It was the 1995-1996 season when it all started. The NHL, coming off a shortened 48 game season due to the 1st NHL lockout, was looking for a way to connect with new fans and show that it was on the cutting edge of sports technology. So the NHL created the first ever "3rd Jersey"... a new jersey that would be worn a limited amount of times during the season by a limited number of teams. Since very little information from 1995 is available on the internet, I got the real story about the 3rd Jersey program from where I get most of my NHL news... the Pavel Bure Fan Club website.
The NHL would design the jerseys, keeping the choices for look away from the individual teams' marketing departments. They would be worn for special games and the NHL imagined the program to be wildly successful. Here are the jerseys from NHLUniforms.com.
And in a flash... this Los Angeles Kings cult classic was born:
The Royal Half has always had a passion for this particular 3rd Jersey. If you have the slightest interest in this unusual Kings logo... find out why today was an amazing day at Staples... after the jump!
Let me set the stage for the times we were living in during the 1995-1996 season. Well, sometimes a video is worth a 1000 words.
And if that doesn't take you back to how hockey was played in 1995 and 1996, maybe this will.
So, on Saturday, January 27th, 1996, the Los Angeles Kings took on the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim at the Great Western Forum... and the NHL 3rd Jersey Era was born.
Obviously the 3rd jerseys were a complete marketing disaster. Only the Boston Bruins would wear their 3rd jersey past the 1996-1997 season. And let's not even mention the 3rd Jersey the NHL created for the St. Louis Blues... that never saw the light of day on the ice.
I thought I said not to mention it.
But the 2 jerseys that were featured in that game on January 27th, have probably become the most reviled jerseys from the lot that were introduced during the 1995-1996 season. (Well, maybe this one too.) And for many Kings fans... this failed jersey has taken on a life of its own.
Nicknamed the "Burger King" jersey for its logo's resemblance to the recent mascot of Burger King, this jersey has both captivated and repulsed Los Angeles Kings fans since it's debut in 1996. For myself, I've always hated the jersey... but loved the logo, even using it as my defacto logo for the site... until Bloguin and the awesome Stephen Slesinski made me a fancier, non-lawsuit-er logo for my site. Looking back on it, I think my love for the logo came the first time I saw this photo.
Just a couple of dudes hanging out wearing a hockey jersey with a beauty pageant sash on it. No biggie.
Yup, that's Jari Kurri and Robert Lang on the far right.
So when I found out that this Sundays game against the Nashville Predators was going to be Burger King Jersey Appreciation Day, I knew I had to seek out the men and women who wear this jersey with pride. Life in Hockeywood did an excellent breakdown of the in's and out's of this jersey... but I had to see it with my own eyes... and man... was it glorious.
They came from all walks of life... and with different numbers on their back... but they were all awesome. These are Kings Super Fans... people who can embrace a franchise that until recently... has looked just as ridiculous as these jerseys.
I talked with the organizer of Burger King Jersey Appreciation Day, SirJW, about the love for this rare jersey.
"It's because it's kitschy, it's like a train wreck, it's so bad it's good."
I also asked him about how the day came together.
"Somebody started a thread [on LetsgoKings.com] about how much is a Burger King jersey worth and the conversation had been going on for a couple weeks. So I said let's all wear em."
Owner of 4(!) Burger King Jerseys, including a game-worn Rob Blake, Tom91381 talked about why he loves the jersey and why Bob Miller hates it.
"It's so ugly that not everybody wanted it or has them... they didn't make a lot of them so therefore it's a little bit more desirable. You know when you have a little desire, that brings the value to it. I paid like 70 bucks for one but the game issue [Rob Blake] was a lot more, but it's one of one."
"I talked to Bob Miller about it and he said he didn't like it because of the swooping in the back you couldn't see the numbers... He didn't know how to call the game as well."
And what about the future of Burger King Jersey Appreciation Day?
"Frozen Fury, we're going to try get some interest to wear them there. We'll see."
And then... in true fashion of a mid-90's Los Angeles Kings team... Marty McSorley showed up late.
"Sorry guys, I was at Harry O's."
Whether you love the Burger King jersey or hate it... there is no denying the event was a great success. And if anyone reading this has an extra one for sale... I'd love to buy it so I can wear it next time. I know that Chris Kontos never got the chance to wear this jersey, but man, would one look great with his name and #15 on the back. And since this was Appreciation Day... there is nothing better than a Gretzky-Kurri give and go... no matter what jersey it's in.