You’ve got to give the Predators credit. When Nashville was granted an NHL franchise in 1997, the team owners could have gone with something easy: The Pickers, the Fiddlers, the Phantoms (of the Opry).
Instead, they produced a logo of a saber-toothed cat, unveiling it at a downtown high-rise where the fossilized remains of one such beast were unearthed during construction of the building in 1971. And still, they avoided the obvious. Rather than going with the Nashville Cats — a shout-out to the fabulous 1966 Lovin’ Spoonful hit, “Nashville Cats” (“been playin’ since they’s babies …”) — the winner of a name-the-team contest was … well, you know.
The Predators have trotted out toothsome jerseys since, and their current design may be among the nicest sweaters in the league. Here’s a look at their looks over the years (minor tweaks aside):
1998: The debut home and away jerseys would last 10 seasons. They’re sort of like an episode of “Friends” — welcome, attractive, and oh so ’90s. Four colors (even if two of them are white and gray) are a lot; and thin, yellow stripes running several directions seem a bit busy. But the whole — helped considerably by the yellow-trimmed logo in a field of blue on the dark jersey, and set in a blue triangle on the road whites — exceeds the sum of its parts.
2001: An alternate arrives. The predominant color is wretched. Call it mustard. Otherwise, this thing is pretty sweet. A front-facing version of the logo looks tougher than the original design, what with its yellow eyes and blood-red tongue. If you don’t like armpit color blocks, you’ll hate this, but the blue there, and at the wrists, collar and waist, set off by gray and white stripes, makes for a nicely balanced design.
2007: Reebok takes over as the NHL’s jersey supplier. The alternate goes away. The road whites get an all-caps “NASHVILLE” over the top of the original logo. Both jerseys get healthy helpings of Reebok’s vertical piping (in yellow), creating something of an apron effect. A shoulder yoke that narrows at the neck and wrists contributes to a weak overall scheme.
2009: If you’re going to do an alternate, do this: Basically, take the classic red Blackhawks jersey, make it blue and stick the Preds logo on it. Make all the wide, black stripes a checkerboard of black and blue, and keep the framing, white secondary stripes. Add a lace-up collar. Awesome.
2011: Moving toward the current look, a complete redesign posits the Preds as the first team to wear predominantly gold as a dark jersey since the ’66-67 Bruins. Blue cuffs and waist finish the dark jersey. The white gets a different striping package at the waist and wrist that incorporates gold. The logo gets a splash of gold, too.
2017: Adidas simplifies the home gold jersey slightly, and adds a gold shoulder yoke to the road whites while eliminating most of the blue from the cuffs and waist.
At this point, it’s probably too late to quibble that the logo cat got a little robbed in the lower jaw department. Saber-tooths had jaws that could open to 90-degree angles to accommodate meals impaled on those impressive uppers. But mandibles aside, the Preds have done pretty well in the jersey design department.
Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.