Nashville Predators: Sweaters or Jerseys?

Dec 31, 2015; Defenseman P.K. Subban (76) skates on the ice during practice the day prior to the Winter Classic hockey game. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2015; Defenseman P.K. Subban (76) skates on the ice during practice the day prior to the Winter Classic hockey game. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators are still a relatively young team in NHL years.

Although the Nashville Predators seem like they’ve been around forever for most Nashville fans, they started in 1998.  The “Original Six” teams started in the NHL way back in 1942. That’s 56 years before the Preds and a lot of those teams fans still don’t believe there should be hockey in the South. But that’s another story.

Most citizens of Smashville have probably never even thought about calling the uniform that the Nashville Predators wear anything other than a “Jersey” but older teams and their fans may have grown up calling them “Sweaters”.

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Recently, NHL on NBC sent out a Tweet asking a simple question:

There were more than a hundred replies, some quite testy about which was correct.  There were many photos of what were Sweaters and such.  It can be a lighting rod of a question for many fans.

For some older fans, there is a line between Canadians and Americans, traditional or new fans, and hardcore or bandwagon fans on this subject.  That may not actually be fair.

Back in 2011 according the website Beg to Differ, the Ottawa Senators introduced their new “heritage jersey” – which obviously had the retro styling of a classic hockey sweater. That caused an uproar that even the then Prime Minister of Canada chimed in that it is called a Sweater.

When hockey started on frozen ponds in Canada, the players wore heavy woolen knit sweaters to keep themselves warm.  When the NHL started, most folks called the uniforms “Sweaters”.  When you went out on the ice to play, you pulled on your Hockey Sweater.

Another little part of our hockey heritage is gone.” – Don Cherry in Mental Floss Article

Later in the 1970’s and 80, the NHL started experimenting with lighter fibers and knits that allowed players to move better, help with breathability and also allow a different, brighter look.  It was around then that most people started calling the uniforms jerseys instead of sweaters. Let’s face it, they were a long way from those thick sweaters worn on the ponds.

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By then, uniforms had been called jerseys by football and basketball for a long time. According to this Mental Floss article, the term “Jersey” actually originated from an island in the United Kingdom known for making tightly woven, warm articles of clothing that seamen wore to keep warm. As they became popular outerwear they became synonymous with sweaters.

Football in America needed strong and warm clothing and adopted thick wool “jerseys”. The name stuck and even light flannel baseball uniforms took on the name.  Now almost all sport call their uniforms jerseys.

There are still diehard hockey fans that won’t fall in with the crowd, though.  Noted longtime NHL commentator Don Cherry was quoted in the Mental Floss article as saying:

"“[Hockey] sweaters are now called jerseys, if you can believe it, and we’ve sort of accepted that. But in Canada, it was always called a sweater… Americans used jerseys when they were playing football; then, when they finally got around to playing hockey, they used the same name. Nowadays, most kids call sweaters jerseys. Another little part of our hockey heritage is gone.”"

It is an argument that may die out as the younger fans become the older fans but it is an interesting part of hockey heritage.

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The next time you pull on your Preds jersey, think back to when they were called “Sweaters”.