There are four "levels" of hockey jerseys available for purchase. As the title of the post states they are Fakes, Replicas, Authentics, and Gamers. I'm going to attempt to share as much knowledge as I have about each of these levels of jerseys. The driving force behind this post is my theory that most people who purchase jerseys don't know or care about what they are purchasing. Hopefully I can change that, if you and your wallet will allow me.
FAKES / KNOCKOFFS
These are poorly produced jerseys, made without any trademark permits and usually come from China. Fakes are produced in other countries too, but China is the main culprit. There are certain elements that stick out on these jerseys. Your first indicator of a knockoff jersey is the price. I would say anything under $100 (when NOT sold by a reputable dealer) would suggest it's a knockoff. Sometimes you may come across a good deal on eBay. If you are curious, ask the seller to take some pictures of the forthcoming mentioned areas. They will be the tell-tale sign of a knockoff jersey.
Another prominent feature of a knockoff jersey are the "puffy" patches and numbers.
Knockoffs use a much thicker material for their numbers and patches rather than the standard tackle-twill. The patches are sewn on, but done so by people who aren't paid well (if at all) and are trying to produce the same number of units, if not more, that a machine can pump out. Also if you flip the jersey inside out you will see a rushed and uneven stitching job with loose threads coming out. You may also find a paper behind the patches and numbers in whole or partial pieces.
Knockoff jerseys will always use tie-downs in an attempt to fool the consumer into believing they have purchased an Authentic or even a Gamer for a phenomenal price. The tie-down, from the Fakes I've seen, have almost always been attached incorrectly.
Sometimes it will be attached by a thick piece of fabric instead of two pieces of twill sandwiching the tie-down and then attached to the jersey. Many times that chunky piece of fabric and the tie-down will be stitched onto the jersey carelessly and on an angle. You'll also find that the tie-down is either very thin or very wide. I have yet to see a Fake with a properly sized tie-down.
Because these Fakes are likely being reproduced from photos and not NHL style guides/sheets, many elements will vary between manufacturers. Incorrect colours, fonts, and thickness of stripes can all be indicators of knockoff jerseys. To the uninformed consumer the tags will look legitimate, but take a closer look and you'll see inconsistencies. The hologram NHL tag should flip logos when rotated, but on Fakes it's just a shiny piece of cardboard. Other tags are poorly printed, being too light, too dark, or not even legible.
The size of these jerseys are way different. A size 58 Authentic or Gamer should comfortably fit someone who wears a XXL. However on a Fake, a 58 would be more fitting for someone who wears L. The knockoffs have no shape, so they fit like a garbage can.
- Jock tag stitched into front left hem, clearly displaying the size of the jersey
- Slits cut into the bottom of the hem, on the sides, which go up 3-4 inches.
- No tie-down
The Replicas don't come without their flaws though. These flaws become hard to overlook especially if you are a hardcore collector. Don't think for a second that when you purchase a Replica that it's identical to the jerseys worn by NHL players in NHL arenas. Almost all of the materials used to make Replica jerseys are of lesser quality than the Authentics and Gamers. Still much better quality than the Fakes though.
The shoulder patches are screen printed pieces of plastic that have then been applied on to the jersey. The collar laces are 4-5 inches longer on each side than those that are used on Gamers. And of course Reebok needs to place their branding on the jersey as much as possible. So you'll get the jock tag on the front hem, another tag inside the collar, and the logo stitched onto the left wrist. None of these branding elements have ever appeared on the jerseys worn by NHL players on-ice.
|I remove the collar and Reebok jock tags for a more authentic look|
A Reebok Premiere Replica jersey is still a fine product and suitable for almost anyone who wants a jersey. Replicas though can be priced as high as $140 with no numbers, that's a steep price point, which in my opinion significantly contributes to the demand of the Fakes. Obviously prices will always increase, but previous to the Reebok Edge makeover in 2007 you got a much better Replica jersey for $80-$100.
Anyone who wants to get closer to the on-ice product is going to have to open up their wallet. Wider. Even wider than that!
Simply put, Authentics have everything that Replicas are missing. They're made from better and more Gamer-like materials. Reebok would like you to believe they are the same materials as Gamers, but read any Reebok written description of an Authentic jersey and you'll find that they never say they use 100% the same materials as the on-ice jerseys.
The shoulder patches on an Authentic jersey will actually be embroidered patches, which are heat pressed AND stitched on to the jersey for extra durability. Finally, you won't get the slits cut into the sides of the hem, which is true to a game-worn jersey.
Authentics don't feature the jock tag on the hem or the Reebok logo on the left wrist, which is true to the on-ice product. The Reebok tag inside the collar does appear on some Authentics though. The collar tag on an Authentic is black, while the tag on a Replica is grey. Attached to the black Reebok tag will be a tag which features the Canadian flag and lets you know that the product was made in Canada (see exception below).
Once we reach Authentic level, real tie-downs will be on the jerseys. They will be stitched in straight and properly applied to the jersey sandwiched between two pieces of twill. These tie-downs will actually be functional, which is typically not the case with the Fakes.
Of course Authentics come with their flaws too...
