In the National Hockey League, the oft-cited credo is that the logo on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back, because hockey culture prioritizes teams over individuals at every juncture. Perhaps that’s why star players are synonymous with certain teams, as the name on the back is partially defined by the logo on the front.
But professional sports are a transactional business. Rare is the NHL player who spends the entirety of his career with one team. Trades happen. Free agency happens. You always pictured them in one sweater, and now they’re wearing another — as is the case with Joe Pavelski joining the Dallas Stars this season (among other examples). Sometimes that image is added to our collective memory. Most times it’s an image we just want to delete.
Here are some of the biggest names in hockey who wore random jerseys during their careers. We’ve applied our Weird-o-Meter to each. A “1” means the jersey was a good fit. A “10” means the human mind can’t conceive how this happened.
Wayne Gretzky, St. Louis Blues
How this happened: Also known as “The Other Gretzky Trade.” Late in the 1995-96 season, the Los Angeles Kings sent a 35-year-old Gretzky to the Blues for three players and two draft picks.
The fit: The Blues were loaded with stars, including Brett Hull, Al MacInnis and Gretzky’s old Oilers teammate Grant Fuhr. The Great One had 21 points in 18 games and 16 more in 13 playoff games, but the Blues won only one of their final 12 regular-season games down the stretch and then were ousted in the second round by the Detroit Red Wings. Game 7 ended in double-overtime after a Gretzky neutral-zone turnover, one noted by coach Mike Keenan. That offseason, Gretzky signed with the Rangers, for whom he played the final three seasons of his career.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 10. A strange, almost surreal pit stop in Gretzky’s cross-country journey from Los Angeles to New York. They still wear Gretzky jerseys in St. Louis. It’s still weird.
Bernie Federko, Detroit Red Wings
How this happened: After 13 years building a Hall of Fame career with the St. Louis Blues, Federko was traded to the Detroit Red Wings on June 15, 1989, with winger Tony McKegney for winger Paul MacLean and a promising 26-year-old center named Adam Oates.
The fit: Considered one of the worst trades in NHL history, a clearly cooked Federko played one season for Detroit, scoring 57 points, his lowest total since 1978, in 73 games. (MacLean actually outscored him with the Blues!) Oates would play until 2004, finish with 1,420 career points and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012, joining Federko there.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 10. Federko is practically Mr. Blue, still leading the franchise in games played and points while currently serving as a television analyst for St. Louis. Seeing him in any other jersey was wrong. Seeing him in the jersey of an archrival like Detroit was — to put it in St. Louis terms — like seeing a Budweiser poured into a can of Pabst.
Mike Modano, Detroit Red Wings
How this happened: Modano had the perfect farewell with the Dallas Stars. The last game of the 2009-10 season was in Minnesota, and Modano was named the first star and saluted the crowd while wearing a North Stars jersey. But he still had the itch, and when he didn’t re-sign with the Stars it was off to the Red Wings on a one-year deal.
The fit: Modano became a spare part with the Winged Wheel, skating 12:27 per game on average and scoring four goals in 40 games. His season was interrupted for three months after he underwent wrist surgery. It would be his last in the NHL.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 10. It’s still frustrating to think about how Modano had his storybook ending and then decided to write another chapter. He would sign a one-day contract with the Stars the next season in order to retire and correct the error.
Mats Sundin, Vancouver Canucks
How this happened: After refusing to waive his no-trade clause, denying the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs the chance to flip him at the trade deadline, Sundin hit unrestricted free agency in 2008. He weighed his options, including retirement, but in December he chose the Canucks and their cap space over the New York Rangers for his 18th NHL season.
The fit: Sundin had nine goals and 19 assists in 41 games for Vancouver, adding eight points in eight playoff games before the Canucks were eliminated in six games in the second round. He would retire in September 2009.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 9. His refusal to leave Toronto made one wonder whether he’d retire with a Leaf on his chest. Instead, the Hall of Famer wore the Orca for one more season. And it was weird, for sure.
Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings
How this happened: After Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk declared that he couldn’t afford to give Alfredsson the contract he wanted and still add high-priced talent to make the team better, Alfie peaced out and signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings in 2014.
