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A third jersey, alternate jersey, third kit or alternate uniform is a jersey or uniform that a sports team may wear in games instead of its home outfit or its away outfit, often times when the colors of two competing teams' other uniforms are too similar to distinguish easily. A third jersey may be a throwback uniform based on designs the team used in the past.
Extra alternate uniforms or fourth/fifth kits are not commonly used, but are sometimes required when teams' other uniforms cause color clashes, or the uniforms are unavailable to use. In cases where teams have worn more than three kits in the same season, the extra kits were usually recycled from previous seasons.
Third kits are commonplace in European association football. Alternate guernseys or jerseys are common in Australia's two biggest domestic leagues, the Australian Football League (Aussie rules) and National Rugby League (rugby league).
- 1 Background
- 2 American football
- 3 Association football
- 4 Baseball
- 5 Basketball
- 6 Canadian football
- 7 Ice hockey
- 8 Rugby league
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
For home and away jerseys in North America, historical convention has often dictated the colors used by teams in a given league. Most teams have at least 1 jersey which is mainly white (or another light color such as yellow), and another jersey which is mainly 1 of the team's primary colors; these are often called "whites" and "colors" respectively. "White home" is the convention in baseball (MLB), basketball (NBA, NCAA basketball) and college hockey. "White away" is the convention in football (NFL, NCAA football) and NHL.
The conventions are not rules, and often the home team has the first choice of color, with the visiting team forced to choose a contrasting color. The home team may choose its jersey for aesthetics but also for practical reasons. For example, football teams may choose to wear their whites at home during warm weather, because white reflects heat while dark colors absorb heat. Teams thus create a third jersey in a third color to ensure that they will always have an appropriate selection for the game.
In US sports, throwback jerseys are generally only used for special team games and not for the "third" purpose.
National Football League
The NFL was the last of the major professional sports leagues to adopt the third jersey rule in 2002, with the only exceptions being the 1994 season, when teams issued a throwback uniform in honor of the league's 75th Anniversary. Initially, the NFL rule stated that a team may wear their third jersey only once a year, however, after one year this restriction was increased to twice a year. There are currently no rules on wearing alternate pants. Teams are also permitted to wear alternate jerseys as often as desired in playoff games (except the Super Bowl, where teams must wear their standard uniforms); the only team to do so (other than in 1994) was the 2008 San Diego Chargers.
Some teams will generally use one of their third jersey allotments against a particular division opponent each year. For instance, the San Diego Chargers always wear their popular powder blue third jerseys at home against the Oakland Raiders, while the Houston Texans are known to wear their "Battle Red" third uniforms at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers are known to wear their throwbacks at home against the archrival Baltimore Ravens. The New York Giants were known to wear their red third jerseys at home against the Dallas Cowboys until the red jerseys were retired in 2009.
When wearing their third jerseys, especially if the team is wearing a throwback uniform, the team may theme the field around the uniforms. When the New York Jets, for instance, wear their 1960–1962 "Titans of New York" throwbacks at home, they will paint the field in the Titans blue-and-gold color scheme. (The Jets' current color scheme is green and white.) In addition, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dressed the field up in Orange when they wore their Creamsicle throwbacks in 2009.
Teams will generally wear their third jerseys at home, though the Carolina Panthers are known to wear their electric blue third jerseys on the road (especially in Tampa) if the home team opts to wear their white jerseys against the Panthers and the weather is very hot. The Jets have also worn their Titans throwbacks once in 2007 against the Miami Dolphins at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
Because the football helmet is such a significant and visible part of the football uniform, some teams also wore alternate helmets when wearing their third jersey. This was particularly true for throwback uniforms, such as those worn by the Steelers (yellow), Jets/Titans (yellow), and Buccaneers (white). The NFL outlawed the use of alternate helmets beginning in the 2013 season.
In alphabetical order, the teams that have used third jerseys heading into the 2011 season:
- Arizona Cardinals – Introduced a black alternate in 2010.
- Atlanta Falcons – Adopted a red alternate in 2003 when the team redesigned the uniforms. The red alternate became the primary home jersey the following season, and the black jersey was used as an alternate through 2008. In 2009, the Falcons introduced a new set of alternate uniforms based upon the ones used by the franchise in its first season of 1966, featuring red helmets, black jerseys and white pants.
- Baltimore Ravens – Introduced an alternate black jersey in 2004. Mostly used in nationally-televised games during the night time.
- Buffalo Bills – Have used the AFL-era uniforms as alternates since 2005, and in 2009, a white throwback jersey was introduced as part of the AFL's 50th anniversary. A red alternate, never used in a game, has been sold since at least 2001. The white throwback serves as the team's third jersey as of 2013, complete with standing-buffalo helmet decals; because only the decals are different between the third kit and the standard, it is within the NFL's rules.
- Carolina Panthers – Introduced an "Electric blue" alternate in 2002.
- Chicago Bears – Wore 1940s-era orange throwbacks in 2004 Thanksgiving Day game with Dallas. Popularity with the fans led to the team introducing an orange alternate of the current design in 2005. The Bears wore their alternate orange jerseys for one (two in 2011) home game per season that is closest to Halloween. This was replaced by a 1940's styled set for the 2010 season, for two games against divisional opponents at home to honor the original "Monsters of the Midway" for the anniversary. The orange alternate was re-adopted for the 2011 season, though Chicago switched back to the "Monsters of the Midway" theme in 2012.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Introduced an orange alternate along with the redesigned uniforms in 2004. Worn during "special occasions".