If you find an Authentic with neon green trim inside the collar it was made in Indonesia. These jerseys have garnered the nickname "Indo-Edge" jerseys. The quality of these jerseys is not at the same level as their Canadian counterparts. The materials used in no way matches those used on the on-ice jerseys. Even the official Reebok/NHL description of the jerseys tries to confuse the customer into believing that they will be purchasing an exact on-ice version of a jersey (taken from Shop.NHL.com);
The Reebok® EDGE authentic hockey jersey replicates the jersey worn by all NHL® players on the ice. It features a combination of stitched-embroidery and twill-appliqué team crests; the new Reebok® wordmark is embroidered on the back of the neck and sleeve. X-trafil fabric provides additional reinforcement in the shoulder and elbow areas, while PlayDry® performance Lycratalic is featured in the neck collar.Wait, "replicates the jersey worn by all NHL players on the ice"? I thought that's what the Premiere/Replica was supposed to do?
In many cases the quality of the Indo-Edge jerseys was so inferior that even retailers complained about what they were told to sell as Authentics. Furthermore, many retailers have attempted to clear out their Indonesian made Authentics with low prices.
|IceJerseys.com (July 8 2014)|
From my research it seems as if the original production run of Reebok Edge Authentic jerseys, made in Canada, were the same as those worn on-ice by NHL players in 2007. The Sabres' Buffaslug jersey pictured prior in this post is from that era. During that initial Edge season, players complained about water running off the jerseys and into their equipment. So Reebok changed the on-ice jerseys, but they did not change their Authentics. Those first Edge jerseys now were dubbed "Edge 1.0" and the new jerseys were called "Edge 2.0". So before production of the Authentics moved to Indonesia Reebok continued to sell Edge 1.0 Authentics to the customers, even though the new Edge 2.0 sweaters were being used on the ice. You can usually identify these Edge 1.0 Authentics by their black tag inside the collar using the RBK logo, black trim inside the jersey just under the collar, and the Reebok vector logo on the back of the jersey.
Production of the Authentic jerseys switched back to Canada in 2012. The black collar tag and black neck trim both returned to the inside of the collar. Reebok was now using their updated wordmark for all their branding, so it was found on these new Canadian made sweaters. These jerseys are still not made with the same materials as the on-ice sweaters are. However Reebok's or the NHL's product descriptions try to lead you to believe that is the case, in my opinion.
The price of an Authentic jersey ranges anywhere from $200 to $360. Typically newer produced Authentics will be at the higher end of that scale and the Indo-Edge Authentics tend to be on the lower end (sometimes even lower than $200, but use caution). To avoid being duped into purchasing a fake, you'll want to look for clean stitching on the numbers and logos as well as properly attached tie-down and flat tackle-twill numbers.
Someone who has not been educated may purchase an Authentic thinking that they have the same jersey as the NHL players. Unfortunately the only way to get what is worn on the ice is to purchase a Gamer.
There are three levels of Gamers...
- Team issued
- Game issued
- Game worn
A jersey that the team has in its stock that is/was meant for on-ice use. These jerseys will not have a number applied to them and they have yet to be assigned to a player. They were never worn on the ice for a NHL game.
A jersey that has a number applied to it and has been assigned to a player. These jerseys have never been used in a game.
A jersey that has a number, has been assigned to a player, and has been worn on the ice during a game.
Gamers are made of breathable Airknit material. The original Edge jerseys (Edge 1.0) were made of many other materials that helped repel water and other moisture, but after numerous complaints by players the jerseys were restructured and made with Airknit (Edge 2.0). You'll also find reinforced elbows on Gamers, commonly known as double elbows. Gamers have embroidered logos that have been heat pressed onto the jersey and then stitched with a very durable thread. The numbers on the jersey (if applicable) will also receive the same treatment. These are general procedures and each teams application of the numbers will differ slightly depending on how the equipment manager does their work.
If you take a look inside the collar of a Gamer you will not see a Reebok tag. You'll see black trim with the RBK or Reebok wordmark on it (depending on age of jersey), just underneath the collar. For the 2014 Stadium Series jerseys, the bright neon green trim with a black Reebok wordmark was used. This was not used on the replica Stadium Series sweaters, so you likely won't confuse them for an Indo-Edge sweater. A few inches below that trim you'll find a "Made in Canada" tag which will display the size of the jersey.
|Game Used Kopitar Stadium Series sweater (Photo: MeiGray.com)|
A Gamer will have three spots in which Reebok has placed its branding. The trim under the collar, the back of the jersey (only branding visible to fans), and there is a tag inside the jersey near the torso that says what materials were used to make the jersey.
Every modern Gamer will have a tie-down, properly attached as described in the Authentics section. All the numbers and patches will be stitched to the jersey in a Z pattern and you'll never find loose threads due to sloppy stitching on a Gamer. If you happen to find loose threads on a Gamer it should be from game use. Typically loose threads are repaired by the teams' equipment manager though.
I've seen prices for Gamers range from $65 to over $350,000. It really depends on what level the Gamer is, as discussed above. What player was issued the jersey? How much game wear does it show? Usually, the more game wear the better, but too much game wear can cause the price to drop.
I personally have 2 Gamers in my collection. Both are "Game Worn" Toronto Maple Leafs jerseys. Both were purchased for around $150 each. Obviously a collection of Gamers is going to be pricey. If I could make a suggestion for anyone who wants to get serious about collecting jerseys, that is to get a Gamer. Feel the differences. That's obviously easier said than done. However, if you can save some money, then save money for a Gamer. If you see one on sale for cheap, don't hesitate. They are worth every penny (most of the time).
I hope I've helped anyone who was close to unknowingly purchasing a Fake jersey. I hope I've shed some light on anyone who already has unknowingly purchased a Fake. And maybe I've even convinced a few of you to spend your hard earned money on a Gamer. Really all that matters is that you enjoy your jersey collection.