It’s the final week of August and we’re still in the dark on some of the big NHL events for the 2019-20 season. But is that the norm for this time of year? Let’s take a look back at events from past seasons to see if we can get some help from the calendar in predicting when this year’s jerseys will be released.
We’ll be talking about the Heritage Classic, Winter Classic, All-Star Game, and Stadium Series—in chronological order.
2019 NHL Heritage Classic
The Heritage Classic is the Canadian-centric outdoor game that debuted on November 22, 2003 in Edmonton as a one-off stadium game between the Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. Both teams wore throwback uniforms.
Eight years later, the NHL revived the event as a regular series with games taking place every third season in 2010-11, 2013-14, 2016-17 and now, 2019-20. The jerseys worn are always throwbacks—sometimes to teams that served the market prior to the NHL’s arrival.
On February 20, 2011, the Calgary Flames hosted the Canadiens. The Flames launched a new sweater inspired by Calgary’s hockey history as opposed to their own throwback which was already in use as a third jersey that season. Montreal wore its regular road sweater.
On March 2, 2014, the Vancouver Canucks welcomed the Ottawa Senators in the first outdoor appearance for each team. Only the Senators unveiled a new sweater—a vintage white version of their black heritage jersey. The Canucks used the maroon Vancouver Millionaires throwback first seen during the 2012-13 season to commemorate the 100th anniversary of hockey on the west coast.
Then in 2016-17, the timing shifted from late in the season to very early with Winnipeg hosting Edmonton on October 23, 2016. But the jersey pattern continued with only one team introducing a new design. The Jets debuted a throwback inspired by their WHA-era uniform. The Oilers simply wore their orange third jersey—also WHA-inspired—which launched a season earlier.
This year’s game will once again take place in the fall, October 26, with the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames facing off, but for the first time, it will be played at a neutral location—Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Saskatchewan.
So what patterns can we pick up from the past?
We got our first look at the 2019 Heritage Classic logo this past March. That matches up with the reveal of the 2016 logo—also in March of that year. When the games took place in late winter (2011 and 2014), the logos were released in August. In each case, the logo release came six to seven months ahead of the game.
What about jerseys? There’s less of a pattern there but the timeline has been shrinking. For 2011, the jerseys came out six months before the game. For 2014, about three months. And in 2016, just over two months.
The 2016 sweaters were unveiled on August 5, but we’re now well outside that window for 2019. So really, I’d say any day now. After tomorrow we’re less than two months away from the game itself. That said, we wouldn’t expect an “unveiling” if both teams already had the jerseys they plan to wear.
It’s not what most of us want to hear, but the Jets and Flames both have great throwbacks already in use—one white, one color—in the Adizero style. It just kinda makes sense.
That said, I have a feeling both teams have inverted variants on the way—a blue version of that Jets jersey and a white version of the Flames one. Maybe it’s too good to be true, but we’ll see. For a taste of what that might look like, check out this concept from Dallas Kirkpatrick, posted in the Concepts Showcase last month.
Expect to see new sweaters unveiled within the next two weeks.
2020 NHL Winter Classic
I don’t feel the need to explain quite as much about the Winter Classic as it’s probably the most well-known event of the NHL calendar after the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It happens every year on or around New Year’s Day. It’s the league’s marquee outdoor game.
This season, the Dallas Stars will host the Nashville Predators at Cotton Bowl Stadium. It’s a marked departure for the league, being the first time two Sunbelt franchises will be featured. Up to now, the Blues had been the southernmost team to participate in this particular event.
As this will be 12th Winter Classic, we have plenty of past examples to make our predictions. That’s the good news. The bad news is history shows we probably have a long wait.
Over the past five years, the Winter Classic logo has typically been unveiled in mid to late summer. This year it came in March. But the league also announced the location and opponents much earlier in the year than usual.
What about the jerseys? Since 2015, the team crests have been unveiled during a summer press event at the site well before the release of the full sweaters in the fall. The dates have ranged from late July to early September, so we’re in the sweet spot for that right now.
The uniforms usually come out in early November—though it took until Thanksgiving in 2017. That means those excited to see the jerseys still have a couple more months of waiting to do.
While no images have leaked at this time, reliable rumors suggest each team will look to its city’s earliest pro hockey history for uniform inspiration. For the Stars, that would be the Dallas Texans in the 1940s. The Preds may look to the Nashville Dixie Flyers of the 1960s.
In a November 2016 tweet, the Stars themselves noted the 75th anniversary of Dallas’ first pro hockey game with a Texans jersey. For more Lone Star hockey history, there’s a great article at The Sin Bin.
Justin Brolley shared an interesting concept on Twitter a couple weeks ago. I don’t think it’s quite what we’ll see but it’s probably in the neighborhood.
Expect to see retro crests in the next few weeks, jerseys in November.
2020 NHL All-Star Weekend
The next NHL All-Star Weekend takes place January 24-26 in St. Louis. For this event, the unveiling dates are a little more predictable.
UPDATE | AUG 26: The NHL just couldn’t wait to show us the next All-Star logo! They broke the mid-September pattern from the past few years and unveiled it today. It features a couple of trumpets and the Arch. The jerseys, however, are still to come.
For each of the past three years, like clockwork, the All-Star logo has been unveiled during the third week of September—two of them on September 19, to be specific. Prior to 2016, the lockout and Sochi Olympics threw off the schedule a bit.
