This is a guide to buying Semi-pro Pittsburgh Penguins hockey jerseys in the style of the 2006/2007 season (hereafter referred to as "'07"): i.e. the style first worn by Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin. This style, black with white and gold trim, was first introduced in the '01 season as the third jersey. In the '03 season, this was made the regular road jersey and a white version was adopted as the home jersey. Between '01 and '04, CCM made the white jerseys and KOHO made the dark ones. In '06 and '07, all were made by CCM (whereas the game jerseys were adorned with the RBK logo). I'll use one of my KOHO jerseys as a reference, and try to point out what differences I have noticed between that and the late CCM ones.
I've never written a guide before, but what prompted me to do so was the proliferation of fakes that have appeared on ebay recently. Actually, I had been meaning to start this for about a month, but just haven't had the time. Even now, I think you'll find perhaps 80% of the jerseys of this type are fakes. I couldn't say for sure, because I filter out the offending sellers. :) What really upsets me is how so many people are taken in by what to me are blatant fakes. I saw one sell for $80, which is more than some Pro/Authentic ones! What really takes the biscuit is the way some of these sellers try to pass their jerseys off as being genuine or authentic, using various bogus claims of authenticity and retail price. So, hopefully, by writing this guide I might help some people benefit from my experience and avoid getting ripped off.
I should say, here, a little about Authentic and Semi-Pro jerseys. Authentic Center Ice Jersey is the term CCM use for the jerseys that they sell to the public that are identical to the ones worn by the players. The Semi-Pros are the replica jerseys, which are much cheaper and lack some of the features of the Authentics. They are still authentic in the dictionary sense and they are officially licenced by the NHL. Nothing wrong with a Semi-Pro replica, in fact because they have a "fan cut" they fit better then the Authentics, which after '00 have very wide sleeves. :)
Right, let's get started by showing you a picture of one of my jerseys. I actually bought this from ebay, but it's identical to one I bought from a reputable shop, so I now it's not a fake. What's more, when you look for reputable dealers on line, they will all (or certainly did, before the Edge and Premier jerseys came out) have identical photos.
Working from top to bottom, the differences between the genuine and fake jerseys are as follows.
LabellingThe first thing that gives away a fake jersey is the fact that the tags are attached to the neck label. This is never the case for genuine CCM/HOHO jerseys. They are always attached to the left cuff of the jersey. As an avid collector of jerseys, I have bought many new ones (Pro and Semo-Pro) and they all had tags attached through the left cuff. The actual labels used may well be different too. A genuine KOHO jersey will have a yellow KOHO label. The later CCM ones will have Reebok labels. All, should have an NHL hologram label, which never seems to be present on the fakes. Here are some examples.
The CCM one is from '00, KOHO from '04 and this next one is nicked from a listing of an '07 CCM (sorry!).
Customisation.Where do I begin with this one? There doesn't appear to be one aspect of customisation that they have got right!
- the font is incorrect
- they only use 2 layers of twill instead of the required 3
- the name is stitched directly to the jersey instead of being stitched onto a nameplate, which is then stitched or stuck to the jersey
- the top-most layer of twill is smooth, rather than the required "glacier twill"
- there is never an NHLPA logo attached to indicate that the kit meets the NHLPA specifications
Something that's not easily spotted from normal photos is the type of material used for the lettering. The best place to see this is by looking for Penguins jerseys on websites that show game-worn jerseys. Whereas most teams use a smooth, almost shiny material, the top-most layer (i.e. white on my jersey) is made from a material that has a criss-cross pattern weaved into it, known as glacier twill. (This is true for Colorado jerseys too.) If you try searching for "glacier twill" on google, you'll probably find a supplier or two with some good photos. You can see the glacier pattern on the captain's "C" above. (Sorry: I wanted have put a better close-up photo here, but I can only include 10 pictures!)
Lastly, on jerseys that have been customised using NHLPA certified kits, an NHLPA logo is either stitched or screen printed next to the neck label. That is just visible on my jersey. An example of the NHLPA logo can be seen in the Bruins jersey above.
