Greatest Uniforms in Sports, No. 1: Montreal Canadiens

MacDonald-Stewart/Hockey Hall of Fame

A good uniform grabs your attention. A great one is the stuff that indelible memories are made of. Those are the tests for other threads that cover the backs of sport’s best, but not the Montreal Canadiens sweater. No, the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge has forever been the one that all other uniforms are measured against.

One need only hear mention of the team to form a mental picture of a player in that sweater. Depending on the age of the fan, different players will be skating through the frame. For fans of a certain age, iconic images of Rocket Richard and Jean Béliveau will be evoked. Later generations will envision Guy Lafleur or Serge Savard or other stars of the dynastic Habitants of the ’70s, or maybe Patrick Roy, who conjured Cup victories in ’86 and ’93. The cascade of stars has seared on our cortexes the C-H logo and the vibrant colors that matched the games they played.

The Canadiens are the exception to a rule that applies to good but not great teams. Each has a defining player, a face of the franchise that endures from the past or still plays on. Some might have a couple. Not the Canadiens. In part, that owes to sheer numbers: just too many championship teams, too many trophy winners and all-stars. In equal part and less obviously that owes to the franchise’s ethos: The Canadiens were nobody’s star vehicle but rather the sport’s greatest ensemble. The only constants, it seemed, were winning and the sweater.

That said, the Canadiens have made subtle tweaks over the past 50 years—the position of the stripe, the cut around the neck. In the team’s first half-century, however, they wore sweaters you’d never guess had been worn by the home team at the Forum. In their earliest days, their crest was, yes, a maple leaf set on red. Later the team went with a barber-pole sweater that made opponents and probably spectators dizzy. They tried diagonal stripes down the front—something that would look good on a crossing guard—and a globe as the crest denoting a world championship.

Changes again? Possible, but unthinkable. When this list is revisited at the end of the century, it will be a scramble among countless franchises to see whose sweater is first runner-up to the Canadiens’.

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.