The fit: At 41, Alfredsson had 49 points in 68 games and played three more in the postseason, fitting in well with the other eight Swedes on the team.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 8. While seeing Alfredsson retire in a Red Wings uniform was unexpected, since many assumed he’d be a career Senator, one simply can’t underestimate how Melnyk’s frugality can lead to strange sights.
Peter Forsberg, Nashville Predators
How this happened: The Hall of Fame center had played with just two franchises since arriving in the NHL in 1994: Quebec/Colorado and the Philadelphia Flyers. In 2007, Forsberg was still a viable offensive star, but one slowed by chronic foot problems. After a meeting with Flyers owner Ed Snider about his future, the pending unrestricted free agent was sent to Nashville in a trade deadline blockbuster.
The fit: He had 15 points in 17 regular-season games with the Predators, and then four points in their five-game playoff defeat to San Jose.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 8. One of the more effective weird jersey rentals for a superstar player, Forsberg would set the world back on its axis by rejoining the Colorado Avalanche for the final two years of his career.
Brett Hull, Phoenix Coyotes
How this happened: In 2004, the Coyotes were willing to give a 40-year-old Hull a second contract year as a free agent. The Dallas Stars were only offering one.
The fit: Hull signed before the 2004-05 season was wiped out by a lockout. He returned at 41 years old, played five ineffective games and then told his close friend and coach Wayne Gretzky that he was retiring.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 7. This was Hull’s fifth NHL team. While seeing him in a Coyotes sweater was a bit odd, he was far from the only NHL veteran seeking a comfortable life of warm weather, high wages, golf and occasional hockey in Arizona; ask Curtis Joseph, Mike Ricci, Owen Nolan and Jeremy Roenick.
Eric Lindros, Dallas Stars
How this happened: In Philadelphia, he was a franchise player. With the Rangers, he was a star acquisition. In Toronto, he was the native son returning to Ontario. But at 33 years old with Dallas in 2006, he was on a one-year contract and a bargain free agent, admittedly just one of the guys.
The fit: Concussions had slowed Lindros through the years, and he played just 49 games in 2006-07 and scored a career-low five goals.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 7. After stops with Eastern Conference standard-bearers, it was strange to see Lindros in the West and as a limited-minute role player with Dallas.
Igor Larionov, Florida Panthers
How this happened: The 39-year-old center signed a free-agent deal with the Panthers in 2000. After five years with the Red Wings, Florida signed him to play with fellow Russian legend Pavel Bure, the league’s top goal-scorer.
The fit: Oh, it was bad. He never clicked with Bure. He clashed philosophically with coach Terry Murray. He lasted 26 games, scoring 11 points, before agreeing to waive his no-trade clause for a move … back to Detroit.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 7. Larionov played for other teams (Canucks, Sharks, Devils) besides Detroit, but the utter disaster of the signing makes this an awkward one.
Jarome Iginla, Los Angeles Kings
How this happened: In 2017, Iginla was in his second season with the Colorado Avalanche, who were in last place. He expressed a desire to play for a playoff team again, having been on the outside of the postseason since 2014, and the Avs traded him to the Kings, who were a few points out of the last wild card.
The fit: Iginla had nine points in 19 games, but alas, the Kings fell just short of the postseason field. He’d officially retire the following summer.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 6. Frankly, the meter should hit a 10 for any jersey Iginla wore outside of the Flames following his time in Calgary, but the Kings were the fourth team he had played for since 2013.
Wendel Clark, Chicago Blackhawks
How this happened: Citing a need for “grit and character,” the Blackhawks signed the former Maple Leafs star to a one-year contract in 1999.
The fit: A bad one. Clark played 13 games with two goals and no assists. His general manager called him out, and he was released. The Leafs, whom he left as a free agent, signed him in January 2000 after that release.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 6. While clearly associated with the Leafs, to the point where his autobiography was called “Bleeding Blue,” he did see time with a few other teams during his career. Plus there’s something very “Chicago” about Wendel’s overall comportment as a player.
Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars
How this happened: The legendary winger had completed a season with the Philadelphia Flyers and was a free agent in the 2012 offseason. His top priority, apparently, was finding a suitor whose state had the best tax benefits for this salary. Enter the Stars.
The fit: Jagr’s first foray into the Western Conference saw him score 26 points in 34 games, leading to a “pump and dump” scenario in which Dallas traded him back East to the Boston Bruins for two players and a first-round pick.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 5. Jagr made his rounds as he got older, including stops in New Jersey, Florida and Calgary in his final NHL season. Well, final season to date. As we’ve often said, when the sun finally explodes, all they’ll find on Earth are cockroaches, Twinkies and Jaromir Jagr playing hockey.