I wouldn't say that any jersey without this logo contains the wrong lettering and it certainly wouldn't indicate the jersey to be a fake. I have a few jerseys without the logo and I'm 100% sure they are not fakes and am quite happy that the lettering is correct. The key thing is that if you can't tell the difference between the lettering on your jersey and jerseys the players wear, then that's all that matters.
So, for the white jerseys, you should be looking for black glacier on top of a gold layer, on top of another black layer. Always 3 layers, for numbers, letters and the "C" and "A" patches.
Gold materialMoving down a bit, the next big difference is to do with the gold transition between black and white. One easy thing to spot on some fakes is that the gold material is clearly the wrong type of material (i.e. not shiny) or the wrong colour. Other smaller differences are to do with the width of the thin black stripe between gold and white and the angle of the transition. These are very common features of fakes. First, the thin black stripe is too thick. If you look for it, having seen my jersey, you will probably notice without having to compare photos: it really is that obvious sometimes. The other thing, not shown in my photo is that the gold lines should be parallel and co-linear (this means they "line up"). You can see what I mean in this next picture of my other jersey. In many photos of the fake jerseys, the two lines are completely misaligned.
It's interesting to note that the Pro/Authentic jerseys aren't made this way either! From all of the photos I have seen of CCM/KOHO game-worn jerseys, it seems that the thin black stripe is made by using air-knit material where the colour of the thread is changed during the weaving process, creating one piece of material with a change in colour. So the gold material is stitched on one side to the main body of the jersey, as with the replicas, and on the other side is stitched to one piece of air-knit that starts off black and then changes to white. (Of course, these seams are double stitched too.) I don't think this looks as nice, which is a shame. From seeing a few close-ups on TV, it seems that the '06 Reebok jerseys are the same, but the '07 ones are made like the Semi-Pros, with the extra layer sewn on top. I want one of those! :)
Cuff logo Moving a little further down, the next thing to notice is the placement of the CCM logo on the left cuff. This seems to me always too far from the cuff and very close to the gold/black transition. It's hard to compare it with this jersey because the logos are different shapes, but from what I have seen of the jerseys on ebay that are certainly genuine, the fake jerseys have the CCM logo too high up.
Hem and NHL Puck logo Finally, we come to the hem. You can see from my jersey that there is a good inch between the base of the jersey and the hem stitching. This is not the case on a fake: the hem stitching is much closer to the base, perhaps as much as half the distance as it should be. One key consequence of this is that there's no room to put the NHL puck logo: it appears instead above the hem stitching and looks completely out of place. It's absolutely hiddeous! One exception to this rule seems to be for the most recent CCM (Reebok) jersey: from what I have seen on ebay, the jerseys made during the '07 season no longer have an NHL puck logo on the hem. [Update 27/09/08: I've just seen a listing of one of these fakes in which a close-up photo of the puck was shown. In addition to being in the wrong place, the logo itself is a very poor copy of the real thing.]
Post-lockout jerseysThese are the jerseys made by CCM, under the ownership of Reebok, for the '06 and '07 seasons. Some, I'm sure, must have been made for the '05 season as well but were not sold until '06 due to the lockout.
From what I have seen of these jerseys, both from reputable ebay sellers and from online stores, there are just a couple of key differences in these more recent jerseys. First, it seems they all have sewn-on logos; whereas the earlier ones are all glued. Second, they all seem to have under-arm gussets. Finally, the most recent ones no longer have the NHL puck logo on the hem. I think they must have stopped putting it on only for the '07-model jerseys. So if you see what appears to be a genuine jersey that is just lacking the puck logo, then it's almost certainly a genuine '07 jersey. My preference, then, would be for an '06 Semi-Pro or even an '07 Authentic (though they are so big!). :)
Other jerseysMore recently, I have also noticed some Authentic Center Ice jerseys that look rather suspicious. The main logo is crooked, the reinforcment under the elbows is black instead of white, the lettering isn't glacier twill (though at least the font and layering are correct) and in some cases the fight strap appears to be attached in the wrong place. In some listings, you can see that the thin stipe next to the gold is made differently too. So beware of those too, I would suggest.
Update: I have seen several fake Edge jerseys. They don't look all that suspicious, but they were from a dodgy seller. When I looked at a close up of the label from a reputable online store, I noticed that these ones are not identical and so the jerseys are almost certainly fakes.