- Cleveland Browns – An orange alternate of the current design was worn from 2002–04. A throwback based on the 1950s team was worn for one game to celebrate the team's 60th anniversary in 2006 and have been worn ever since as their alternate uniform.
- Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys are notable for being one of the few teams to designate their white uniform as their regular home uniform. Because most other teams wear their colors at home, the Cowboys end up wearing white in the vast majority of their games; the team's early owners recognized this fact and believed it would lead to better recognition on television, and the tradition remains today. Used white "Double Star" jerseys in 1994 and navy "Double Star" jerseys in 1995. Revived the navy "Double Star" jerseys on Thanksgiving Day during the NFL's "Throwback Weekend" in 2001–2003. Since 2004, the team has worn the original 1962 navy "home" uniform designs as a third jersey, usually on Thanksgiving Day and Monday Night Football. Although the Cowboys primarily wear white at home, an alternate 1962 white jersey was made, but has yet to be worn by the team. They did use the 1960–63 away jerseys for the NFL's 75th season of 1994 for one game under mandatory league rules, but they used silver helmets.
- Denver Broncos – Wore the Orange Crush-era "throwbacks" in a 2001 Thanksgiving game, just five years after they were retired. The team introduced an orange alternate in 2002, which became the team's new primary home jersey beginning in 2012. The navy blue jerseys, which had been the team's primary home jersey since they were introduced in 1997, switched to alternate designation in 2012. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the AFL, the Broncos wore their infamous 1960–61 uniforms (with vertically-striped socks) for two games in 2009.
- Detroit Lions – Wore 1950s-era throwbacks on Thanksgiving from 2001 to 2004. Wore black alternates from 2005 to 2007, then returned to the throwback design.
- Green Bay Packers – Wore 1940s-era throwbacks in 2001 Thanksgiving game with Detroit, and wore 1960s-era throwbacks in 2003 Thanksgiving game, also with the Lions. Replica jerseys were sold consisting of a yellow jersey with green numbers from 2004–06. The team wore a 1920's-style uniform (in navy blue with a yellow circle on the front with a navy number, and brown helmets [used to signify the leather helemets from the era]) on December 5, 2010 against the San Francisco 49ers.
- Houston Texans – Introduced a red alternate in 2003.
- Indianapolis Colts – Wore mid-1950s throwbacks in 2004 Thanksgiving game with Detroit used very early in team's history. Wore a similar jersey with a navy blue helmet in a preseason game against San Francisco in and in a regular season game against Philadelphia in 2010.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Wore black alternates from 2002–08. The black alternates was reitroduced in the 2012 season but became the primary home uniform while the teal uniform retained as an alternate.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Wore Dallas Texans throwbacks in 2009.
- Miami Dolphins – Introduced an orange alternate in 2003. The team most recently used these jerseys in a 2010 game vs. the N.Y. Jets which they lost 31-23 making the Dolphins 3-1 when wearing the orange jerseys. Miami also wore "undefeated '72 Dolphins" throwbacks in 2003 Thanksgiving game with Dallas.
- Minnesota Vikings – Introduced alternate purple pants when they redesigned their uniforms in 2005, which were worn twice with their white jerseys in 2005, and then once with their purple jerseys in 2007, but then hung them up until week 9 of the 2010 season when the team needed a spark. They wore them once with the purple set and once with the whites. The Vikes wore 1969-1992 home throwbacks one game in each of 2007 and 2008, and twice during the 2009 campaign. The throwbacks have mostly been worn against an NFC North rival.
- New England Patriots – Wore the "classic" Patriots throwbacks in 2002 Thanksgiving game with Detroit, which were reintroduced in the 2009 season and were retained for 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. Wore a silver alternate (treated as a "white" jersey, against which opponents would wear colors — in fact, its first in-game use forced the Cowboys to don their "unlucky" blue jerseys) from 2003–07. An all-black alternate is sold in stores but has never been worn on the field.
- New Orleans Saints – Wore a gold alternate (treated as a "white" jersey) in 2002 vs Minnesota and also wore their original 1967 throwbacks vs Tampa Bay in the same season. In the 2006 season, wearing black pants became widespread, both at home and away. The 1967 throwbacks were reintroduced on September 25, 2011 in a 40–33 win over the Houston Texans.
- New York Giants – Introduced a red alternate in 2004, worn during one home game per season. The chosen game is usually a very high-profile encounter — for example, the red jersey has been worn in late season divisional games, often against the Dallas Cowboys. The red jerseys have been retired for 2009.
- New York Jets – Have worn the 1960–62 New York Titans throwbacks since the 2007 NFL season. A white Titans jersey was introduced in 2009 as part of the AFL's 50th anniversary celebration. The team announced that the throwbacks will not be worn for the 2010–11 NFL season. The throwbacks did return in the 2011–12 NFL season but were not worn in the 2012-13 NFL season and are now forbidden under the alternate-helmet rule.
