All illustrations by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database
And now for one that pains me a little. Buffalo is truly the city that just cannot, for the life of them, catch a break. The NFL’s Buffalo Bills made the Super Bowl four consecutive years (1991 through 1994)…and lost each and every one of them. Backstopped by arguably the best goaltender of all time in Dominik Hašek, the Buffalo Sabres had great success in the late ‘90s and early 2000s…but were done in by Brett Hull’s then-illegal Stanley Cup winner and the National Hockey League War Room forgetting that goals are not allowed to count when pucks are shot through the side of the net. The Sabres of 2006 were done in by the idiotic puck-over-the-glass rule, with poor Brian Campbell taking a Delay of Game penalty late in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, providing the Hurricanes with the powerplay which they used to score the series-winning goal. Then they saw stars like Daniel Brière, Chris Drury, Derek Roy and Ryan Miller all leave town, before losing the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery, despite having the worst overall record.
Unfortunately for Sabres players, they also haven’t exactly been provided with the nicest of wearables…
It all started off so well! From their introduction to the NHL in 1970 until the mid-‘90s, the Sabres wore variations of the above uniform. The royal blue and gold colour scheme is timeless, the logo and striping are simple yet interesting, and the lace-up collar – which, sadly, was replaced by a v-neck – is nearly always a good decision. What could possibly go wrong?
Even the 1996 redesign (which consisted of the black and white kits above; the red came a few years later) was pretty great. It gets a lot of flack for some reason, perhaps because it replaced such a classic set. However, given all of the garbage hanging in NHL locker room stalls during the ‘90s, the Sabres’ stab at modernisation turned out really well. Sharp, angled stripes on the jersey, along with the introduction of a secondary logo on the shoulder, make it pretty clear that the Sabres are indeed named after a pretty serious weapon. The central logo, a buffalo’s head, symbolises their fair city – or at least its name (I will confess, though: I had a poster of Hašek in my bedroom throughout my childhood. It was only in my early 20s that I realised that the mouth of the buffalo was on the right, and not the left).
The late-coming third kit, including the red, “dinner plate” jerseys – that say “BUFFALO” on the waist striping, just in case you forgot who was playing and decided to check out some crotches to find out – were an ill-advised departure from the formula, to be sure. But, overall, these very-‘90s uniforms were – and still are – thoroughly enjoyable. One of the few attempts at modernisation that resulted in success.
Enter the Buffaslug.
Oh…oh dear. A tiny, limbless, possibly demonic – check out those red eyes – buffalo flanked by a drab colour scheme – since when does the colour grey brighten up anyone’s day? – and psychedelic striping. Thankfully, the team threw their fans a bone with a throwback third jersey…which they promptly removed from their wardrobe the following season. The Buffaslug jersey is truly one of the most revolting articles of clothing the world has ever known.
The following two kits followed the Buffaslug, with the Home and Away kits enduring to the present day. I included them purely to bring to the attention of the world that the middle jersey in each picture was actually worn by a professional hockey team, by players making millions of dollars.
The first one puts some neat striping and accent variations on the Sabres’ original uniform sets…before making the logo the size of a dime and writing “BUFFALO” across the front in what looks like WordArt. I’m not a fan of script logos in general – why tell your fans what they already know? – but they are especially tacky when they dwarf the team’s original logo on the team’s original(-ish) backdrop. Yes, I know the script logo paid homage to the AHL’s Buffalo Bisons of the mid-20th Century, but did it really have to be front and centre? Why not pop it on the shoulder? The yellow nameplates contrast well with the royal blue of the jerseys, and the quilted numbers are kinda neat. I might even be able to get used to the 2 x 2 striping on the jerseys and socks. But the logo just ruins it for me.
And the second one… Well, the Sabres’ own President, Ted Black, publicly stated after it was released that it might just be a “turd burger”. It looks like one of those paint-by-numbers pictures gone horribly awry, like someone whose friends have drawn on him/her after he/she passed out at a party. Millions of television sets found themselves prematurely discarded after hockey fans couldn’t understand why there was so much grey on their screens. Looking at it from the front (yellow) and back (blue), one would be hard-pressed to identify it as the same jersey. It looks like the wearing has donned a cape and is about to fly off into the night, perhaps to fight all of the Canadians coming across the border to clean out Buffalo’s malls. Oh but hey now, it’s not all bad: it says “BUFFALO” in tiny letters on the front. Just in case you forgot. I mean, how thoughtful is that?!
Which brings us to the present day. The Home kit was first introduced during the Buffaslug era as an alternate uniform. In 2010, it became their official Home uniform, while a white variation was added for the Away. The overall design is similar to that of their inaugural season, albeit with thicker striping on the jerseys and simplified striping on the socks – one batch of three stripes, instead of a Leafs-esque 3 x 3. The Sabres have chosen to stick with Reebok Edge ideals with the addition of “silver” (grey?) vertical piping on the sweaters. That said, this design choice is innocuous enough not to ruin the jerseys altogether. Equally odd are the player numbers on the top-left of the jersey (or the top-right if you’re wearing one right now). A holdover from the Buffaslug days, they break up the cleanliness of the look, though they are not particularly offensive to the eye.
The colour scheme retains the gold of the originals, but shifts from royal blue to navy. NHL teams have, generally, a pretty brutal history of creating dark-themed jerseys (Dallas, anyone? How about Anaheim? Buffalo, however, has pulled this one off rather nicely. The gold accents are bright and bold enough to offset the darkening, though a vertical gold stripe on the pants – and perhaps a gold shoulder outline on the Home jerseys, such as the accenting on Carolina’s old duds – would be welcome. Overall though, it is a pretty simple, relatively clean design. No shoulder logo? No problem. Buffalo has really done right by their fans and oh wait what was that…
For the love of all things good and pure, STOP WITH THE GREY. And you put it under the arms (and neck), to boot! Now it just looks like your players are sweating all over the joint. Maybe that’s why your team doesn’t score, none of your players want to raise their arms! Since when does grey ever make anything better?!
Sabres fans… I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry.