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Review: The Tampa Bay Lightning’s new black alternate jerseys

Well, they’re not the worst things we’ve ever seen. (Looking at you, Buccaneers.)
The Lightning will wear its black alternate jersey Saturday night when it plays the Penguins at Amalie Arena. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Feb. 8
Updated Feb. 11

So on Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning finally unveiled its new alternate jersey. The black is back. But so is the gradient concept we thought died with the Devil Rays.

By Tampa Bay sports standards, the jerseys aren’t horrible. By best-team-in-hockey standards, they’re a missed opportunity.

Oh, the team will sell a bunch of them, so in that sense, no one in the organization has retreated to an Amalie Arena restroom to sob uncontrollably. A Stanley Cup contender, however, deserves a jersey that is several degrees better than one that looks like a sweatshirt you might find on a department-store clearance rack.

Indeed, the sweaters, which start at $130 at shop.nhl.com, have a few things going for them. Among those things:

• The Lightning didn’t take a perfectly good look and butcher it like the Buccaneers did. #FixTheBucsUnis #ForTheChildren

• They’re black — excuse me, “midnight black” — the same color the 2004 Stanley Cup champions wore. You can’t go wrong by leaning into nostalgia.

• Making the crest and numbers iridescent is a sharp idea, even if the effect is lost on television. It’s a gimmick, of course, but it’s a gimmick that actually has a purpose — to mimic flashes of lightning.

On those elements alone, the Adidas design team had the makings of a solid jersey. However, the person who suggested incorporating a gradient pattern on the sleeves should have been cross-checked. The sublimated “raindrop” pattern on the crest and numbers is fine — and better up-close — but the sleeves resemble TV static.

Apparently no one told these guys that we’ve already tried the gradient thing. Back in the late ’90s. When it was cool. And it still didn’t work.

Granted, the expansion Devil Rays tried to use every color in the rainbow and the Lightning is using only black and gray. Even so, name one team in professional (or collegiate) sports that has ever pulled off a gradient pattern. It hasn’t worked, and it will never work. The only people who think gradients are a good idea are people who like to make text fly during PowerPoint presentations.

Give credit to the Lightning and Adidas for pushing the design and opening themselves to criticism. They could have taken the home uniforms and swapped out the blue for black and called it a day. Let’s hope, though, that this design is just a start and that it will evolve in the next season or two, especially to correct the lack of contrast between the base of the jersey and the name and numbers.

In the meantime, the Lightning has a more important uniform upgrade on which to focus: adding a Stanley Cup Final patch.

It will wear the jersey six more times during the regular season: Saturday (vs. the Penguins), Feb. 16 (vs. the Canadiens), March 2 (vs. the Senators), March 9 (vs. the Red Wings), March 16 (vs. the Capitals) and March 30 (vs. the Capitals).

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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