- Oakland Raiders – Wore 1963 throwbacks in 2009.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Wore 1948 throwbacks in a 1994 game. Introduced a black alternate of the current design in 2003. In 2007, the team wore 1934 Frankford Yellow Jackets jerseys, featuring bright yellow and aqua colors, against Detroit to honor the team's 75th Anniversary (when the Eagles started the 2007 season with a record of 1–3, the one win came when they wore the Yellow Jackets uniforms, causing many to say that the Eagles should keep those uniforms on). In 2010, the team wore a 1960 uniform in commemoration of their 50th Anniversary of their last NFL championship on Opening Day (September 12) against Green Bay. The Eagles did not wear an alternate in 2011 but returned to wearing the black alternate in 2012.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Wore 1963–1964 era throwbacks during the 2007 season as part of the team's 75th Anniversary. Used the same throwbacks for two games in 2008. They were worn on October 4, 2009 against the San Diego Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens. For the 2010 season, the throwback uniforms will be worn against the Cleveland Browns on October 17 and against the New England Patriots on November 14. They will be worn in 2011 as well. A different throwback uniform, this one incorporating a horizontally-striped pattern used in 1934, was used in the 2012 season.
- San Diego Chargers – Reintroduced the popular "powder blue" Chargers uniforms from the 1960s as an alternate in 2002. Elements from the throwback uniform were used when the Chargers re-designed their logo and uniforms after the 2006 season. Now sporting a white helmet (minus jersey number) full-time, the powder blue uniform was modernized and has served as the new alternate jersey since 2007. The throwback uniforms returned in 2009, in celebration of their 50th anniversary as one of the eight original AFL teams.
- San Francisco 49ers – Famously wore their 1955-era throwback uniforms for nearly all of the 1994 season and subsequent playoffs, including their Super Bowl victory (a fashion statement that perhaps set the stage for the throwback craze in later seasons). Team also wore "1989 throwbacks" in 2002, 2005 and 2006 (even though they were still used regularly as recent as 1995). The team wore them in their 2007 season opener vs. Arizona (with special league permission) after the death of NFL Hall of Famer Bill Walsh. The 49ers bought back uniforms from the 1984 era as a tribute to the 1980s teams for the last game of the 2008 season on December 28 versus the Washington Redskins, some players also grew early 1980s mustaches for the game to finish the look. A modified version of those uniform became the full-time home and away uniforms in 2009.
- Seattle Seahawks – Wore a neon-green third jersey during Week 3 of their 2009 season. Then-coach Jim Mora announced on December 9, 2009 that the green jerseys had been retired because "we didn't win in them." The jerseys did not return in 2010 despite the new coaching staff. The neon green jerseys reflect other business interests of the Seahawks ownership. Introduced a grey alternate in 2012 with redesigned home and away uniforms.
- St. Louis Rams – Introducing 1970s–1999 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams throwbacks in 2009, the tenth anniversary of the Rams' Super Bowl XXXIV victory.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – While current team ownership has wanted the Culverhouse-era jerseys erased because of the futility of the Buccaneers during that era, in 2009, for the Ring of Honor, the team officially allowed Culverhouse-era orange jerseys to be worn for such occasions. Such usage was forbidden under the 2013 alternate helmet rule. They also have a black alternate, though it has never been worn.
- Tennessee Titans – Introduced a powder blue alternate of the current design in 2003. The powder blue became the primary home uniform in 2008, while the navy blue uniform became the new alternate (similar to what the Falcons did). They wore Houston Oilers throwbacks in 2009. The Titans did not wear their navy alternates from 2009-2012, however they returned in week 7 of the 2013 season.
- Washington Redskins – Wore 1960s-era uniforms in 2002 as a tribute to the team's 70th anniversary that season. Despite popularity with fans and even rumors that the uniforms would stick around as an alternate (which was worn once during the 2003 season), team currently does not have a third jersey. During the 2007 season, the Redskins wore the Vince Lombardi-inspired 1970–71 throwback uniforms for selected games.
Although uniforms are much less regulated at the collegiate level compared to the NFL, alternate uniforms – and even regular uniform redesigns – are generally less common due to many teams' respective histories and traditions surrounding a particular jersey color or uniform combination.
Ole Miss was one of the earliest programs to use two different jerseys, wearing the school colors of navy blue and red depending upon the game.
Recently, however, many teams have begun to experiment with alternate uniforms and helmets, especially teams whose uniforms are provided by Nike. Since the late 2000s, Nike has provided the University of Oregon Ducks with modular uniform systems consisting of as many as four color choices for jerseys, pants, helmets, socks and other components, allowing the Ducks to select a new combination for nearly every game.
One of the more famous third jerseys is that of the University of Notre Dame. The team wears either white or navy blue for most games, but occasionally special kelly green jerseys with gold numbers, evocative of the "Fighting Irish", are chosen for a major contest.
Third kits existed in English soccer at least as early as the 1940s. Until 1989-90, the Football Association's rules for the FA Cup stated: "Where the colours of the two competing clubs are similar, both clubs must change unless alternative arrangements are mutually agreed by the competing clubs". Away kits were often similar as well, therefore third kits were worn in the 1948 FA Cup Final by Manchester United and the 1950 final by Arsenal. Clubs sometimes needed to find makeshift third kits for their players.
Since the 2000s, most clubs in major European leagues have used a third kit, or had one in reserve. Replicas of the kits are usually sold at club merchandise shops. Sometimes a previous season's away kit is used.
