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NHL Centennial

Blackhawks voted Greatest NHL Uniform

Hull, Hall, Esposito, Toews say fans made right choice in choosing Chicago's look since 1958 as No. 1

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

You'll get no argument from four Chicago Blackhawks icons about the fans' choice for Greatest NHL Uniform. 

Forwards Bobby Hull, Jonathan Toews and goalies Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito, all members of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian, were delighted Tuesday to learn that the Blackhawks' 1956-2018 jersey had been voted by fans as the Greatest NHL Uniform. Nearly 6 million votes were cast from Nov. 28 through Dec. 31 in the online balloting sponsored by Visa in Canada. 

 "When I got to Chicago in the fall of 1957 and they pitched the No. 16 jersey to me for my first game as a pro, I was delighted for two reasons," said Hull, who will turn 79 on Jan. 3. "First, I'd made a boyhood dream come true that I was in the NHL. And second, I would represent the city of Chicago and the Blackhawks and wear that beautiful crimson jersey."

From 1957-72, Hull wore the Blackhawks' uniform for 1,036 regular-season games and 116 more in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was a member of Chicago's 1961 Stanley Cup championship team.

The legendary Blackhawks jersey was designed for the 1956-57 season by Dorothy Ivan, wife of then-team vice president and general manager Tommy Ivan.

The team opted to modify the Blackhawks sweater not long after Ivan's arrival in Chicago from the Detroit Red Wings in 1954. To that point, it had featured a small Native American head inside a circle with the team's city and nickname above and below it.

Dorothy Ivan, a former golf champion in Detroit, had an artistic flair that she applied to her redesign of the Blackhawks' uniform, adding the double tomahawk shoulder patches that still appear.

"I don't think there's another jersey in pro sports that can compete with the Chicago Blackhawks crimson with Pierre Pilote's picture on it," Hull said with a laugh, recycling an old gag that he and Hall share about a resemblance they believe their late Blackhawks teammate had with the team's logo.

It was a joke that Pilote, a Hall of Fame defenseman, enjoyed immensely.

Hall, who came to the Blackhawks in a trade with the Red Wings in 1957, says the Chicago jersey voted No. 1 by fans "is the nicest of any that I've seen. I loved to put it on."

Video: Ironman Glenn Hall started 502 straight games in goal

The man known as Mr. Goalie says he doesn't own a single jersey he ever wore in the NHL with Detroit, Chicago or the St. Louis Blues simply because they were team property. 

"The Blackhawks alumni group asked me if I had anything to donate to their room and I said, 'I didn't steal anything.' Well, apart from the odd stick, eh?" the 86-year-old said. 

Hall played 618 regular-season and 69 playoff games in the iconic Blackhawks jersey; he was a teammate of Hull on the 1961 championship team.

Esposito, 74, meanwhile, is old school and proud of the fact. 

"I've always been partial, maybe because I'm older, to the Original Six jerseys," said Esposito, who broke into the NHL with the 1968-69 Montreal Canadiens, then played his next 15 seasons with the Blackhawks until his retirement in 1984.

Indeed, the jerseys of the Blackhawks, Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Rangers and Red Wings, the NHL's six teams from 1943-67, have huge appeal with many fans for their historical significance.

"If you line up NHL jerseys, the Blackhawks stands out," Esposito said. "I don't know why, the color maybe? The big head? It's clear, it's precise, it's not helter-skelter. Maybe that's what I like, the clarity of it. The red (home) jersey is so bright, and I think that's what makes it stand out."

Toews, who has been captain of the Blackhawks since 2008 and has worn the uniform in 755 NHL games, agreed with Esposito, saying it has stood the test of time.  

Video: Jonathan Toews captained Chicago to three Cup wins

"I think everyone always has viewed the logo as a classic logo that's timeless, almost, and obviously that has a lot to do with the history and tradition of an Original Six franchise," Toews said at Blackhawks practice in New York on Tuesday. "It's got an older look that's classic in a lot of ways, even nowadays. It's definitely pretty cool to wear that jersey. 

"We've got the best jersey and the best fans. So we go hand in hand." Staff Writer Jon Lane contributed to this report 

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