With the Capitals going “old school” with their new alternate uniforms that debuted for the first time on December 16, 2015, NoVa Caps is going back in time to look at the inspiration for these brand new sweaters.
The Caps’ original uniforms were the inspiration for these new jerseys: red, white, blue, the classic hockey stick-shaped “L”, and the stars down the sleeves. While this isn’t the first time the Capitals have paid homage to their inaugural sweaters, these uniforms are still just as good-looking. The Caps original uniforms were worn by the team from their debut campaign in 1974 to 1995. The road jerseys (up until the 2006-07 season, road jerseys were the darker color) had no names on them at all. They also had one set of jerseys for the entire season: meaning they used the same jersey for 82 games.
The team wore blue pants in home games, after wearing white on the road to start their inaugural season. The Caps had to change from white pants due to perspiration: the sweat would discolor the pants and the league granted the team permission to use blue pants on the road for the rest of the season. The white pants NEVER resurfaced and the blue pants remained untouched for the next 20 years. The crest on the jersey was resized multiple times.
According to Capitals author Ted Starkey’s Twitter account (follow him at @TedStarkey), the Caps had two-color nameplates in the 1970’s, but switched to just white from the latter part of that decade until 1987. Over that span, names such as Mike Gartner, Rod Langway, Dennis Maruk, and Dale Hunter adorned the backs of these classic jerseys. Capitals great Olaf Kolzig is the ONLY player in franchise history to wear every sweater design implemented by the team.
When the Caps decided to switch to a more intimidating-looking blue sweater with a Bald Eagle flashing its talons, it was met with mixed feelings. According to Capitals fan Ronald Bove: “I was always a fan of the original red,white, and blue design and didn’t really like the blue ones. They kind of grew on you, but I was glad to see them go back to the red,white, and blue in 2007. It looked like the Caps.” Season Ticket holder Aurena Raines added: “Did not like the blue jersey! Could read the numbers and names. Love the red, white and blue.”
The Capitals went back in time for the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, wearing a white version of their original sweater. The new alternate jerseys are basically the same jerseys, with the color being red instead of white. Already popular with Caps fans, the new sweaters will likely continue to be a part of Capitals history for years to come.
By Michael Fleetwood