Adam Oates, Philadelphia Flyers
How this happened: Oates was traded by the Washington Capitals on March 19, 2002, to the Philadelphia Flyers for goalie Maxime Ouellet and a first-, second- and third-round pick in the 2002 draft. It was an aggressive response by the Flyers at the trade deadline after injuries to centers Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau.
The fit: Oates had 10 points in 14 regular-season games with the Flyers and two assists in five playoff games. It wasn’t enough to entice Philly to extend a contract to him as a free agent, and off the future Hall of Famer went to Anaheim for the chance to center Paul Kariya and make upwards of $7 million.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 4. Seeing Oates in orange and black is strange, considering he spent less time in Philadelphia than Sam Bradford. But after stops in Boston and Washington — and with stops in Anaheim and Edmonton to come — those visions of Oates dishing dimes to Brett Hull in St. Louis had faded.
Brendan Shanahan, Hartford Whalers
How this happened: The Whalers wanted an elite NHL scorer to generate interest in the team. They had a 20-year-old named Chris Pronger, who they knew had the tools to become an all-time great, but potentially not the commitment. So they sent him to St. Louis for Shanahan, who had had a falling out with coach/GM Mike Keenan.
The fit: Shanahan spent parts of two seasons with Hartford, playing 76 games and scoring 45 goals and 34 assists. But he wanted out of Hartford, and GM Jim Rutherford said “enough is enough” and moved him to Detroit in a deal that brought Keith Primeau and Paul Coffey to Hartford in 1996. Then in 1997, the Whalers moved to Raleigh.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 4. This was Shanahan’s third NHL team after the Devils and Blues, and he’d go on to play with the Red Wings and Rangers. Wearing the Whale wasn’t weird; the duration was.
Jari Kurri, New York Rangers
How this happened: Since the Rangers were continuing to collect every ex-Oilers dynasty star still active in the NHL, it was natural Kurri would join the team after a trade with the Los Angeles Kings in March 1996 — one that saw former Oiler Marty McSorley join the Rangers, too.
The fit: Kurri had one goal in 14 games with the Rangers in the regular season but had eight points in 11 games in the playoffs. The Rangers let Kurri walk after the season, and he signed a one-year deal with the Mighty Ducks before ending his career in Colorado.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 3. Honestly, it wasn’t all that weird to see any former Edmonton star skating for the Blueshirts in the 1990s. If it was good enough for Messier, Gretzky, Lowe, Anderson, Graves, Tikkanen and Beukeboom, it was good enough for Kurri.
Luc Robitaille, Pittsburgh Penguins
How this happened: From 1986 to ’94, Robitaille was a franchise stalwart for the Kings, scoring more than 50 goals three times. His trade in 1994 to Pittsburgh was stunning, as he expected to finish his career in L.A. He also suspected that Wayne Gretzky played a role in his trade, in an attempt to acquire his friend Rick Tocchet from the Penguins.
The fit: Lucky Luc had 42 points in 46 games in his only season with the Penguins, plus 11 more in 12 playoff games. He was traded to New York in August with Ulf Samuelsson in exchange for young standouts Sergei Zubov and Petr Nedved, as the Rangers tried to load up on veterans to give Mark Messier another shot at the Stanley Cup. Joining that effort in 1997? Wayne Gretzky.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 1. This might have been a higher score were it not for Robitaille having been immortalized as a Penguins player in the Jean-Claude Van Damme action classic “Sudden Death.”
Bobby Orr, Chicago Blackhawks
How this happened: After missing all but 10 games with the Boston Bruins due to injury in 1975-76, Orr left the negotiating of his new contract to agent Alan Eagleson. The Bruins wanted to keep him. Orr would later say he had no idea of this, as Eagleson led him to sign with the Blackhawks, owned by the agent’s friend Bill Wirtz.
The fit: After signing the richest deal in NHL history at the time, Orr was limited to 20 games due to injury the next season, missed the entire 1977-78 season and skated in just six games in 1978-79 before retiring at age 30. To call the signing a disaster on every level would be doing it a kindness.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 10. Bobby Orr as a Blackhawk is often cited as the apex of weird jersey images. He was a Boston sports deity on the level of the Red Sox’s Ted Williams and the Celtics’ Larry Bird, neither of whom wore another pro jersey. Nor should have Orr.
