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The History of the Hockey Sweater

SEATTLE – Does anyone remember the Gordie Howe Red Wings sweater from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?” Well, while owning sports jerseys is common now, they weren’t as readily available in retail stores until the late 1980s/early 1990s. The Red Wings sweater worn by the Cameron Frye in the film was actually sent by request from Howe to the movie’s producers. The movie’s director, John Hughes, grew up watching the Red Wings and wanted to procure the sweater for Cameron’s character. 


For today’s sports fans, wearing a jersey is one of the many signs of fandom. With one article of clothing, you can make it clear which team you support and, more specifically, which player helps cement your allegiance to that team. Sometimes the jersey is current; sometimes, a throwback, celebrating a favorite star from your childhood. And, sometimes, a jersey is just a bad decision (those Chone Figgins M’s jerseys you still see people wearing unironically at T-Mobile Park).


With a new hockey team preparing for its first season in Seattle, we know Kraken fans are anxiously awaiting their first chance to purchase authentic team sweaters. We also want to share the good news that we will have them available for purchase this summer! 


However, while we are fired up to be able to provide authentic Kraken sweaters, we had to ask ourselves, what’s the story behind the hockey sweater?


So, we did a little research. 


The hockey sweater is called a sweater instead of a jersey (though some still insist it’s a jersey) because that’s quite literally what hockey players wore originally. The game was played outside, so the athletes wore wool-knit sweaters.


While the material has evolved over the years, the word sweater became more commonly used than jersey. The hockey sweater is so iconic in Canada, there is a famous short story by Roch Carrier called exactly that: “The Hockey Sweater.” Published in 1979, it is a personal story about Carrier and his friends all wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys featuring the No. 9, which was worn by star Maurice “Rocket” Richard.


Carrier wore his sweater so often, he eventually needed a replacement. But, instead of a new Richard jersey, the department store shipped him a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Imagine a Huskies fan ordering a new football jersey and getting a Ducks jersey instead.It wasn’t ideal. 


Speaking of Montreal’s hockey franchise, the Habs are actually tied to Seattle’s hockey history, because in 1917, the Metropolitans defeated the Canadiens to win America’s first Stanley Cup. 


And now, starting this fall, Seattle will have NHL hockey again with the Kraken slated to start play when the puck drops on the 2021-22 season. Soon, a new generation of Seattle sports fans will be able to rep their favorite player. But whose names will fans want on the backs of the jerseys? Time will tell. One thing is certain, when authentic jerseys are available, we’ll have you covered.  

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