One notable incident occurred in 1996, when Manchester United changed into their blue and white third kit at half-time, with manager Alex Ferguson blaming the grey away kit for several sub-par performances. Ferguson commented, "The players couldn't pick each other out.[...] They said it was difficult to see their team-mates at distance when they lifted their heads".
Major League Baseball
After decades of wearing the same uniforms, Major League Baseball teams began to experiment with numerous designs in the early 1970s, ranging from popular designs (such as the Oakland Athletics' pullover jerseys that most MLB teams later adopted) and not so popular (such as the Chicago White Sox wearing shorts, or the Cleveland Indians wearing all-red).
Among such designs that were also tested were third jerseys, to break the traditional mold that baseball teams wear white uniforms at home, and gray on the road. This began in 1972 when the A's flamboyant owner, Charles O. Finley, introduced new uniforms to the team. Taking after the lead of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the jerseys were pullover spandex that would later catch on in MLB (though this would be phased out by the early 1990s in favor of the more traditional button-down jerseys), but by going one step further than the Pirates, the A's introduced alternate gold and green jerseys. The gold jerseys, lighter in color, were considered "home" alternates while the darker green jerseys were considered "away" alternates.
Soon, many teams caught on with different colored jerseys. The Pirates even went as far as to having a rotation of which jerseys to wear, matching white pinstriped, gold, and black pants to wear with jerseys of the same color. The white pinstripes were later phased out in favor of solid white.
The New York Yankees have generally shunned the practice of third jerseys. The Yankees wore three different jerseys in 1911, 1916, and most recently in 1943 according to the Dressed to the Nines database maintained by the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In recent years, the Yankees have worn throwback uniforms for single games in 1996 and 2012. Third jerseys otherwise remain popular in baseball today, either as an alternate design or as a throwback known as "Turn Back the Clock Night." The Milwaukee Brewers, for example, have worn a variation of their 1978–1993 home uniforms for every Friday home game. In 1998, the Seattle Mariners hosted the Kansas City Royals for a game where both teams wore "futuristic" uniforms meant to represent the year 2027 (what will be the Mariners 50th season). The "Turn Ahead The Clock" promotion was so successful that it was copied the next year by 20 MLB teams, this time representing the year 2021 (due to sponsorship by the real estate company Century 21), however the jerseys were roundly ridiculed and have not been seen since.
The Toronto Blue Jays change from their traditional blue and grey jersey to a red alternate jersey every Canada Day (July 1) to help celebrate the national holiday. In 2007, the Jays announced that as part of the team's popular "Flashback Friday" promotion, the team would use replica uniforms based on the powder-blue road uniforms used in the 1980s at all Friday night home games, starting with the 2008 season. To complete the look, the Jays also wore the original blue and white caps, with their traditional logo on the front of the uniform as well as on the caps. The Tampa Bay Rays wore a black alternate in the 1990s when they were the Devil Rays, and from 2003–2007 they wore green alternate jersey worn both at home and away on selected games. When they changed their name to the Rays, they introduced an alternate navy blue for home and away games to go along with their white and gray uniforms. In 2010 they added light blue jerseys to be worn only on Sunday home games. The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves wear a red jersey for every home game played on Sunday, while the Washington Nationals wear red for all weekend home games, and in 2011 have done so for most weekend road games as well. The Pittsburgh Pirates wore a red alternate for every home game played on Friday during the 2007 season, even though red is not an official team color. Since 2009, the Boston Red Sox wore a red alternate jersey for Friday night home games and a blue alternate jersey for Friday night away games. Also since 2009, for every afternoon home game, the Kansas City Royals wear powder-blue jerseys almost reminiscent of the old jerseys they wore in the 1980s (and in 2010 introduced new powder-blue caps to be worn with these jerseys). During Sunday home games, the San Diego Padres sport special camouflage-colored jerseys (with green caps to match). In 2011 the camouflage jerseys were changed to a brown/tan "desert camo" and tan cap. The San Francisco Giants wear orange uniforms during all Friday home games. Most recently the Mariners revived their teal jerseys from the mid-1990s, to be used on Friday and Monday home games. The Baltimore Orioles wear alternate black jerseys (with a cap showing the "O's" script logo) every Friday, regardless of whether they are home or away, and in 2012 they introduced an alternate orange jersey to be worn during Saturday home games.
In contrast, the Chicago Cubs frequently wear a blue alternate jersey, whether at home or on the road, and not according to the day of the week. This jersey is worn based on the decision of the starting pitcher (particularly when Carlos Zambrano was scheduled to start), thus explaining why it is worn more often than other third jerseys.
After the death of Harmon Killebrew in 2011, the Minnesota Twins decided to wear their cream-colored third jersey – a direct throwback of the uniforms used for most of Killebrew's career – for every home game for the rest of the year.
Among Major League teams, the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins have the most alternate uniforms, with three. The Astros, Brewers and Twins have two alternate uniforms with the same color, with one featuring the team nickname and used on home games, the other featuring the city name and used on away games; in addition to their regular alternates, since 2011 the Brewers have, during various "Heritage" games, worn uniforms with "Cerveceros" ("Brewers" in Spanish), "Bierbrauer" (German), "Birrai" (Italian) and "Piwowarzy" (Polish); their opponents during those games would usually also have the foreign translation of their own team name on their road uniforms, such as "Piraten" ("Pirates" in German) or "Cardenales" ("Cardinals" in Spanish). The Rockies have a sleeveless pinstriped uniform with the team initials on the left, a purple alternate jersey, and a sleeveless black alternate jersey.
