A hockey jersey is like a flag, a show of colors, stripes, and symbols varying only from player to player in number and name. For the player, a jersey is a key part of one’s uniform, worn to instantly identify one’s allegiances. For the fan, a jersey is a symbol of victories achieved, as well as ones that got away.
Collectors have long gravitated to hockey jerseys for their graphic appeal and historical significance. In general, there are two types of hockey jerseys, which are often referred to as sweaters in Canada.
The first, less desirable variety, is the replica jersey, a reproduction of a player’s team jersey from a particular era. Some people collect home jerseys, others collect road colors, and serious fans collect jerseys worn by players at various points in their career. For example, Wayne Gretzky’s blue and orange Edmonton Oilers road jersey from 1979 might be paired with his black and silver Los Angeles Kings road uniform from 1988.
Game-worn or game-used jerseys (the terms are used interchangeably) are even more highly prized. If you get a really old one, say from the 1930s, it’s likely to be made out of wool rather than the mesh polyester jerseys of modern times.
Jerseys worn by players such as Maurice “Rocket” Richards and Guy Lafleur of the Montreal Canadiens, Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Mark Messier of the New York Rangers are particularly collectible.
Finally there are autographed jerseys. Again, game-worn jerseys are more sought-after than replicas. For players like Bobbie Orr, Gordie Howe, and Wayne Gretzky, the older the jersey the better, if you can afford it, that is.