There are few things I love more than hockey and fashion. I couldn’t be happier when I see NHL players get to express themselves with cool outfits.
Under the NHL’s CBA, players are required to wear a suit, dress shirt, and tie to the arena on game days “unless otherwise specified by the head coach or manager.” It’s the only major professional sports league in North America with such a strict dress code.
Friday musing: Time for the NHL to ditch the mandatory suit and tie dress code for players? Let players express themselves, personalities and in some cases their brands by choosing their apparel before/after games. The suit and tie for players is a vestige of a bygone era.
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) February 19, 2021
A few weeks ago on Twitter, Allan Walsh brought this topic up and it got people talking. A lot of the old-fashioned hockey fans disagreed, stating that professional athletes should always be in professional attire.
What is wrong with with looking professional? The play by play and studio pundits, analysts, the agents wear suits…..I assume its because that is professional attire. Why shouldnt NHL players also dress in professional attire to and from work?
— TheRealTyshu (@TheRealTyshu) March 5, 2021
I disagree. This is what makes our sport the class of the 4 major sports. They’re representing the team and the city. Nothing says class and respect more. pic.twitter.com/fpALEQNAaw
— Matt Pelletier🇨🇦 (@temekumatt) February 19, 2021
Professional athlete. That should mean something beyond performance. For 82 evenings each season, dress like it means something, in the same way a lawyer prepares for a day in court or an elected official conducting business. Professionalism is about the approach.
— Ivan Stemahovolowski (@stemahovolowski) February 19, 2021
Yes, they may be professionals, but it’s now the year 2021, and the suit and tie requirement goes back to when the league first commenced and when suits and ties used to be daily attire for men.
Many players have unique fashion senses, and while you can express yourself with a suit, it would be much more interesting to see what outfits guys put together for games. This isn’t to say it should be a free-for-all because there still should be certain things you can and cannot wear. The clothing should be appropriate and presentable to an extent.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews is known for his bold fashion sense. He did an interview with GQ in 2018 and discussed his sense of style. Here are some quotes from the article:
Would you say the sport’s fashion sense is evolving?
I think the NHL, compared to other sports, is a little more reserved and traditional. We wear suits to all of our games. Other sports, they’re free to wear whatever and be creative. But I definitely think it’s evolved quite a bit. The guys are younger and they like to wear different stuff, like stuff that stands out and not just black and white. For me, it’s cool to see. And maybe one day down the line the NHL will want to do something like what basketball and football, where guys are free to wear whatever and get creative and make things a little more interesting. I don’t mind at all wearing a suit. I actually kind of like it. I have a lot of suits in my closet. I get different ones every year. But at the same time, I wouldn’t hate being able to wear street clothes and something different than a suit.
What are your favorite brands?
I like Gucci a lot. I like Off-White quite a bit. A lot of their shoes and stuff are different and hard to get. Givenchy, I like a lot. Louis Vuitton, I like their luggage and wallets. I tend to lean toward that as far as that goes. I think my number one is Gucci.
Matthews has always stood out when it comes to expressing himself through his outfits.
Sports should be fun and the NHL itself could use a lot of help when it comes to marketing and growing the game. It’s a predominantly white sport and the same goes for the fanbase. If players were allowed to be diverse with their outfits, it could provide a more relaxed environment and might even draw new viewers to the sport.
For example, the NBA fashion account “League Fits” has almost one million followers on Instagram alone. That means that so many people are into what the players wear that they follow the Instagram account that showcases league-wide fashion.
Now is the perfect time for the NHL to change its dress code due to their new deal with ESPN. It’s self-explanatory that ESPN is a sports giant, so this could be the start of more people getting into hockey.
Whenever the NHL has allowed players to wear what they want, the results have always been phenomenal. During last year’s playoff bubble, some teams relaxed their dress code to make things more enjoyable amidst a global pandemic. This resulted in tons of fans taking to social media to grade players on their outfits and rate them on a scale of one to ten.
Even players got in on the action. Former NHLer Kris Versteeg posted Instagram stories rating everyone’s fashion choices.
Versteeg made comments about the dress code, too, saying it should no longer be a thing.
“I feel like we’re leaving millions — maybe hundreds of millions — of dollars on the table with advertising and marketing opportunities,” Versteeg said. “The way the NBA treats it — every time they get out of their bus or cars, it’s a free red carpet. Who are you wearing? What are you wearing? Who can you be sponsored by? Fashion and streetwear is so in, especially over the last three years as NBA players have popularized it. I wish the NHL would get on board. It might be a bit of a psychological change for the fans too because they’re so used to seeing players dress a certain way, but I think they need to see these players and their own personalities come out. So not only can guys get sponsorship deals out of it, but they’ll be more personable to fans. Because there’s no better way to show your personality with what you wear.”
I couldn’t agree with him more!
In February, the Boston Bruins showed up to their Lake Tahoe game in 90’s attire. Their reverse retro jerseys are from the 1990s, so they decided to pay homage to the era with what they wore. The photos of the team went viral in an instant.
Even people who don’t watch hockey saw these photos and were talking about it. This is exactly what the NHL should want. It needs this type of attention.
Whatever your stance is, just remember that times change, and eventually, these old habits will probably wear out. The league is becoming younger and the long-tenured coaches and players will be retiring one-by-one. This will bring in new faces and ideas which could make a dress code change inevitable in the future.
– Caylee Allard
Follow me on Twitter: @2kaRask
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