National Basketball Association
In the NBA, the only teams that have a third jersey as a "home jersey" are the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers. Since the 2012–13 season light-colored third jerseys have been widely accepted as the "home jersey", with the exception of the Memphis Grizzlies, who continued to wear their pale blue alternates on the road. The only team in the NBA with a color jersey as an official home jersey is the Los Angeles Lakers. In addition to their usual purple (away) and yellow (home), the Lakers have a white jersey which is used exclusively for home games that take place on a Sunday or a holiday.
Other examples of third jerseys in the NBA include the Chicago Bulls, who aside from their standard white (home) and red (away) jerseys, have a black alternate jersey which is worn on the road and at home on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Bulls started wearing black alternate uniforms in the 1995–96 NBA season, the same season they won an NBA-record 72 games en route to capturing the NBA Championship. Teams in cities with rich Irish heritage celebrate St. Patrick's Day: both the Bulls and New York Knicks have special green jerseys, while the Boston Celtics use their traditional green jerseys but with gold lettering instead of the normal white. The Miami Heat have red and black away jerseys in addition to the white jerseys they wear at home; they did add an additional all-black jersey during the 2011–12 season, and an all-white ensemble for the following season. The Detroit Pistons have a red alternate jersey in addition to the traditional blue road jersey. The Orlando Magic introduced a blue road alternate jersey in the mid-1990s to accompany their white home and traditional black road jersey. A few years later, the Magic ditched their black road jersey and made the blue uniform their primary road jersey. They did not don an alternate uniform until they reintroduced the black alternate jersey in the 2010–11 season.
The Phoenix Suns have used an orange alternate jersey since the 2003–04 season, both at home and on the road. They also had a black alternate jersey during the late 1990s. The New Orleans Pelicans, back in their years as the Hornets, introudced a gold alternate jersey the same season, trimmed in teal and purple, keeping with New Orleans' Mardi Gras tradition. The Hornets usually wore their gold jersey for road games, but they also wore the jersey at home for two or three games per season. For the 2008–09 season, however, the Hornets introduced new home and away uniforms, and bid farewell to the gold alternate jerseys. They did reintroduce a gold alternate in the 2010–11 season, featuring the abbreviation 'NOLA' and pinstripes on the jersey, and were used on Friday home games. The Minnesota Timberwolves wear blue jerseys on the road and white jerseys at home, but from 1999 to 2008 and 2010 to the present, they occasionally wear an alternate black jersey for road games.
Until 2010, the Cleveland Cavaliers had an alternate navy blue away jersey. During the 2006 and 2007 NBA Playoffs, including the 2007 NBA Finals, the Cavs solely wore their navy blue jerseys at away playoff games. They returned to a deeper wine and brighter gold colors before the 2010–11 season, and added a gold alternate two seasons later. During the 2006–07 season the Washington Wizards began using a gold jersey in addition to their white (home) and blue (road). That same season, the New Jersey Nets started wearing red alternate uniforms for both home and away games in addition to their normal white (home) and navy blue (road); they dropped the navy blue in favor of the red uniforms for regular away use in the 2009–10 season. The Nets had previously worn silver alternate jerseys from 1999–2005. They solely wore these silver alternate jerseys at away playoff games during the 2002 NBA Playoffs, including the 2002 NBA Finals. The previous season (2005–06), the Sacramento Kings introduced a gold alternate to go with their traditional white and purple jerseys; previously they had a half-purple and half-black alternate, then a purple alternate. The gold jerseys were used for only two seasons. Before the 2011–12 season the Kings reintroduced black uniforms to their set. In this same year, the Boston Celtics added an alternate road jersey with black trim and black text with a different style text. The Portland Trail Blazers reintroduced red uniforms in the 2002–03 season, this time as an alternate to their classic black and white uniform sets. In the 2007–08 season, the Indiana Pacers introduced a gold third jersey. The team previously wore a gold third jersey until the 2004–05 season, when new uniforms were introduced. The Golden State Warriors became the first NBA team to wear sleeved jerseys in a game when they introduced a gold alternate jersey in 2013.
Per NBA rules, teams will only introduce a new third jersey at least two years after unveiling a new logo and uniform set.
Here are NBA teams wearing the "third jersey" through the years:
- Atlanta Hawks – wore green alternate jerseys from 1970 to 1972; black alternate jerseys only in 1994; wore yellow alternates from 2004 to 2007, red alternates since 2009. Was the first NBA team to have a third jersey.
- Boston Celtics – wear black/green third jerseys since 2005; also have a gold/green jersey exclusively worn on St. Patrick's Day week.
- Brooklyn Nets – Never had a third jersey. **
- Charlotte Bobcats – blue alternates from 2006 to 2009; another blue alternate with a checkered flag design was used for NASCAR week from 2008 to 2011
- Chicago Bulls – black alternates since 1995, with notable changes including team name and diamond on the shorts; black/green alternate jersey introduced in the 2006 exclusively worn on St. Patrick's Day week. Does not wear their alternate jersey in the playoffs.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – navy blue alternates from 2005 to 2010, gold alternates since 2012, and also have fan night jerseys used the past four seasons, using their throwback uniforms in different designs.
