June 23, 2014

2014 Hockey jersey buyer's guide

By Phil Shore

Classic or modern, hockey sweaters are unifying forces. (Getty Images)

Sports jerseys are a hot commodity and talking point for fans. Debates are held on whether fans like the new duds or not. Entire websites are devoted to showcasing the jersey and its progression over the years.

No sport has a more unique jersey than hockey. It’s so revered that it is the driving force in a Canadian short story believed to be an allegory for tense relationships between French- and English-speaking Canadians in the late 1970s.

The story, written by Roch Carrier, was named, fittingly, “The Hockey Sweater” and has sold more than 250,000 copies.

“The jersey is the most tangible and visible representation of a team or a program,” said Chris Bonvino, president of Gemini Athletic Wear. “The history and aesthetics of jerseys is fascinating to me, and of all the major sports, hockey pays homage to the history of its sport with alternate jerseys quantifiably more often than in any other sport.”

The jersey takes a collection of individuals and — even if their play doesn’t necessarily show it  — makes them a united group.

A sense of pride comes with putting on the jersey, especially one with such tradition wrapped up in it. The old adage rings true that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back.

The pride the jersey can give an individual isn’t just one in the team’s history. It can also give a player a sense of pride and confidence in himself. As the saying goes, if you look good, you’ll play good.

“For NCAA or minors or anyone, when you put your jersey on, you represent the team’s spirit,” said Guy Darveau, VP of sales and marketing of SP Apparel. “With policemen and firemen, when they put their uniform on, they feel special that they will do their best for the team.”

With all the tradition that is involved in the hockey jersey, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any evolution or creativity going on in the industry.

Gemini Athletic Wear offers a variety of hockey jersey styles, including “Traditional” and “Vintage.” There’s also a style called “Evolution.” On the website, the caption for this style reads, “This is the next generation of hockey jerseys. We have taken everything that you used to know about your jersey and turned it on its side!”

Bonvino explained in more detail:“The Evolution and our Pro-cut jersey lines are stream-lined body cuts that have been engineered purely for functionality,” he said. “While this is subjective, the articulated, cap-cut shoulders and drop-tail hems are more form fitting than our traditional jerseys, and we’ve had only positive feedback respective to the fit.”

When someone talks about a hockey jersey, one might think of the heavy sweater material with embroidered crests, names and numbers. That is still an option, but the tackle twill stitching isn’t the only way for a uniform to be designed.

Dye sublimation, a process popular with lacrosse and soccer jerseys, transfers designs, logos and lettering straight from the printer into the jersey material. Unlike screen-printed jerseys, what is sublimated isn’t extra material and won’t peel; once it is transferred, it is actually a part of the jersey material.

It is becoming a popular option in the design of uniforms.

“The fabric we use for the traditional jersey, we buy the raw material with the color (the customer is) looking for,” said Darveau. “But with sublimation, we just need a white shirt. You look inside the jersey and it’s a shade of white. The ink is pressed on the top of the jersey. You can use a team picture and we can print the jersey. You can wash it 600 times and it will look like it did when it was brand new.”

And because the design isn’t extra material, it also doesn’t add weight to the uniform, which goes along with current hockey trends.

“The jersey is lighter than with the embroidered numbers,” Darveau said. “The skates are lighter, the equipment is lighter, so why should the jersey be heavy?”

Dye sublimation, which Gemini also offers, also allows for the teams and designers to be more creative and allow for a more unique look for each team.

“Unlike jerseys in most other sports, hockey jerseys are specifically custom on multiple levels,” Bonvino said. “In addition to the front logos, number fonts, etc., there are a multitude of details with respect to the body cuts, striping configurations, custom fabrics and type of neck.”

As the hockey jersey truly taps into a team’s history, teams are looking more for unique designs and logos to set them apart from others and truly create their own traditions and look.

“Minor hockey associations or high schools or prep schools, they all want custom uniforms,” said Darveau. “They don’t want to look like any NHL team with color or pattern. And it’s the same thing in Canada. They all want their own identity.”

Another trend the manufacturers see — one that goes along with customization — is the use of more alternate jerseys or jerseys for special occasions, like breast cancer awareness or other similarly themed events.

“With the advent of many outdoor and special occasion games, we are making more third and even fourth alternate jerseys than we have in the past,” Bonvino said.

The jersey is designed to make the players and the teams feel proud to be a part of the organization. Making the jerseys, however, also provides a great deal of pride for designing the creations to make others happy.

Darveau said that a little more than 50 percent of the people working at SP Apparel have worked there for at least 10 years, and Bonvino said he sees the same passion from the workers at Gemini.

“While hockey jerseys are by some viewed as a commodity, we look at each of our products as unique, collaborative works of art and have a great deal of pride and passion for what we do,” Bonvino said. “From our designers to our cutting tables to our sewing and lettering departments, each of the people who work on these products are highly skilled and experienced in their positions and truly take pride in the finished products.”

SP Apparel


Custom and special event jersey

SP apparel produces special custom event jersey of your choice, knitted or sublimated. Available in pro or team jersey. Made with high-performance 100 percent polyester fabric. Flo-knit or double-knit swiss pique.

Custom FIT jersey

New jersey design to maximize aeration to the athlete with FIT Mesh insertion. Give a better comfort. High-performance, superior density, 100 percent polyester double knit fabric. Anatomically FIT to integrate shoulder and elbow padding.

FIT socks/sublimated knitted hockey pant shell

SP FIT hockey socks with FIT stretch mesh, available to the athlete for better performance and comfort. The best FIT for hockey pant shell, knitted or sublimated, create the design you want.

Gemini Athletic Wear


New Pro-fit series cut


  • Moisture-wicking Flow Knit fabric double shoulder, double elbow
  • Completely cover-stitched.
  • Coordinating Flow Knit 2 gussets and shoulders
  • 3-color tackle twill, front and shoulder logo, sleeve and back numbers.
  • Manufactured in USA


Authentic collegiate


  • Traditional-style game jersey
  • Moisture-wicking Flow Knit fabric
  • Double shoulder, double elbow, completely cover-stitched
  • Coordinating eyelet mesh gussets
  • 2-color tackle twill, front and sleeve and back numbers
  • Manufactured in USA


Sublimated game quality

  • High-quality game jersey
  • Same fabric as cut and sew
  • Shoulder logo, name, number included
  • Special occasion — 3rd jersey
  • Fully customizable, other designs available
  • Manufactured in USA

This article originally appeared in the June edition of the New England Hockey Journal. Click here to access the FREE digital edition.