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Alternate History: A look at Islanders third jerseys before they introduce another one you'll hate

The Islanders will have new third jerseys for their first year at Barclays Center. And if history is any indication, the likelihood of them gaining widespread acceptance is low.

Satan likes it so I guess it's okay.
Satan likes it so I guess it's okay.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

While a large swath of the hockey world concerns itself with the possibility that ads could soon end up on hockey jerseys, Islanders fans have other, more pressing worries about their team's uniforms.

New Islanders third jerseys are happening. We're at the point where we can almost put a date on their arrival. And you will probably hate them.

The Islanders have had five alternate jerseys in their history and only one was met with universal approval. And even that was a bit of a cheat.

All of the others have lovers and haters, probably depending on how old you were when they were introduced. At least one was greeted with nothing but derision, and a couple came to accept the "rave" review of being mostly tolerable for a little while.

So before the next optional Islanders jersey arrives, let's take a look at the previous ones.

Wave of Mutilation, 1996-1998

The Islanders' first third jersey wasn't even supposed to exist. But when the team introduced their shocking and scorned Fisherman jerseys in 1995, the reaction was loud and impossible to misinterpret: throw that sucker back.

Immediately after the Fisherman jerseys took the ice, team management was making plans to scrap them. As a solution to get a better, more widely-acceptable jersey out as quickly as possible, the Islanders added a third jersey for the following season. The deal was the best the Islanders could make, since they had missed the NHL's deadline for wholesale jersey changes.

The result, which combined the Fisherman's wavy jersey design with the team's classic logo, was few people's idea of a "good" jersey, despite the loving reaction it got during its theatrical debut. But compared to the one that spawned it, it was a hundred times more palatable.

After a season of part-time duty in 1996-97, the third jersey became the Islanders' primary look for the 1997-98 season. In 1998, the waves were dead and solid dark blue was in.

Smashing Pumpkins, 2002-2007

Buoyed by a return to respectability (and the playoffs) in the 2001-2002 season, the Islanders decided to capitalize on their popularity by bringing out an alternate jersey that would be the first in their history to use bright traffic cone orange as the primary color.

It was the team's first "proper" third jersey in the sense that its existence was justified only by marketing speak and a drive to squeeze a few more bucks out of fans who already have one or more regular jerseys.

About half of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League have third jerseys, according to Lloyd Haymes, the NHL's director of Center Ice and Sporting Goods Programs.

"The point of the third jersey is for the teams to expand their identity, to have them come up with a new look and an alternative look."


The Islanders "want to spice it up," Haymes says. They are going after "a wow factor" with the bright orange shirt.

Timothy Gilroy, the Islanders' creative service director who spearheaded the in-house design process, (reportedly everyone from team owner Charles Wang on down put in their two cents) agrees with that assessment.

"I think it is going to look fantastic on the ice. It is absolutely eye-popping," he says.

The players, Gilroy said, "like the idea of wearing something different. The age of the average player is 26, and they're very cool with wearing something a little funkier."

The jersey spent an impressive five years in and out of the rotation, and remains popular to this day. I have no idea why.

But I don't think old guys like me were ever the intended target audience. If you were 10 or 12 and the Islanders were good again wearing these jerseys, chances are you love them.

Back to Life, 2008-2010

In the Great RBK Remixing of 2007, the Islanders ended up with a dark, busy, patchy Franken-jersey that never quite felt like "them." In 2008, for a few glorious home games, they returned to what they should be thanks to a third jersey modeled after their dynastic look.

For two seasons, the royal blue and light orange jerseys would remind you of what the team used to look like, even if the roster was far, far removed from those days. And every time the team wore them, you could practically hear everyone asking - at Nassau Coliseum and at their various homes across the globe - "why don't they wear these all the time?"

"For an older person," [Islanders radio voice Chris] King began, "there's a lot of tradition involved with that original jersey and to go back to it for me, and an older group of fans, is just a terrific thing because it brings back all those great memories and all those things that occurred when the team was in their glory years."

Everyone got their wish in 2010 when the classic looks returned full time. But it was only a matter of time before another alternate was introduced.

Fade to Black, 2011-14

The Islanders black jerseys never had a chance. The primary color had never been used by the team before and came across like a tone deaf change just for change's sake. The team name and numbers spanning the chest reminded you of lacrosse jerseys. There were weird diamond shapes on the sides for some reason. And when paired with blue helmets, it made the whole thing look like the ugly color palate from an 8-bit video game.

"The jersey has to fit the personality of the team," [Director of Retail Operations Terry] Goldstein said. "Currently, the personality of our team and our fans is that they love the traditional Royal and White and we're not changing that for a long time, but on a couple of games we wanted to have some fun with something different."

Mission: Failed. If the players had fun wearing them, they were probably the only ones. The jersey was met with immediate confusion and scorn for parts of three interminable seasons until it was finally put out of its misery in 2014.

It was too different, too strange, too much, too soon. Fortunately, it was over quickly. Or was it...

Stadium Gig, 2014-15

At least it was blue.

When the Islanders were announced as the Rangers opponent in one of their outdoor Stadium Series games, it meant a new jersey was coming. Based on the black jersey experiment, expectations were low.

But the Stadium Series jersey, which was elevated to full third jersey after the game and into the following season, was mostly accepted despite some flaws. The stripes didn't go all the way around, the back numbers were skinny and weird and the loss of the map of Long Island from the logo bothered some and seemed like a portend of a future disconnect with the team's ancestral home.

But whatever the complaints, the jersey's brief year-and-change lifespan seemed to go by without any loud backlash. Which brings us to today.

Hello Brooklyn, 2015-??

If we're being honest, there's only one person who really wants to see another Islanders third jersey: Brett Yormark, the Nets and Barclays Center CEO. The Islanders don't necessarily need another jersey upon their arrival in Brooklyn, and the Nets sure as hell aren't getting a blue-and-orange alternate uniform to welcome their new roommates.

Yormark has said a lot of good things as the Islanders chief hypeman, but he's also the type of guy who uses phrases like "brands complementing each other" and admitted to wanting to change the team's look before social media outcry convinced him otherwise.

Back in 2013, Yormark was blunt that the Islanders would have a Nets-like black and white third jersey in Brooklyn. Has he changed his mind over the intervening two years? Probably not.

Whether it's black, white, blue, orange or some combination of all four, there's basically around a 20 percent chance the new jersey will be widely accepted immediately. More likely is that Yormark and the team are gonna get an earful no matter what it looks like.

If the reaction is an overwhelmingly positive one, as it was with the classic thirds in 2008, maybe the jersey sticks around for a while. If the reaction is ambivalent - or just flat out hostile - whatever design the Islanders come up with could be another entry in their long, If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It file.