with “31″ on the left sleeve (all I could see). As we got up I admitted I had spent 40 min in total cluelessness as to the player.
    Answer – Rick Tabaracci

    29 May, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  2. Nice one Ray!

    29 May, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink
  3. Steve wrote:

    I’d like to see old school red. The Pens went baby blue as the away team in Buffalo, so why not the reds?

    29 May, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Mark Miller wrote:

    My first jersey was a white Wilson Capitals jersey with individually sewn “CAPITALS” letters. I agree with you about the replica jerseys – not only is it a single patch, but the size is all wrong. I have picked up several home and away Mitchell & Ness jerseys, and for some reason there seems to be a glut of Bugsy Watson #19s, so I have a few of those. I vote YES for true throwbacks.

    29 May, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  5. penguin pete wrote:

    i too, am a jersey guy. have read around the internet that the pens will be losing the baby blues this year to introduce something new (yet still old i’d imagine) for the classic. wouldn’t mind seeing a matchup (uni-wise)that looks something like a game from 1989…

    29 May, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
  6. I wonder if the Penguins will go back to their gold sweaters:

    30 May, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  7. OvieTracker wrote:

    I voted for the Red Classic throwback. Red is the Caps color. All the players, especially Ovie, look fabulous in it. If they want to pay homage to their past and look great doing it, the only choice that fits is the Classic Red jersey with the stars. The Classic White looks a bit clownish now, and the Black Dome and the Blue and White Eagle jerseys just don’t do anything for me anymore.

    30 May, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink
  8. Thanks to Paul Lukas of UniWatch & ESPN for the link love:

    31 May, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  9. Andy wrote:

    Cannot tell you how excited I am about this…. My favorite jerseys to wear are my old retro Caps Stevens, Gartner, and Langways jerseys. These puppies go for an arm and a leg on ebay lately! Would love to see a legit authentic throwback with individual stitching and fight strap back on the market for fans to buy!

    1 June, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  10. Andrew wrote:

    How’s about the team bust out the white pants as well?

    1 June, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink
  11. algoon wrote:

    If yer goin’ with the Red jerseys, ya GOTTA bring back the WHITE pants !!!!

    3 June, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  12. Chris wrote:

    I got a sick Mitchell Ness throwback Caps jersey with a strap. It looks great.

    I might post up some pics!!

    1 January, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Permalink