NHL Vintage Jersey Typography Research

Written by Jonathan Collins

September 21, 2022

In May 2018, the Fanatics Brands Jersey Product Development (PD) found itself in a bind and approached my manager for help to release their products on time. PD asked help with creating letter and number components for their vintage NHL replica jerseys that did not already have assets supplied to them. Their full ask included original research and creating vector art resources from nothing except a few pieces of information for each jersey colorway they wished to produce:

  1. a time period
  2. players that played in the NHL, and
  3. NHL team.

While the product developers concerned themselves with fabric color accuracy, cut, sew, strike-offs and other development concerns, they really needed the letter and number assets created by someone who would get it right for their needs.

There were no official typeface assets, brand guides, or vector references from the NHL for vintage jersey artwork except for existing or planned throwback third jerseys designed by Adidas. Companies such as Silver Crystal, which creates apparel components amongst other services, may have had similar internal research and development, but were unlikely to share such materials.

As one who steps up to challenges and enjoys novel tasks and projects, I took on both tasks to research the team jersey era and recreate production-ready vector assets for use on replica jerseys and standard name and number apparel products.

Over a two-week period I recreated about 7 different Jersey Eras’ typography A-Z, 0-9 Back numbers, 0-9 TV numbers. The resulting resources referenced auctioned game-worn jerseys, Getty images, trading cards, and other references I was able to compile from the internet. Back numbers were separately developed from TV numbers (on the shoulders or sleeves) and an alphabet A-Z matched what fans would interpret as accurate to team’s era. I applied advanced typography-creation methods, measurements, and sound reasoning to make the art extremely accurate.

It was my intention as a fan of the NHL to invest in the task and to be true to what a Fan of the team from that era loved and remembered. The fan, as the theory was at the time between me and my manager, should be able to look at the real jersey, recognize the type, and numbers and the replica would match.

Shown below are screenshot from the Philadelphia Flyers’ 1973-1977 era home jersey.

This work is used today on NHL vintage jersey replicas (original link and archive link) and on vintage NHL apparel replica products at Fanatics Brands.

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