Almost exactly year ago, the Buffalo Sabres started the clock on the longest jersey countdown I can recall, promising fans that royal blue was coming back for 2020-21. The next day, they revealed their 50th anniversary uniform with a flashy crest.
This morning, a bit of reciprocation. A day after officially closing the book on their 50-year celebration, the team unveiled its new look with its old colors—and one of the coolest crests in hockey.
The senior designer at Adidas, where new NHL identities come to life, is a Buffalo native and self-professed Sabres fan. There was no way Eric Bodamer was going to let his team get this one wrong. And they did not.
Whether you’re a fan of teams looking backwards when they should be moving forward—and admittedly I’m not—there’s really no denying the quality of that logo.
For the 2018 Winter Classic, the original logo from 1970 was redrawn with minor updates most fans would never notice. But for anyone with an eye toward design, the changes were a breath of fresh air. Look closely at the differences between the bison.
Then last year, the team at Adidas went a step further with their identity improvements, creating an elaborate embroidery pattern that brought incredible depth to a form most of us have overlooked or taken for granted all these years. It forced us to see a 50-year-old design with fresh eyes.
It’s the combination of these two logos that provided the basis for the new look the Sabres revealed this morning. And they couldn’t have done any better.
The Sweater: Blue
Now, the home jersey. The royal blue is captivating here, with so much more energy than navy blue. It’s a welcome sight for a club that’s gone so long without it.
Like the logo, this sweater also represents a blending of eras—the colors inspired by the past with striping spawned from something more recent.
At first I wasn’t sure the thin white stripes were any more necessary than the silver piping Sabres fans have endured for the past decade. But then it does bring a similar sense of depth to what we see in the crest.
Then there’s the hanger effect—an interior collar enhancement that you never see on the ice, but still gets plenty of attention from the designers. In this case, it’s an embellishment borrowed from the city of Buffalo’s own flag.
On their website, the Sabres provided a detailed explanation of the design as well as images of the process behind it.
“The inner neck collar is our way of paying homage to our hometown, touching upon the City of Buffalo’s official crest,” the release reads. “This team enjoys an unparalleled bond with the community at large, so it felt appropriate to honor that within the jersey itself.”
The care that went into the creation of this sweater is visible in almost every stitch.
The Sweater: White
While I did get an advance preview of the blue sweater, the road jersey was as much as surprise to me as anyone else this morning. I do enjoy a nice surprise from time to time and this one did not disappoint.
When the Sabres attempted to emulate their original white sweater from 1970 in 2010, they made sure the waist and sleeve striping matched. But that wasn’t true to the original. This is. It’s a minor thing but it’s such a nice touch.
Here’s a closer look at the back.
It’s easy to like everything happening here.
Among the many excellent details in the overall uniform is the new helmet decal.
This mark was first designed as a shoulder patch for the Sabres’ 2018 Winter Classic jersey. It’s fantastic to see them bringing it back as a permanent part of the overall brand identity.
And with that, I think we have this new look pretty well covered.
As I’ve said before, I don’t love it when teams just go back to the well and resurrect an old jersey stitch for stitch. But that’s not really what the Sabres have done here.
They’ve taken inspiration from their roots and built upon with great modern elements—things that could never have been conceived of let alone executed 50 years ago. It’s great to see it all come together.
Ever since the Sabres first left this look in 1996, they’ve been grasping for a visual identity, holding onto nothing for more than a decade at a time. Why do you suppose that was the case?
Each one of those designs was built for a trend. But trends are temporary and of a moment. What this team released today is timeless and classic.
That’s my take on it, anyway. What’s yours?