NHL set to unveil new form-fitting uniforms after three years of work

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The Nashville Predators forward and his teammates tested them this season and Dumont feels the new form-fitting jerseys and socks from Reebok will be a hit. "It looks really good," Dumont said Tuesday from Nashville. "I was surprised because I was hearing that they would be more fitted and I was thinking they might be too tight. But they feel really comfortable."

Reebok and the NHL will give a sneak peak to a small media contingent Wednesday in New York before the full-fledged media launch Monday in Dallas during the all-star festivities.

What exactly is in store for the league's 700 players next season?

More form-fitting socks and a more streamlined jersey with a material that's lighter, very breathable, water resistant, and more flexible.

The new uniforms aren't nearly as radical as the original concept. That's because the players got involved in the process.

"It's something that they've worked with the players to improve," said Buffalo Sabres centre Daniel Briere. "I think they did it the right way where they asked a lot of questions, they asked for feedback from us, tried to find out what the guys liked and what the guys didn't like about the jerseys to try and make it work."

There will surely still be critics - some players may be resistant to change - but the shock value dissipated when the original idea of tucked-in jerseys went by the wayside after the players politely gave them the thumbs-down. Jerseys worn out, please.

Still, the new form-fitting sweaters are different than the traditional baggy ones. Briere, whose Sabres squad also tested the new uniforms, says the cut of the jersey will likely stand out the most for fans.

"These are more fitted to each player. It's just a different cut, I think that's the thing that's going to jump out from the people's point of view," Briere said. "It'll be interesting to see how the fans react to it."

The new uniforms will be worn at the Jan. 24 all-star game in Dallas and then next season by all players.

"They're really extendable," said Dumont. "Every movement you make, it doesn't bother you at all.

"And the waterproof thing is great. That's something we should have had a few years ago, it's unbelievable."

While the jerseys are tighter than the current baggy ones, Dumont says they're not constricting.

"Even though it's a fitted jersey you're not stuck in them, you're able to move around really well," Dumont said. "And it's really light. I know right now here in Nashville, our third jersey gets really heavy when it's wet. These new jerseys will be great."

They're apparently not as tight-fitting as the Nike jerseys worn by Canada's NHL stars at last February's Turin Olympics.

"I just don't want them to make us look like robots out there, the Olympic ones were too tight I thought," said Edmonton Oilers star Ryan Smyth, who played on the Olympic team.

The "new uniform system" as the league calls it, has been three years in the making. Originally slated to be in use for this season, the NHL wisely held off as Reebok modified and tested with players to get it right. Or so they hope.

By all accounts the communication process between Reebok, the NHL and the NHL Players' Association has been smooth and no one is complaining behind the scenes.

"We've worked closely with the league in the testing process of the jersey," said Mike Gartner, director of hockey affairs at the NHLPA and the union's point man on the new uniforms. "More than half of our players have worn them in practice and have made comments and suggestions which the league and Reebok have made adjustments on."

Credit the NHL for holding back the launch this season and getting the players more involved in testing. Just look at what happened with the NBA and its failed new ball. The players were not involved in testing and ultimately the complaints prompted the league to switch back to the old ball.

Last summer, Reebok reps attended the NHLPA's player meetings in Whistler, B.C., so that players could provide input. In addition, both Gartner and Vincent Damphousse, the NHLPA's director of business relations, have attended team practices where the new uniforms were tested by the players this season.


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