New York Rangers
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

NBC left New York Rangers fans with the ultimatum of choosing between the Lady Liberty third or 2011-12 Winter Classic sweater.

Fans take hockey sweaters seriously and that’s especially true during the NHL’s current hiatus.

It’s no secret that even the average sports fan realizes that the New York Rangers have donned a top-five NHL sweater for decades. NHL on NBC’s Twitter account elevated a classic debate on which alternate sweater the Broadway Blueshirts should reintroduce.

The tweet ignited the heated debate on Tuesday when it asked users if the Rangers should bring back the 2011-12 Winter Classic sweater or the Lady Liberty alternate?

In less than one hour, the post received over 200 comments and it seemed that fans favored the iconic Lady Liberty sweater by a landslide. This hockey jersey enthusiast can’t blame them either because ESNY completely agrees.

When did Lady Liberty originate?

The Lady Liberty sweater was introduced during the 1996-97 regular season when alternate jerseys first stormed the NHL scene. The navy sweater was a gem compared to other teams’ third jerseys that were quickly retired. Remember the Los Angeles Kings’ “Burger King” sweater which they wore for one game? Ouch.

The jersey grew in such popularity that the Rangers introduced a white version for the team to wear at home for the 1998-99 season, while it wore the navy for road games. At one point in time, it seemed that New York wore the Lady Liberty jerseys more often than the traditional home and away sweaters.

Keep in mind, the Rangers wore the navy Lady Liberty sweaters for road games during the 1996-97 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

While the jersey arguably represents “dark times” for the Blueshirts, considering the Rangers missed the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons with Lady Liberty (1997-2004), the jersey is still beloved by the Garden faithful.

The Lady Liberty crest is eye-catching and served as a commendable alternate logo, while the sweater’s overall simplicity didn’t stray away from the team’s overall branding.

Keep in mind that all-time greats and fan-favorites wore the alternate sweater. Skaters such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, Petr Nedved and goaltender Mike Richter all donned New York’s favorite alternate jersey…other than the New York Mets’ black alternates, no?

Well, that’s a story for another time.

ESNY described what a potential modern-day version of Lady Liberty could look like here.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the off-white Winter Classic sweater. It’s just that the Rangers’ other outdoor sweaters were better. However, the Rangers did beat the Flyers 3-2 in that game so the sweater might have some luck stitched into the fibers.

A white alternate would be different compared to what most NHL teams don for third jerseys, but a new-look Rangers squad should re-introduce Lady Liberty and avenge the sweater that suffered too many losing seasons during its first tenure.

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.