Hartnett: Rangers Fans Would Welcome Return Of Lady Liberty Jerseys

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

When the NHL switched to Adidas Adizero uniforms, the Rangers retired their navy blue “Heritage” third jerseys. Since the start of the 2017-18 season, the Blueshirts have proceeded without alternate uniforms.

The question on the minds of faithful Garden goers is whether the Rangers will eventually reintroduce a third jersey. At present, the Rangers’ home and away jerseys evoke Original Six tradition. The diagonal "R-A-N-G-E-R-S" was introduced with the team’s founding in 1926.

The iconic look predates the Boston Bruins’ spoked “B” and the Detroit Red Wings’ winged wheel. The Toronto Maple Leafs hadn’t even become the Maple Leafs when the Rangers entered the league. Toronto was known as the St. Pats and only switched its logo to the national symbol of Canada midway through the 1926-27 season after the team was purchased by Conn Smythe.

Only the Montreal Canadiens’ historic crest has preceded the Rangers’ serifed, drop-shadow lettering, as the Chicago Blackhawks joined the Rangers as 1926 Original Six founders.

The Rangers’ consistent and clean look typically finishes in the top five of any NHL uniform ranking. Former general manager John Ferguson earned scorn when he instituted a redesign that moved the shield front and center in 1976. The derided uniforms only lasted through the 1977-78 season before the Blueshirts switched back to their traditional threads.

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it – right? Well, the Rangers introduced a navy alternate jersey in 1996 with a Lady Liberty crest that was well-received by fans. These uniforms stuck around through the 2006-07 season. When the Rangers added the Heritage jerseys in 2010, its color scheme was inspired by the Liberty jerseys and the diagonal "NEW YORK" emulated the 1978-87 road jersey.

Wayne Gretzky in 1997Robert Laberge/Allsport

Based on what I’ve read on social media and heard among fans is that a reintroduction of the Liberty jerseys would be a hit. If the Rangers so much as posted a teaser photo of the red and white sleeve with the silver piping on social media, it would be met with fans replying with Futurama “Shut up and take my money” memes.

The teenagers who grew up with the Liberty jerseys are now 30-somethings with nostalgia for the past and families of their own. Unless the Rangers have an entirely new alternate design in the works, a return to the Liberty jerseys would be largely welcomed by the fan base. The Anaheim Ducks successfully revived the jade and eggplant look last season, and the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues went back to the past with an inaugural season-inspired alternate jersey.

Then again, some things are better left in the past. The late ’90s and early 2000s served as a breeding ground for odd, unconventional designs. The Los Angeles Kings’ hideous 1995-96 alternates were coined as the “Burger King” jersey. The Dallas Stars’ 2003-06 Taurus jersey was widely ridiculed for the crest’s resemblance to the uterus – hence the nickname “Mooterus.” How about the Islanders' “fish sticks” 1995-98 thirds? An absolute eyesore.

Yet, the Rangers’ Liberty jerseys don’t look dated when compared to other millennium era alternates. The colors and design are sleek, the Liberty crest stands out and the silver piping is a nice complement.

Personally, I like the idea of the Rangers maintaining tradition by forgoing a third jersey – but if fans make their demand for Liberty alternates loud and clear, they’ll eventually get their wish granted.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey