Updated: Corrections made to the 1979-80 and 1980-81 illustrations. (10/22/2018)
Updated: Additional information about the 1980-81 jersey patch. (11/2/2018)
The University of Alabama in Huntsville, home of the Chargers who wear blue and white, is celebrating its 40th anniversary season of intercollegiate ice hockey. Beginning with the first club team in 1979, to the three club championships leading to the becoming a varsity sport in 1985, to winning NCAA Division II championships in 1996 and 1998, to the NCAA Division I tournament appearances in 2007 and 2010, to the rising WCHA program today, UAH is a unique case where a nontraditional sport for the South has been a school tradition anyway for four decades.
The Chargers have had many jersey styles throughout the years, and each era has its own defined look. The following uniform history only covers the regular jerseys, not including special events such as military appreciation or throwbacks.
Club Era, Rise to Varsity (1979-87)
For their first year of existence, the UAH club team used a silhouette of the original Uhlan Charger logo with “UAH” in a semicircle above it.
Is this a cover-up? The original design with the Uhlan Charger is replaced with a conspicuous blue circle with “UAH Chargers” and a pair of hockey sticks. Note that you can see individual threads for the lettering and sticks.
According to Joe Ritch, the founder and first head coach, the club program had a very small budget from UAH in the second year. They were able to buy some new equipment, but not enough for a new set of uniforms. The first season’s uniforms were worn both home and away, and washing them caused the silkscreen logo to start fading. So, with the help of the old Fred Sington Sporting Goods location in Huntsville, cheap patches were made to cover the fading logo.
Helped by the excitement around the gold-medal champion 1980 U.S. Olympic team, the Chargers started selling out the Von Braun Civic Center in the 1980-81 season. By the 1981-82 season, the team had a small but decent budget with the help of the school and the VBCC.
The Chargers saw new uniforms with a traditional style, with the word “CHARGERS” in a diagonal line. UAH won its first U.S. National Club Championship in Colorado Springs in this jersey.
A blue jersey was unveiled in the 1982 Southern Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament championship game at the VBCC against Tennessee. Bud McLaughlin explains: “We warmed up in our whites, changed after the warmup, and came out in those – the first time to wear blue sweaters. The crowd went wild.”
The team stayed with blue for the 1982-83 season, using an inverted version of the white jersey. The Chargers won their second consecutive U.S. National Club Championship.
For the remainder of UAH’s club era and for the first two seasons as a varsity program, the Chargers’ white jersey featured “UAH” in large block letters. This was the first version to feature numbers on the sleeves.
Currently, I do not have any photos of the blue road jersey from this era. Goaltender Jim Mitchell tells me, “I recall it was a great looking jersey, I believe it said Alabama Huntsville on the front, Alabama was in script on top of Huntsville. It was mostly blue with white and silver trim. It was a great looking jersey.” If someone had a good photo of this jersey in action, please email it to me at email@example.com.
First Division I Era (1987-92)
This was the style of UAH’s first NCAA Division I era (1987-92). These were the first to use an accent color with the blue and white — in this case, silver. The home whites had “U.A.H.” on the front, the only time periods were used in the abbreviation. The road blues are, to my knowledge, the only uniform in any sport at UAH to spell out the school’s full name. Around 1990, the silver and white stripes on the sleeves and waist were closed in to match the style on the home whites.
Division II Era (1992-1998)
For one season (1992-93), the first returning to NCAA Division II, the Chargers adopted light blue as its accent color on their home jerseys. This also marked the first time the short name “Alabama Huntsville” was used on the uniform. The road jersey did not change that year.
The Division II era was defined by national championships — and red accents. Using red wasn’t just a hockey thing at the time: The basketball teams and the newborn baseball program also used red as an accent color.
This same version of the blue uniform would be used for quite a while — for eight seasons — even when the home whites were tweaked in 1996. The Chargers didn’t wear blue often, though, spending a lot of time dominating at home during the Division II era.
Modern Division I Era, CHA (1999-2010)
The Chargers went back to basics in 2001, going straight blue and white, just after the start of the program’s modern Division I era and becoming a member of College Hockey America. The home white featured an inverted version of the then-new UAH Chargers logo.
The road blues retained the script “Alabama Huntsville” on the front. This was UAH’s first use of logos on the shoulders. The College Hockey America logo was on the back of the collar.
In 2006-07, head coach Doug Ross’s final season, UAH stayed with a simple blue and white design and switched the logo with UAH in block letters. This design introduced blue stripes on the sides and the under side of the sleeves.
The Chargers would still wear the script “Alabama Huntsville” road blues that season, which culminated in their first Division I tournament appearance after winning the CHA tournament. For the 2007-08 season, UAH switched to an inverse blue version of the home whites.
In January of the 2007-08 season, UAH wore alternate uniforms for the first time at the Von Braun Center against Yale. They were the Chargers’ first black uniforms, using an slightly different version of the flaming horse logo from the Calgary Flames’ alternate jersey of the early 2000s.
The Chargers started incorporating black into their main ensemble in 2008. The home white was an tweaked version of the 2006-08 iteration, while the road blue brought back the main UAH Chargers logo on the front.
This would be the set worn through the final days of College Hockey America.
Division I Independent (2010-13)
UAH adopted a new set during the uncertain years of Division I independence. The home white was derived from the New York Rangers white design, replacing red with black and displaying “UAH” in a diagonal formation. The “Charge On” patch above the U was in response to the shooting disaster at UAH in 2010.
The road blue is odd in that there’s not much in common with the home white. The stripe pattern and lettering font is different. The front design is more like what you’d find on a baseball jersey. (Perhaps the baseball team should consider it.)
In the middle of the 2012-13 season, when UAH was pushing to get into the WCHA, the Chargers changed up their road jersey to basically a prototype of what was to come. “Alabama Huntsville” returns to the front, with the horse logo in the middle. Speaking of baseball, the interlocking “UAH” logo, which the UAH baseball team has used on its caps since its inception in 1996, was the shoulder patch.
WCHA Era (2013-present)
A new conference gave the Charger program new life and a new set of uniforms. The basic design of the white and blue jerseys is based off the Chicago Blackhawks template, including the name and number fonts. The Indianapolis Colts-style horseshoe logo makes its debut on the shoulders.
The horse logo makes its return on the home whites, with UAH appearing above it this time. We see the refinement of that prototype blue jersey from the 2012-13 season. In my opinion, today’s blue jersey is the best UAH has ever had.
UAH debuted a permanent third jersey, and it’s UAH’s first gray sweater. Another unique trait of this jersey is the shape of Alabama on the shoulders, with a white star where Huntsville is located.
There have been some changes in the WCHA uniform set up to the present day. In 2015, the home jersey saw a bit more blue added with blue shoulder yokes and a thicker blue stripe on the sleeves and waist, addressing a problem I had with the originals.
The blue jerseys are still part of the road set, but now the Chargers also wear a black jersey that uses elements from both the home whites and road blues.
In the second half of last season, UAH debuted a new alternate gray at home. This one is a bit simpler, opting for just a horse head logo on a blue stripe across the chest. This is the first UAH jersey to have not have “UAH”, “Chargers”, “Alabama Huntsville”, or any lettering on the front (save for the WCHA logo).
Special thanks to those who contributed photos and insight: Bud McLaughlin (1980-82), Jim Mitchell (1983-87), Mike Quenneville (1987-89), and Stu Vitue (1990-93). Photos also by Doug Eagan/UAH Athletics, Jazzmine Jordan, Will Nickerson, Chris Brightwell, and Todd Thompson/RiverCat Photography. Questions and corrections are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.