In my recent Thanksgiving column, I mentioned how thankful I am for the various database websites that have documented sports uniform history for us. One of those sites is the (unofficial) NHL Uniform Database, which for the past two decades has been the best online resource for hockey uniform history. The site lets you look at NHL uni history in two different ways — either season-by-season or team-by-team. I find myself referring to it on a regular basis, sometimes to check or verify something from NHL uniform history, and sometimes just to poke around and discover things I might not have known about.
Greenstein is one of the unsung heroes who make the uni-verse a better place. He and I have occasionally emailed, but I had never interviewed him — something I really should have done years ago. I recently rectified that oversight. Here’s a transcript, edited for length and clarity, of a Zoom chat we recently had.
Uni Watch: Let’s start with some basic information about you. How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living when you’re not documenting hockey uniforms?
Andrew Greenstein: I’m 51 years old, I live just outside of Fort Worth, and I’m a reporter for KRLD Radio. That’s Dallas-Fort Worth’s all-news radio station.
UW: Are you a general assignment reporter, or do you have a particular beat?
AG: I cover news out of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, pretty much anything and everything.
UW: Were you really into uniforms when you were growing up? Like, were you one of those kids who was always drawing jerseys and logos?
AG: Yeah, big time. I just liked how the jerseys looked, and I was always tinkering with concepts and how to improve a team’s current look.
UW: Do you still have any of those drawings?
AG: No, unfortunately.
UW: When did you get the idea for the NHL Uniform Database? And then how long did it take from when you got the idea to make it a reality?
AG: When I got my first computer, back in the mid-1990s, I was doodling around in Microsoft Paint. At first I was just drawing the backs of the jerseys, because I didn’t know how to draw the crest on the front.
I eventually learned how to do the fronts, taught myself how to do HTML, and launched the site in June of 2001. I started off just showing designs going back to 1967-68 — the start of the expansion era. And then I went back and did the ones for the Original Six era from the previous 25 years. And then I thought, what the hell, I’ll just do more research, and with the help of a few other people I compiled the entire history of all the teams back to the start of the NHL.
UW: In terms of the site’s format, did it look pretty much the way it does now, right from the start?
AG: It wasn’t as detailed as it is now. At first I left out things like the patches on each season’s uniforms. I left off the manufacturer’s tagging on the back. Also, at first I didn’t have a team-by-team option — just year-by-year for the whole league. If you look on the Internet Archive, you can see how primitive it was back then compared to what it is today. Now keep in mind, I’m no professional web designer, but I think we do a pretty good job at it. [Here’s the Internet Archive’s snapshot of the site from June 3, 2002. — PL]
AG: That was about 10 years ago, around 2011. I had planned to do it all along, but I kept on putting it off because I just had a lot of other priorities going on.
UW: You mentioned jersey patches a minute ago — can you explain your approach to patches? Because it seems like sometimes your site shows them and other times it doesn’t.
AG: They are shown on the individual season pages. I don’t include them on the team pages. [In other words, if you go to the 2021-22 season page and then click on the Blackhawks, it shows the Tony Esposito memorial patch that the team is wearing this season. But if you start by going to the Blackhawks overview page, and then click on the most recent design, which is “2019-present,” the Esposito patch is not shown. — PL]
UW: Why do you set it up that way?
AG: If I put the patches on the team page, you’d be going through a whole bunch of images trying to say, “Okay, how is this uniform different from the last one?,” when the only change would be the patch.
UW: So on the team pages, you only create a new mock-up if there’s a change to the larger uniform design, as opposed to just adding a patch?
AG: I probably will, if they wear them for the entire season.
UW: You’re showing the helmet ads, right?
AG: Last season, all the teams wore the helmet ads throughout the entire season, so the site shows that. There was one that changed for the playoffs, but I disregarded that. But this season, there were some teams that started off not wearing advertising on their helmets, and what I decided was that if they start off with the team logo on the helmet, instead of the ad, then that’s what I’m going to show. If they start off not wearing an advertising logo on their helmet, I’m not going to include it if they add it later on.
The one exception that I might make is that the Devils are featuring a local black-owned business on their helmets for 13 games this season, instead of their usual helmet advertiser. I might give them a little recognition for that and give that black-owned business a little bit of free advertising, because they certainly could use us all of our help. And I would hope that other teams follow suit, you know, maybe not necessarily black-owned businesses, although I think that’s a very good idea, but maybe donate their space to another locally owned business.
UW: How have you done all the research going all the way back to 1917?
AG: Various websites, just doing Google image searches, that sort of thing. Of course, the further back you go, the more scarce those photos become. One thing I caution people about is that, you know, I’m not an insider — I did all this strictly from the point of view of a common fan. So there could be some errors in there.
UW: I’d say you’re more of an uncommon fan. Have you had situations where something you showed on the site turned out to be wrong and you ended up having to change it?
AG: Sure. Some people, you know, fans of certain teams, they’ve pointed out some things and have given me photos, and of course I work to confirm them. And once I do, I make the change.
