The Predators will look a bit different when they hit the ice on Monday night in Nashville.
For the first time ever, the Preds will wear their adidas Reverse Retro jersey - complete with navy helmets - an ensemble that pays homage to Nashville's roots as an NHL club, while presenting a fresh look for the entire fanbase.
Many in the team's front office, including President & CEO Sean Henry, Head Equipment Manager Pete Rogers and Creative Services Director Chuck Stephens, to name a few, represented Nashville's thoughts on what the Reverse Retro concept could look like, and Nic Corbett helped the project come to life on the other side.
Corbett, the director of NHL relations for adidas Hockey, collaborated with the Preds to create a jersey that would embody the Reverse Retro idea - that is to take a jersey from each NHL team's archives, then take the colors in that jersey and rearrange them.
What transpired was a piece everyone could be proud of, and there's a reason the final design of the jersey came together as smoothly as it did.
"The process with Nashville was exciting, and kind of the model for working relationships," Corbett said via phone from adidas headquarters in Portland, Oregon. "And the one thing about Sean Henry and the organization - and I think that they get recognized for, but people don't necessarily acknowledge it publicly - is the organization thinks like a brand and a business, but they also let the experts be experts… I think the team looks to us to be the experts, and we look to the team to hold us accountable, that what we're delivering is authentic and something that they think the team stands for that they want to represent to their fans."
Video: Preds try out navy Reverse Retro jersey helmets
The Predators, along with the 30 other NHL teams, revealed their Reverse Retro jerseys over the past few months, and many have already debuted them in game action. Nashville's turn will come Monday when they host the Lightning at Bridgestone Arena, truly the final step in a process that began years ago.
Corbett says the idea for Reverse Retro came around the time adidas was showing concepts to the NHL for the 2019 NHL All-Star Game which was held in San Jose. Those jerseys turned out to be the eco-innovative and ocean-inspired ADIZERO Authentic jerseys for the game - the first-ever NHL hockey jerseys featuring repurposed and upcycled materials created in partnership with Parley for the Oceans.
And something else was coming too.
"That same day, around the room was this concept, and we didn't have the name Reverse Retro yet, but it's this idea of being authentic to a team's jersey and really well-defined guardrails, but playing with the colors and giving the fans something different," Corbett said. "And, we had the data from EA Sports that showed that of the jerseys that kids selected in the NHL video game, and I forget the exact metrics, but they're essentially throwback or heritage jerseys, so we knew that there was something there. We also felt that the jersey was having a bit of a second coming, or a renaissance in terms of a fashion style, and we wanted to capitalize on that."
Corbett and his team at adidas got to work, and in January of 2020, they held a private fashion show in Vegas to reveal the jerseys. Still riding the momentum from that meeting with the NHL ahead of the 2019 All-Star Game, the excitement continued to grow with that event, and for the first time ever, each and every team in the League agreed to participate and embrace Reverse Retro.
"This was the first League-wide program, and efforts like this are always exciting, but they're much less impactful if only 28 or 30 teams participate and one does not," Corbett said. "And in this case, while it wasn't mandatory, the teams all were very excited and signed up. It was that power of the League and the power of 31 that made the story really compelling… I think the teams sense that, and some candidates had to take a leap of faith, might have been a little bit uncomfortable for them, but I think everybody's happy that they did."
The Predators certainly are, and it wasn't long after Corbett and his team met with Henry that the operation really began to take off in Tennessee.
Corbett and his team worked closely with the Preds to identify the 1998 inaugural season as the jersey to celebrate. Special design elements that stand out include the "speed nicks" in the numbers, and a crest that pays tribute to the original jersey, while the textured, silver-sleeve fabric brings a fresh twist. In the end, the design is new, but at its core, still provides that sense of nostalgia,
"Sean was really clear in the conversation saying, 'Hey, give us your best, let us look at it and believe that we think that the story is authentic, let me socialize it internally and come back to you,'" Corbett recalled. "I can say that process with Nashville moved very quickly. It was a very easy and quick approval."
As Corbett explained, it's a three-to-four-month process internally as the design team finds inspiration and ensures everything is authentic when it comes to colors and styles with the jersey. The Preds and adidas went back and forth only a few times before the parties had settled on what is now known as Nashville's Reverse Retro jersey.
The final step in the process is getting the attire into the hands of retailers, and judging by the limited number of fans who have attended games at Bridgestone Arena this season, the jersey is a hot seller.
That adoption of a fresh look from the fanbase then begs the question on a broader spectrum - what makes a jersey so special to a fan?
"The fan is wearing what the player's wearing…and I'm just speaking about the adidas jersey since we are the authentic jersey - you're wearing the jersey that the players are wearing," Corbett said. "There's a sense of community…and we're all wearing it, but it's that sense of being part of the same team, of being connected to what's happening on ice and. And then I also think a big piece of it is just a sense of pride. Hockey jerseys are really special in that there's so much real estate. They're big, they're bold, they have full sleeves, things that don't occur in other sports around their jersey, and that provides this really cool canvas and a way to kind of wear it as your own, which I think is unique to hockey. There's a weight to the jersey, a hockey jersey, that doesn't exist in other sports as well. There's just that sense of permanence, and it feels special."
The Reverse Retro will be worn by the Preds a total of six times this season, and the jersey will take its rightful place in Predators history as the next in line of unique looks the club has donned over the years. Of course, there will be more designs to come as the seasons go by, and as adidas and the NHL's relationship continues to strengthen, that figures to be the case in Nashville as well.
Like so many in the hockey world who know now what Music City has to offer when it comes to sticks and pucks, adidas also realizes the one-of-a-kind vibe that Nashville thrives on.
The Reverse Retro may just be a jersey, but it represents so much more than that.
"It's a great organization…and there are a lot of great teams in the League, but Nashville is a special place," Corbett said. "It's the way that the team conducts itself, and when I say that it thinks like a brand and a business, that's really difficult for a team to do, and the team does that. Our relationship with the team, it is a good one and one that I, selfishly, I really enjoy, because I think it's good to have great people to work with."