In 2016, the league changed things up so that the All-Star teams were no longer conference-based, but now division-based. In that first year, only two jersey designs were used between the four divisional teams.
In 2017 and 2018, the league used four jerseys so each team had a distinct color. However, in 2019 the league went back to two jersey designs, only now each player wears his team’s single-color crest instead of an NHL shield. The other unique aspect to those jerseys was that they were manufactured from recycled plastic material found in the ocean.
So while it’s tough to guess what type of jerseys might be planned for 2020, estimating the unveiling date should be a little easier.
The league usually waits until after the Winter Classic in the couple of weeks leading up to All-Star Weekend. Specifically, over the past five years, All-Star jerseys have been unveiled on January 9, January 3, January 11, January 6, and January 9 again. And for the past four years, the unveiling has always fallen on a Wednesday.
Look for the All-Star jerseys on or around January 8, 2020. (Or sooner if the league gets antsy again!)
2020 NHL Stadium Series
The last major event of the NHL calendar before the playoffs is the Stadium Series, which this year takes place at Falcon Stadium on the campus of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, about an hour south of Denver.
The Colorado Avalanche (hosting for the second time) will face the Los Angeles Kings (participating for the third time) on February 15, 2020.
The Stadium Series debuted in the 2013-14 season and while the games have almost always taken place in late February, unveiling dates have been all over the map. So I’m not sure how much we can glean. But we’ll try anyway.
In years past, the Stadium Series logo has been revealed almost anytime from July to November. Here’s a list of dates from the past five years so you can see the variation.
- 2019 Stadium Series logo unveiled July 23, 2018
- 2018 Stadium Series logo unveiled November 11, 2017 (Veterans Day)
- 2017 Stadium Series logo unveiled September 27, 2016
- 2016 Stadium Series logos unveiled August 5 (Minnesota) and September 21, 2015 (Colorado)
- 2015 Stadium Series logo unveiled August 6, 2014
Since the late July and early August dates have now passed, late September is still a possibility. However, November might be a better guess. The 2018 game was played at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The 2020 game has a similar flavor, taking place at another American military school. So if you want to play up the narrative, save the announcement until Veterans Day again.
What about the jerseys? There will certainly be a set of futuristic sweaters for both teams. That’s one of the hallmarks of the Stadium Series. The dates here are also a little scattered. Here are the last five years again.
- 2019 Stadium Series jerseys unveiled February 1, 2019 (crests on December 14, 2018)
- 2018 Stadium Series jerseys unveiled January 17, 2018
- 2017 Stadium Series jerseys unveiled November 25 (Pittsburgh) and December 10, 2016 (Philadelphia)
- 2016 Stadium Series jerseys unveiled September 21 (Colorado), November 23 (Detroit), and November 24, 2015 (Minnesota and Chicago)
- 2015 Stadium Series jerseys unveiled December 12 (San Jose) and December 14 (Los Angeles)
Most recently, the jerseys have come only weeks prior to the game itself, well past the halfway point of the season. Though December wouldn’t be a bad guess for some advance crest designs.
Here goes nothing. I’ll bet on a Veterans Day reveal for the 2020 Stadium Series logo (November 11). The uniforms I’ll target for January with a possible reveal of the jersey crests in mid-December.
NHL events beyond 2020
All that gets us through the 2019-20 season, but what about 2020-21?
The Minnesota Wild have been angling to host the 2021 Winter Classic and they might get their wish. In June, Gary Bettman reportedly visited Lambeau Field, home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, and mentioned the Wild and Blues as a possible matchup. I’m having trouble finding the source of this information, so take it for what it’s worth.
In addition, it’s been reported the Boston Bruins would like to host their third Winter Classic in 2024 as part of the team’s 100th anniversary season. Having already played at the local pro football and baseball stadiums, the location for this outing would be Harvard Stadium. This one also lacks a solid source and may just be wishful thinking.
Earlier this year Bettman also toured Carter-Finley Stadium, home of North Carolina State University, to consider it as a site for the 2021 Stadium Series. The building is quite literally across the street from PNC Arena, home of the Carolina Hurricanes. No opponent was discussed but wouldn’t it be nice to see another southern team in the mix?
If the Heritage Classic continues in pattern, we should expect the next one in 2022-23. After this season, only one Canadian team will have played in fewer than two outdoor games—the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers have only played in one since the Heritage Classic became serialized in 2011. And while the Toronto Maple Leafs have played in three outdoor games in the last five years, they’re the only Canadian team with no Heritage Classic appearances.
So if we’re looking for balance, I propose a 2022 Heritage Classic featuring the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. And assuming this year’s neutral location ends up being a success, why not do it again? Only bigger. “Mystery, Alaska”-style. Out on a frozen lake in the middle of the Canadian Rockies—right on the physical boundary between B.C. and Alberta in a contest for the ages. Minimal crowd presence. Make it a television-centric event. Imagine the sights. Watch the players transform into kids again—just them skating on a frozen pond. It would not be cheap but it would be absolutely unforgettable.
Oh, and don’t forget the NHL has promised Seattle an All-Star Weekend sometime between 2022 and 2029. Speaking of All-Stars and Seattle, a quick bit of news. NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke stated on Thursday that the organization is currently aiming to unveil the team’s branding around All-Star Weekend in January 2020. They hit the ice in October 2021.