UW: Have you had a “white whale,” by which I mean a particularly elusive historical uniform, or even a uniform detail, that had you’ve trouble confirming?
AG: I think the the hardest part is often not necessarily determining what was worn, it’s what wasn’t worn. For example, in the early days of the website, I was told that the 1998-99 Rangers only wore the white “Lady Liberty” jerseys, not the blue ones. It’s hard to prove or confirm a negative, so I was scouring the internet, trying to find any evidence of the blue version being worn that year. I didn’t find one, so I would presume that they only wore the white one.
UW: Are there any upgrades or improvements that you wish you could make to the site, but you don’t have the time or the expertise? In a perfect world, what would the site look like?
AG: I’m not sure if it would look that different. I think I’ve got a good layout. The one thing I might do in the future is to make the images larger.
UW: In the 20 years you’ve been doing this, what sorts of relationships, if any, have you developed with the NHL, with the Hockey Hall of Fame, or with any of the individual teams?
AG: None. The only contact I had with the NHL was about 10 years ago. At that point, the site was just called NHLUniforms.com, which is still its URL, but I wanted to give it a real name — the NHL Uniform Database — so I ran that by the NHL to see if they had a problem with it. Their only feedback was that I should add the word “unofficial” to it, which I did.
UW: What do your family, friends, and co-workers think about this obsession of yours and the time that you devote to it?
AG: Most of them don’t even know about it. One of my bosses, he’s also a sports logo nut, and I think he knows about my website. But it’s not something I talk about much.
UW: What is your favorite NHL current uniform, and also your favorite of all time?
AG: I’ve always liked the Philadelphia Flyers’ uniforms. The logo, as you know, has not changed since the team entered the league in 1967, and I’ve always liked how the numbers on the back are big and bold — you can see them all the way in the last row of the nosebleed section. It’s just a very, very good design. It’s changed very little and there’s really no need for it to change.
And being in Dallas-Fort Worth, I have a soft spot for the Dallas Stars. Their current design is very solid. And for people who might be a little confused about their alternate jerseys — you know, the ones with the DayGlo green, the neon green — that’s because the Dallas skyline is aglow with with all that neon at night. I think we have to be the city with the second-most neon in our downtown skyline, after Las Vegas.
UW: So you like that uniform, because it evokes the municipal skyline?
AG: Right, exactly. And that’s really the best look, when a uniform kind of ties in with the local community.
UW: Do you go to Stars games?
AG: Oh, yeah, I’m not a season ticket holder, but I’ll go to maybe four or five games during the season.
UW: Are you from the the DFW area to begin with?
AG: No, I’m originally from the Boston area.
UW: So did you grow up rooting for the Bruins, and do you still have a soft spot for them and their uniforms?
AG: Yeah. I think that’s another very solid look. I especially like their alternate uniforms, really evoking some of the uniforms that they wore in the earlier eras.
UW: How do you feel about the controversial “Pooh bear” alternate?
AG: I didn’t have a problem with it. That was I was in the early days of the NHL’s alternate jersey program, and I thought it was good. I don’t know if it would work today, but maybe for a throwback.
UW: What did you think of the Reverse Retro program?
AG: I really liked it, and I’d love to see it return. I feel some of the designs, including those of the Canadiens, Coyotes, and Senators, should be full-fledged alternates. But I felt that the Red Wings, Maple Leafs, and Islanders really missed the mark — they could have been more imaginative in their designs.
UW: If you could change one thing about NHL uniforms — or, if you prefer, several things — would would you change? That could mean bringing back a particular throwback, getting rid of a certain uniform that you hate, changing a small detail that bugs you, or whatever.
AG: I would strongly ask the NHL to reconsider its plan to put ads on the jerseys. I went on record earlier this year saying I had no problem with ads on the helmets if that meant keeping them off the jerseys. Unlike football, the hockey helmet really is not an essential part of a team’s branding. Nobody goes to the team store looking to buy a helmet.
UW: Do you collect jerseys?
AG: I don’t, actually. I’ve got a couple of them in my collection, but I’m not really a jersey collector.
UW: Last question: You’ve been doing the site for 20 years now. Do you ever get tired of it or think about stopping?
AG: No way. It’s just been a labor of love, and I hope to do it for another 20 years, or until they put my big fat ass six feet underground.
And there you have it. Big thanks to Andrew for sharing his story with me, and for creating such an invaluable and entertaining uniform resource.
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A few months ago I did an “Ask Me Anything” entry in which I answered reader-submitted questions. As I mentioned at the time, I plan to do these on a semi-regular basis, which which means it’s time to ask you folks to submit new questions.
You can ask me a question about Uni Watch, about uniforms, about sports, or just about me. No question is out of bounds (it never hurts to ask!), but I reserve the right not to answer questions that I feel are too personal or otherwise inappropriate. Send your questions here (note that this is not the usual Uni Watch email address), and please stick to just one question per person. Thanks!
Paul Lukas has been writing about uniforms for over 20 years. If you like his Bulletin articles, you’ll probably like his daily Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.