- Dallas Mavericks – silver "metallic" alternates worn once in the first road game of the 2003–2004 season; green alternate from 2004 to 2009 and currently on St Patrick's day, royal blue alternate in 2009–10; navy blue alternates since 2011.
- Denver Nuggets – navy alternates from 2005 to 2012; retro-modern gold alternates since 2012.
- Detroit Pistons – red alternates, first used from 1994 to 1996, again from 1999 to 2001, and from 2005 to 2009, navy blue "Motor City" alternates since 2013.
- Golden State Warriors – orange alternates from 2004 to 2010; sleeved gold alternates in 2013; sleeved white alternates since 2013.
- Houston Rockets – red/gold alternates since 2009
- Indiana Pacers – gold alternates from 1998 to 2005, and since 2007.
- Los Angeles Clippers – blue alternates from 2001 to 2010, and again since 2012; sleeved baby blue alternates since 2013
- Los Angeles Lakers – white alternates since 2002 in honor of commentator Chick Hearn; one of five teams to wear third jersey at home, only worn on Sundays or holidays, and can be used in some Sunday road games where the home team wears an alternate jersey. They also wear black alternates since 2013.
- Memphis Grizzlies – black alternates from 1997 to 2000 during the Vancouver years, They became the primary road uniform in 2000; smoke blue alternates since 2009.
- Miami Heat – red alternates from 1995 to 1999, again since 2001; all-black alternate in 2011–12; all-white alternates in 2012–13; all-red alternates in 2013–14
- Milwaukee Bucks – green alternates from 1995 to 1999, red alternates since 2008.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – black alternates from 1997 to 2008, and since 2010.
- New Orleans Pelicans – never***.
- New York Knicks – blue with black on the side alternate from 1995 to 1997, they became the primary road uniform from 1997 to 2001; green St. Patrick's/Christmas alternates from 2006 to 2012; orange alternates since 2013.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Navy alternates since 2012*
- Orlando Magic – black alternates from 1994 to 1998 (they were the primary road uniform until 1994); and since 2010.
- Philadelphia 76ers – blue alternates from 1999 to 2006, and in 2012–13; red alternates from 2007 to 2009, and since 2013.
- Phoenix Suns – black alternates from 1994 to 2000; orange alternates from 2003 to 2013; latter first third jersey to feature abbreviation of city name. Recently unveiled orange sleeved alternates for 2013–14
- Portland Trail Blazers – red alternates since 2002, with notable changes such as black lettering and modified uniform strip; also had fan night white jersey since 2009–10.
- Sacramento Kings – half-purple, half-black alternates from 1994 to 1997; purple alternates from 1997 to 2001; gold alternates from 2005 to 2007; black alternates since 2011.
- San Antonio Spurs – silver alternates since 2012, one of five teams to wear third jersey at home. Also the first NBA team not to place the city or team name on any uniform, instead using their secondary logo in front.
- Toronto Raptors – red alternates from 2003 to 2006, currently the official road uniform; black/green alternate jersey introduced in 2008 exclusively worn on St. Patrick's Day week until 2011; black alternates since 2008 similar to the previous purple uniform; Canadian camouflage alternates since 2012, only during Canadian Forces Night.
- Utah Jazz – black alternates from 1998 to 2004; powder blue alternates from 2006 to 2010; green alternates since 2011.
- Washington Wizards – gold/black two-tone alternates from 2006 to 2009.
(**) – While in New Jersey, they had silver alternates from 1998 to 2005, and red alternates from 2006 to 2009. The red alternates became their primary road uniform in their final three seasons in New Jersey.
(***) – As the Charlotte/New Orleans(/Oklahoma City) Hornets, they wore purple alternates from 1994 to 1997, gold alternates from 2004 to 2008, and from 2010 to 2013. Green/purple Mardi Gras alternates were also used from 2010 to 2013. During their years in Oklahoma City from 2005 to 2007, they had a Valentine's Day alternate, and a special edition white alternate, both featuring the name of their temporary city.
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Alternate uniforms have been used by some teams in the Canadian Football League since the 2000s. Some clubs have designated four or five different jerseys for use, if necessary, in a single season.
National Hockey League
In the National Hockey League, each team has its own distinctive jersey design (hockey tradition usually refers to jerseys as "sweaters," because hockey players actually wore sweaters on the ice until the 1960s). Prior to 1995 (save a few isolated instances), each team only had two jerseys — one for home use, and one for the road. One jersey was dominantly white (or in a few instances, a light color), and the other dominantly a dark color. The white jersey was originally the road jersey with the dark jersey being home, but this was reversed from 1971 to 2003.
The first third jersey in the NHL was a gold Pittsburgh Penguins home jersey used in the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons, then as the only home jersey in the 1983-84 season.