Brian Leetch, Toronto Maple Leafs
How this happened: In 2004, the rebuilding Rangers ended an era by shipping Leetch out to Toronto for picks and prospects after 17 seasons, two Norris trophies and a Conn Smythe in the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup win.
The fit: Leetch played 15 games for the Leafs, scoring 15 points, and then had eight more in 13 playoff games. He was going to play another season in Toronto, but the lockout turned him into a free agent. He finished his career with the Bruins, as the Boston College product returned “home.”
Weird-o-Meter rating: 9. Seeing the greatest American-born defenseman of all time wearing the Maple Leaf of another Original Six team is like the comic where baby Superman landed in Soviet Russia instead.
Chris Chelios, Atlanta Thrashers
How this happened: He was the original Greek Freak, playing well beyond the expiration date for NHL defensemen. At 48 years old, Chelios was called up from the AHL to the Atlanta Thrashers in March 2010.
The fit: Chelios was a spare defenseman who skated in seven games for the Thrash, averaging 11:10 per night in his 26th NHL season.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 8. While it wasn’t strange to see a 48-year-old veteran getting any work he could, not seeing Chelios in a Montreal, Chicago or Detroit sweater is bizarre. Although, truth be told, that Thrashers jersey wasn’t nearly as surreal a sight as Chelios in a Chicago Wolves minor league jersey.
Paul Coffey, Chicago Blackhawks
How this happened: For a Hall of Fame player, Coffey certainly made the rounds. He was in his second season with the Philadelphia Flyers when they traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks for a fifth-round pick in the 1998 draft.
The fit: Talk about your cup of Coffey. The defenseman played 10 games for Chicago, limited by a sore back. They flipped him to Carolina in December for forward Nelson Emerson.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 7. Again, when a guy plays for nine different franchises over 21 years, there are going to be a few weird jerseys. This one ranks high due to the limited duration with the team.
Paul Coffey, Boston Bruins
How this happened: Looking to extend his career after the 1999-2000 season, Coffey signed a two-year free-agent deal with the Bruins.
The fit: Coffey played 18 games for Boston, generating just four assists although he was playing 18:57 per game. They released him in December, with GM Mike O’Connell saying, “Paul had a terrific career, but he was not playing up to par.”
Weird-o-Meter rating: 6. An ignominious end to a stellar career, proving once again that the only Coffey that belongs in Boston is Dunkin.
Martin Brodeur, St. Louis Blues
How this happened: After the New Jersey Devils signed Cory Schneider to a seven-year deal, Brodeur went to unrestricted free agency in the 2014 offseason in search of another chance to play at 42 years old. He found it with the Blues, where he turned a professional tryout contract into a bonus-laden one-year deal after goalie Brian Elliott was injured.
The fit: After 1,259 games and 688 wins with the Devils, Brodeur played seven games and went 3-3-0 with the Blues. But when Elliott returned, Brodeur stepped away from the team for a few weeks before announcing his retirement in January 2015.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 10. For two decades — which included three Stanley Cup wins and four Vezina trophies — Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils were synonymous. It shouldn’t have ended like this. (But kudos to those hipster Blues fans who own Brodeur jerseys. You know who you are.)
Billy Smith, Los Angeles Kings
How this happened: Smith was drafted in the fifth round (59th overall) by the Kings in the 1970 NHL amateur draft.
The fit: Many of the players on here are ones who ended up in weird jerseys at the end of their careers. It works the other way, too: Smith played five games (going 1-3-1) for the 1971-72 Kings before the New York Islanders selected him in the expansion draft. Four Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe, a Vezina and 304 more wins later, and Smith was a Hockey Hall of Famer.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 8. Seeing Smith as a King prior to his Islanders tenure was like seeing Eddie Vedder as lead singer of Bad Radio before Pearl Jam. But everyone has to start somewhere.
Ed Belfour, San Jose Sharks
How this happened: With free agency looming, the Chicago Blackhawks sent their popular goaltender to the Sharks for three players and a conditional draft pick midway through the 1996-97 season.
