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The color of victory: Do red jerseys rule in the NHL?

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A blog post investigating the influence of NHL team jersey colors on their Stanley Cup success.

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image showing a red NHL helmet and silver cup

Professional sports are not just about skill and strategy; psychology also plays a significant role. Studies have shown that the color of a team’s kit might be more influential than we would think, with data suggesting a red uniform improves a team’s performance by increasing their stamina, energy, and passion. We’ve put this concept to the test within the NHL, examining if there’s a tangible link between a team’s jersey color and their championship achievements. In this article, we’ll dive into the vibrant world of NHL team kits and investigate whether wearing red truly increases a team’s chances of securing the esteemed Stanley Cup.

Red and blue jerseys dominate the NHL

To begin, we’ll examine the distribution of jersey colors across the NHL. We’ve categorized the league’s team uniforms into six primary color groups based on the predominant color of their home jerseys: red, blue, green, yellow, orange, and black. Shades of each color have been simplified for this analysis, for example, burgundy has been placed in the broader color category of red.

This color breakdown reveals around 34% of teams wear red home jerseys, a figure that’s on par with the prevalence of blue kits. Black jerseys account for 19% of the league, followed by green at 6%, while both yellow and orange account for just 3.1% each.

An infographic showing the success of NHL teams in red jerseys

Red jerseys and a history of Stanley Cup success

When looking at the history of  Stanley Cup wins, red is indeed the dominant color. More than half of the Stanley Cups have been secured by teams sporting red as their home kit, and among the 21 current NHL teams that have clinched the Stanley Cup at least once, 38% are outfitted in red. This includes the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens, who are renowned for their league success. Together, they boast an impressive 35 Stanley Cup victories, ranking them first and second in the top three most successful teams.

When analyzing the top 10 highest-performing teams in terms of point percentage, a notable 40% of these elite teams are also outfitted in red home kits – the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanches, and the Washington Capitals.

46% of Stanley Cup playoff appearances secured by red teams

An analysis of Stanley Cup playoff appearances further underscores the success of red kits. Teams with red jerseys account for a considerable 46% of all appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In comparison, teams in blue kits constitute 30%, followed by black at 17%. Orange kits, although less common, make up 4% of these appearances, green is at 3%, and yellow is notably low, representing just 0.5% with the Nashville Predator’s only shot at the Cup in 2017.

Of the current teams with red kits, an impressive 10 out of 11 have made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs, with only the Arizona Coyotes missing out.

An infographic showing the appearances and wins of NHL teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs

Historical highlights in red

The Montreal Canadiens, renowned for their red branding, not only hold the record for the most Stanley Cup wins but also a record for the most goals scored in a single game, scoring 16 against the Chicago Bulldogs. This record-breaking performance and their overall success make them the most accomplished team in NHL history.

Red jerseys beat blue in Stanley Cup success rate

Teams with a red home jersey show a remarkable 73% success rate in Stanley Cup victories, with 8 out of the 11 teams having won the championship. This is significantly higher than the success rates of teams in blue jerseys, which stand at 55%.

Red scores with fan engagement and player performance

Red kit seems to resonate with NHL fans too. The top-selling jersey of the 2022/2023 season was that of Washington Capital’s star, Alexander Ovechkin, who set multiple records and finished the season with an impressive 822 career goals. This popularity demonstrates how the color red symbolizes success on the ice, and consequently also captivates the NHL fanbase.

Red and aggression: A myth?

Contrary to popular belief, wearing red doesn’t necessarily correlate with a more aggressive style of play. Penalty data from 2017 to 2023 shows no significant link between red jerseys and an increased number of penalties. Tampa Bay Lightnings (1932 penalties since 2017), Nashville Predators (1863 penalties), and Boston Bruins (1840 penalties) top the charts for aggressive play, none of which have a red home jersey. 

The most aggressive team in red is the Panthers, accumulating 1787 penalties from 2017 to 2023, placing them fifth on the penalty leaderboard. 

Two out of the six black jersey teams made the top five; The Bruins and The Ducks, receiving 1840 and 1828 penalties respectively, suggesting that black kit may increase aggressive play in teams.

Conclusion

The exploration of jersey colors in the NHL and their impact on team performance in the Stanley Cup, reveals an intriguing aspect of sports psychology. Red emerges as a symbol of success and popularity, but, of course,  the journey to the Stanley Cup is multifaceted.


As fans and analysts, these insights add an extra layer of intrigue to the already captivating world of hockey, offering a new perspective on how something as simple as the color of a jersey might influence the greatest stages of the sport.

Methodology

We categorized the 32 current NHL teams into six color groups based on the predominant color of their home jerseys.

Next, we evaluated their Stanley Cup success by examining the number of wins and playoff appearances, determining the percentage of historic victories and playoffs associated with each color grouping.

Additionally, we gauged the aggressiveness of each team’s play by analyzing the number of penalties received from 2017 to 2023, and assessing which color grouping ranked highest. 

Sources

2022 NHL Team Miscellaneous Stats & NHL Team Miscellaneous Leaders (foxsports.com): number of penalties

List of all-time NHL standings – Wikipedia: point percentage standings

List of Stanley Cup Finals appearances – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Stanley Cup playoff appearances and wins

Sports Apparel, Jerseys, Hats, Sports Fan Gear & Collectibles | Fanatics.com – Officially Licensed Everything: Most popular jersey

Most Goals Scored In A Game By A Team In NHL Game | StatMuse: Most goals scored in a game

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