With the introduction of the third jersey, teams were allowed to use a completely new style for their jersey (and in some cases, corresponding alternate socks, helmets and other uniform elements). Every team in the league except the Detroit Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils have introduced a third jersey at one point since the program began. However, Detroit used a "throwback" jersey for the 2009 Winter Classic (which was used again against the Chicago Blackhawks on April 11, 2009) and New Jersey used "throwback" green and red jerseys against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 17, 2010, including a replica helmet worn by goaltender Martin Brodeur that was made to look like the original helmet he wore in his first game with NJ back in 1992. Montreal introduced several "throwbacks" in 2009 to celebrate their centennial season. Following the NHL's lead, the NBA and NFL also use third jerseys. The National Hockey League suspended the Third Jersey Program after the 2006–07 season because of logistics problems involving the new Rbk Edge style NHL jerseys, which were unveiled at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game. An exception was made during the 2007–08 season for the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic, where the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres wore throwback uniforms for the game. After the one-year absence, third jerseys returned to the league for 2008–09.
Once a team has been granted permission by the league to use their new design, they will request and be allowed ten to fifteen games during the season in which they may use their third jersey. They may continue to use the third jersey in subsequent years as well. This alternate design allowed the team's appearance to flirt with radical designs which have occasionally gone on to become the new looks for some of the participating teams, though they can also be quite garish. An infamous example is a third jersey planned to be used by the St. Louis Blues: an over-the-top mix of trumpets, musical notes and staffs, it was rejected by then-coach/GM Mike Keenan, who reportedly banned the jersey from use. Sales of third jerseys to fans have also provided significant additional income for cash-strapped NHL teams.
Several teams have had multiple designs of their third jersey.
- 1955–1956: Boston Bruins (remained until end of 1956–1957 season; brought back for 1959–1960 season and stayed until end of 1964–1965 season)
- 1966–1967: Toronto Maple Leafs (inspired by Canada's Centennial celebrations in 1967, the Leafs had a completely different uniform set for that year's Stanley Cup playoffs, which culminated with a Stanley Cup victory. The modified Leafs uniform featured a new Maple Leaf emblem, replacing the traditional maple leaf, with a design imitating the leaf found on Canada's new Maple Leaf Flag introduced in 1965. This uniform was adopted by the team the following season – 1967–68, and remained until a completely new uniform design was unveiled for the 1970–71 season. )
- 1981–1982: Pittsburgh Penguins (remained until 1984–1985 season)
- 1991–1992: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs (all as throwback/vintage jerseys)
- 1993–94: Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings (one game, wearing the 1992 throwback/vintage jerseys)
- 1995–96: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Boston Bruins (through 2005–06), Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins (through 1996–97; would eventually become their regular road shirt), Vancouver Canucks (through 1996–97)
- 1996–97: Chicago Blackhawks (used through 2006–07), New York Islanders (third and fourth jerseys with classic logo), New York Rangers (through 2006–07), Tampa Bay Lightning (through 1998–99), Toronto Maple Leafs (one game – throwback/vintage jerseys)
- 1997–98: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (through 1999–2000), Dallas Stars (through 1998–99; became road shirt afterward), Ottawa Senators (through 1998–99; became road shirt afterward), Philadelphia Flyers (through 2000–01; became road shirt afterward), St. Louis Blues (became home shirt the following season), San Jose Sharks (became road shirt the following season), Washington Capitals (through 1999–2000; became road shirt afterward)
- 1998–99: Calgary Flames (through 1999–2000; became road jersey through 2003; third shirt again 2003–07), Florida Panthers (through 2002–03; became new home jersey, replaced by former road jersey), New York Rangers (white shirt replaced blue third for one season), Phoenix Coyotes (through 2002–03), Toronto Maple Leafs (through 2006–07)
- 1999–2000: Los Angeles Kings (still used; logos switched in 2002–03)
- 2000–01: Buffalo Sabres (through 2005–06), Ottawa Senators (through 2006–07), Pittsburgh Penguins (through 2001–02; became home uniform after one season)
- 2001–02: Colorado Avalanche (through 2006–07), Edmonton Oilers (designed by Todd McFarlane; through 2006–07), Nashville Predators (through 2006–07), San Jose Sharks (through 2006–07), Vancouver Canucks (through 2005–06)
- 2002–03: New York Islanders (through 2006–07), Philadelphia Flyers (orange with 3D version of logo, through 2006–07)
- 2003–04: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (through 2005–06), Atlanta Thrashers (would become home shirt), Boston Bruins (c.1970 – vintage program) Columbus Blue Jackets (became home jersey in 2007–08), Dallas Stars (used through 2005–06), Edmonton Oilers (c.1988 – vintage program), Florida Panthers (former road shirt, through 2006–07), Los Angeles Kings (c.1987 – vintage program), Minnesota Wild (became home jersey in 2007–08); Montreal Canadiens (c.1946 and c.1960 versions – vintage program – 1946 version used through 2006–07), New York Rangers (c.1978 – vintage program), St. Louis Blues (c.1979 – vintage program) Vancouver Canucks (c.1976 – vintage program; worn as fourth in 2005–06, in use as third through 2006–07)
- 2006–07: Boston Bruins (1960s throwback), Buffalo Sabres (c.1980 blue throwback, a white variant was used as a fourth in 2002–03 and was used for the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic)
- 2007–08: During the NHL playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they would wear sweaters similar in design to the ones worn during their 1967 Stanley Cup run, but this did not occur because the Maple Leafs failed to reach a playoff spot during the regular season.