The fit: Belfour, 31, went 3-9-0 in 13 games for the Sharks, missing about a month of action with an MCL injury. At the time of the trade, they were three points out of a playoff spot. They finished last in the Western Conference. The Sharks hoped that new coach Darryl Sutter could help convince Belfour to stay in San Jose. He ended up taking less money to sign with the Dallas Stars, with whom he won the Stanley Cup.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 8. Perhaps the most awkward moment of an otherwise Hall of Fame career. OK, second most behind that time he offered a cop a billion-dollar bribe to get out of a trip to jail.
Grant Fuhr, Calgary Flames
How this happened: The St. Louis Blues traded Fuhr, 37, to the Flames in September 1999 after acquiring goalie Roman Turek.
The fit: Fuhr played 23 games as a mentor to starter Fred Brathwaite, going 5-13-2. He retired after the season.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 8. The goalie who backstopped the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cups, retiring as a member of their Battle of Alberta rivals? Why, that’s like forcing Calgary to retire Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99! Wait …
Dominik Hasek, Ottawa Senators
How this happened: Saying he wanted another shot at the Stanley Cup, Hasek signed a one-year deal with the Senators in 2004. He was promptly given his No. 39 by Ottawa center Jason Spezza.
The fit: After waiting a year to get started because of the NHL lockout, Hasek played 43 games, went 28-10-4 and finished seventh in the voting for the Vezina Trophy in 2005-06. But his stint in Ottawa was a peculiar one: He didn’t appear again for the Senators after the 2006 Winter Olympics, citing an injury. With Ray Emery in goal, Ottawa was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 6. At 41, it wasn’t a shock to see Hasek trying his luck with a presumed Cup contender. But after he built his legend in Buffalo and won the Stanley Cup with Detroit, it was still a bit awkward.
Olaf Kolzig, Tampa Bay Lightning
How this happened: After 711 games with the Washington Capitals over 16 seasons, Olie The Goalie found himself on the outs in 2008 as coach Bruce Boudreau moved on to other young options. So the 37-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Lightning during a summer spending spree.
The fit: Expected to play a big role in a tandem with Mike Smith, Kolzig was limited to eight games (2-4-1) and was out for the season by December after he ruptured the biceps tendon in his left arm. Infamously, he would be traded to Toronto in one of the first deals in the salary cap era in which teams took on a problem contract in exchange for a draft pick.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 6. Although for Capitals fans, this might be an “11” since Kolzig was the most recognizable face for the franchise before the arrival of Alex Ovechkin. Which is quite an accomplishment for a guy who wore a mask.
Chris Osgood, St. Louis Blues
How this happened: In 2003, it was already a little weird to see Osgood with the New York Islanders after eight seasons with the Red Wings. But then it got really weird when the Isles sent him to the Blues at the trade deadline.
The fit: Osgood was an upgrade over Brent Johnson and Fred Brathwaite, and he helped the Blues to the postseason in 2003 and 2004, making 76 regular-season appearances.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 3. While seeing Osgood with a rival in St. Louis was awkward, it was the Red Wings who let him slip away in the waiver draft after they snagged Dominik Hasek. These years with the Isles and Blues made the Detroit reunion in 2005 — and another Cup in 2008 — all the sweeter.
Curtis Joseph, Calgary Flames
How this happened: CuJo didn’t have a team to start the 2007-08 season. The 40-year-old had options, but wanted to choose a team that worked for him and his family. So he signed with Calgary in January 2008.
The fit: Joseph was brought on as veteran backup for Miikka Kiprusoff, who had started an incredible 47 of 48 games for the team at that point. Joseph appeared nine times and went 3-2-0.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 2. At this point, Joseph had journeyman status, coming to the Flames after stints with Detroit and Phoenix.
John Vanbiesbrouck, New Jersey Devils
How this happened: The veteran goalie, who spent 11 seasons with the Rangers before helping the trap-happy Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final, signed with the Flyers in 1998, was traded to the Islanders in 2000 and then traded to the Devils in 2001.
The fit: The Beezer appeared in only four games after the trade, playing behind Martin Brodeur. He was with the Devils through their Stanley Cup Final loss to Colorado and then retired. That lasted eight months, before he re-signed with the Devils to play an additional five games.
Weird-o-Meter rating: 2. After the Rangers, Flyers and Islanders, the Devils seemed like a natural flex for VBK.