Hockey logo culture can’t be topped by other major pro sports. Who else gets to stitch big, fat, beautiful team crests on the middle of their uniforms? Logos are relegated to helmets in the NFL and often take on word form on NBA and MLB duds. In soccer, the real estate belongs to ads. We’re fortunate in hockey to get such impressive canvases upon which to display team insignia.
We thus should not take logos for granted. In ranking them, we should hold them to a particularly high standard. Anything that looks like a little kid could’ve drawn it in five minutes must be punished, as should a lazy, uninspired design, a.k.a. any logo that simply consists of a word. The Washington Capitals, for instance, rocked a magnificent screaming eagle as their primary logo from 1995-96 to 2001-02 but have book-ended that era with the words ‘Washington Capitals’ comprising most of their crest. Why do that when you have a friggin’ eagle at your disposal?
Any aesthetic ranking, of course, is a subjective process, so you’ll find contradictions on this list. The Montreal Canadiens symbol is just a ‘C’ and an ‘H’ forming a sandwich, but there are history and pride associated with it that few teams can match. If a team came out with that type of logo in 2020, it would be a laughingstock. So there’s an Original Six bias to this list. Every one of those teams cracks the top half. Nostalgia isn’t the only way to score points, however. Logos that are (a) fun, (b) artistically beautiful and (c) connect to cities’ history earn top marks. Beware the amorphous blob logo. That works for Jackson Pollock, not hockey.
1. Detroit Red Wings
A logo so perfect it has its own nickname, ‘The Winged Wheel.’ Aesthetically beautiful and honors the Motor City.
2. San Jose Sharks
You had us at “shark.” It bites a stick with cartoonish menace. The triangle background reps the Bay Area trifecta cities.
3. Winnipeg Jets
The NHL’s classiest logo pays homage to the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the compass needle points to True North.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
The skating Penguin is simply fun, and switching back to the classic, lively orangey-yellow in 2016-17 makes it pop.
5. Montreal Canadiens
Sometimes, even if a logo isn’t much to look at, it’s so synonymous with hockey history that its meaning trumps its look.
6. Minnesota Wild
Busy, ambitious, beautiful. Nature scene looks good up close, and the wild-animal silhouette looks good from afar.
7. Florida Panthers
The crest is clean and jives with the 2016-17 uniform redesign. The majestic, stoic cat even looks like Coach ‘Q’!
8. Ottawa Senators
More Roman Centurion than Senator. Little to do with parliament. But deserves more credit. The warrior is fierce.
9. Boston Bruins
The spoked ‘B’ certainly isn’t an exotic design, but it’s so ingrained in Boston sports culture that it’s iconic.
10. Arizona Coyotes
It’s no Kachina Coyote, but the art is impressive. You can practically hear the howl. It’s elemental.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
An obvious classic, and reviving the old-school look in 2016-17 was smart, but the text is a bit droopy and sad, isn’t it?
12. St. Louis Blues
Not the most exciting logo, but a music note represents the city, and no other NHL team has anything like it.
13. Chicago Blackhawks
Legendary, but these aren’t jersey rankings, and some find it offensive to Native Americans. Time for a change?
14. New York Rangers
Shield and diagonal text form one of the most imitated logos in sports. Rangers have barely touched it in 90-plus years.
15. Vegas Golden Knights
Playing it safe on expansion logo isn’t very “Vegas.” But the helmet is sleek. The ‘V’ in the negative space is a nice touch.
16. New Jersey Devils
Cheesier than expected from a team named after a scary myth. Points for never straying from the interlocked N-J.
17. Dallas Stars
Far from iconic, and pretty literal with the ‘D’ and a star, but it’s pleasing to the eyes. Crest looks great on a sweater.
18. Nashville Predators
Sharp design inspired by prehistoric fossil found in the city. Still very 1990s ‘Xtreme,’ even after 2011 tone-down.
19. Buffalo Sabres
Gets by on nostalgia. But can Buffalo sports teams finally just admit they all want to be called the Buffalo Buffalos?
20. Calgary Flames
Considering the concept is literally fire, a modest ‘C,’ with flames that look a bit too much like hair, is disappointing.
21. Vancouver Canucks
Most teams with letter logos use the letter of their city, not the nickname. Is that why the totem orca ‘C’ falls a bit flat?
22. Philadelphia Flyers
Overrated? It has built up long-term equity and symbolizes a raucous fan base, but it’s really just a rudimentary shape.
23. Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s tidy with a shape that lends well to a crest. But it’s so simple that it borders on boring. Lightning is not boring.
24. Carolina Hurricanes
Hurricanes aren’t the easiest thing to draw, and this logo does it decently. That doesn’t say much. Abstract blob alert.
25. Edmonton Oilers
First “logo is a word” offender on the list. At least Edmonton stylizes the word ‘Oilers’ with the reflection effect.
26. New York Islanders
Props for repping the Long Island map. The props end there. This logo is just plain ugly. Bring back the fisherman?
27. Colorado Avalanche
The Rocky Mountains should inspire a breathtaking logo. Instead, someone spilled milk on the letter ‘A.’ Lame.
28. Anaheim Ducks
“You don’t get it,” apologists have told me. “It’s a duck foot and a ‘D.’ ” That doesn’t matter when neither looks any good.
29. Columbus Blue Jackets
Step 1: open blender. Step 2: empty stars and stripes into blender. Step 3: mix into a mess of an NHL logo. Sigh.
30. Los Angeles Kings
The appealing crown gets secondary billing on the crest in favor of… letters drawn by hand…by a five-year-old?
31. Washington Capitals
Words-based logo in cold, futuristic font is bad enough. Extra frustrating since Caps’ alternate logos are so great.