- 2008–09: On September 10, 2008, the Carolina Hurricanes unveiled a new predominantly black third jersey featuring a flag design reminiscent of the maritime advisory flag system. The following teams announced the use of third jerseys for the 2008–09 NHL season: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks (a vintage jersey for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field), Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings (for the 2009 Winter Classic), Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks. To commemorate its 100th season, Montreal Canadiens wear vintage jerseys from seasons 1912–1913, 1915–1916 and 1945–1946 during selected home games against Original Six teams.
- 2009–10: Montreal Canadiens announce in Fall 2008 they will wear vintage jerseys from seasons 1909–1910 and 1910–1911 during selected home games against Original Six teams to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the team. In addition, the Bruins and Flyers donned vintage jerseys for their game as part of the 2010 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park on January 1, and the Flyers then changed to the Winter Classic white jersey as their away sweater for the 2010–11 season; new third jerseys for the 2009–10 NHL season were worn by the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators. The Blackhawks also debuted a new third jersey which is a variation of the Winter classic jersey used in 2009.
- 2010–11: The Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders are officially changing to the third as their home (and a new white road uniform based on same) for the 2010–11 season. Buffalo introduced a new third jersey loosely based on their AHL predecessor, the Buffalo Bisons, to celebrate the team's 40th anniversary. The Columbus Blue Jackets have introduced a new 3rd jersey, wearing it on selective home and away games only. The Anaheim Ducks also introduced a new third jersey as well along with their home and away jerseys. The Pittsburgh Penguins are retiring their throwbacks and unveiled their new third jersey at the 2011 NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field. On November 12, 2010, the New York Rangers introduced a new heritage jersey in a celebration of their 85th anniversary, and will be worn during home games against Original Six teams and on all Sunday home games. The Rangers' heritage jersey debuted on November 17 in a game against the Bruins. The Anaheim Ducks introduced a third jersey on November 26. The jersey features the "D" duck foot logo on the front and the colors are primarily black and orange. On the shoulder of the jersey there is a patch of the mighty duck logo which was no longer used in the 2006–07 NHL season with the logo the Ducks are currently using.
- 2011–12: The Los Angeles Kings relegated their purple and black road jerseys as alternates, while assigning the black and silver jerseys to regular use at home. They made a white and black away jersey based on this design. The Ottawa Senators replaced their black "SENS" alternates to a retro barberpole design based on the original Senators jerseys. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals promoted their 2011 Winter Classic jerseys to third jersey status, while the Toronto Maple Leafs unveiled a new blue retro alternate based on the jerseys worn when they won the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals. Even though the Tampa Bay Lightning unveiled new logos and uniforms, their alternate "BOLTS" uniform was retained. The New York Islanders added a black jersey as their third jersey.
- 2012–13: No third jerseys were unveiled in the lockout-shortened season, but the Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers dropped their third jerseys.
- 2013–14: The Buffalo Sabres unveiled their two-tone third jersey, with the front of the jersey in gold and the back of the jersey in navy. The Calgary Flames replaced their classic 1980s third jerseys with a red and black jersey featuring a throwback 'Calgary' script and modern design features. The Carolina Hurricanes retained their black third jerseys despite unveiling a new uniform set, while the third jerseys of the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins were dropped.
National Rugby League
In recent years the third jersey has appeared in the Australian NRL, with every team having a 'home' jersey, an 'away' jersey and a 'heritage' jersey. The NRL does not currently require third or alternate jerseys, because most clashes can be resolved with away jerseys or using modified under-20s jerseys.
- South Sydney Rabbitohs used a white jersey (the under-20s away jersey) against Canberra in 2008, even though the NRL stated that the Souths and Canberra jerseys don't clash. They have a similar jersey for 2009 which contains tribal Aboriginal and Maori designs.
- Parramatta Eels have adopted a home (yellow with blue designs), away (blue with yellow designs, however in 2007 this was the alternate) and alternate (white with yellow designs, however in 2007 was away) jersey scheme. They (along with Manly-Warringah and Illawarra) were one of the pioneers of away jerseys in rugby league in Australia.
- Canterbury Bulldogs use a jersey reminiscent of their training jersey as a clash strip (also their under-20s away jersey). They also wear their Berries strip from the 1960s as a heritage strip and a similar (yet quite different) jersey (white with blue and black butcher stripes) for trials.
- Brisbane Broncos have been known to wear a blue and aqua alternate jersey, however, it is rare to see as blue has become a colour hated by Queensland rugby league fans.
- Wests Tigers have worn a white version of their 2008 home jersey, switching the white/orange areas, and introduced a "10 Year Anniversary" jersey, which is white with black and orange V's. They also wear modernised versions of the old Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies strips from the 1980s.
- Though not technically third jumpers, the Centenary of Rugby League celebrations left all teams with special jerseys for the Centenary round, and in 2009 several teams wore the same jerseys (the Newcastle Knights, however, wore their foundation strip, in 2008 they wore a Newcastle Rebels jersey, which was the first Newcastle team in the NSWRL and played in the NSWRL's foundation season. The New Zealand Warriors wore a jersey symbolising the history of rugby league in Auckland, with a dark blue jersey with 2 white V's, while the Melbourne Storm wore their 2000's light purple with white lightning bolts away strip in the 2009 Heritage Round, while in 2008 they wore their foundation jersey with V's).
- As a result of the above point, the Sydney Roosters have used five jerseys in 2008.
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