Why do Hockey Players (NHL) Wear Suits to Work?

Posted on September 22, 2023 by Dan Kent
hockey players suits early

If you've ever seen an NHL player arriving at the rink for a game, you may notice that he's impeccably dressed in a suit and tie. 

But while most players have no problem dressing up for a game, some would be just as happy in a pair of jeans and a sweater.

It's not like it impacts the quality of play, so what gives?

Why do hockey players wear suits?

NHL players arrive for work in a jacket, tie and dress pants on game day because the league and Players' Association (NHLPA) have agreed to it in every collective bargaining agreement since 1995. 

In addition, each club may have its own set of rules regarding clothing. However, the players don't have to abide by the league dress code for team practices. Other professional, semi-pro and junior leagues may also have dress codes. At the same time, recreational players are free to wear what they choose to their contests. 

Why does the NHL have a game-day dress code?

The league and NHLPA want their players to look professional when representing their respective organizations and feel this is the ideal way. 

The players realize the difference between games and practices while wearing suits. The dress code is also meant to promote team unity and excellence.

Additionally, it is essential to understand that the NHL is a business with numerous sponsors and means of revenue generation. It likely doesn't want its league associated with bad fashion choices, as it could impact those dollars coming in.

What do hockey players wear?

Players are typically asked by their clubs to wear a jacket, tie and dress pants while travelling and attending team functions and meetings. They can still dress creatively and express their unique personality and individuality if they adhere to the code.

On odd occasions, somebody disobeys the dress code. They are typically punished for their nonconformity. For example, the Winnipeg Jets scratched forward Evander Kane from the lineup for a game in 2015 when he violated the team's dress code by showing up for a meeting in a tracksuit.

It's also widely believed that the NHL's dress code affects players' mentality, as suits and ties often represent power and authority. For instance, if a player looks and feels good, he'll likely play better on the ice. This has been deeply engrained in hockey culture and is unlikely to change.

A professional atmosphere

The dress code often brings with it an element of professionalism and seriousness. Fans and teammates will take someone walking into an NHL arena with a suit and tie on more seriously than players walking in with sweatpants and tank tops.

This history of elegance, whether or not you agree with it, is undoubtedly a driving factor when it comes to the NHL's dress code.

Exceptions to the hockey dress code

While the NHL dress code is a league-wide policy, a team's general manager or head coach may relax the rules, but it rarely happens. 

Some players feel the code is a little strict or outdated since they wear a suit and tie to drive to home games and walk into the locker room before taking it off. When teams are on the road, they typically take a bus from the hotel to the rink and are rarely seen by fans.

However, the popularity of the dress code does exist among some players, as they feel it's an excellent way to represent themselves, their families, hockey club, community and profession. 

Many players even view the dress code as a friendly competition between teammates as they try to outdo each other in the fashion and style departments. 


By the time a hockey player reaches the NHL, he's likely been following a dress code for several years, making it easy to adapt since it's seen as a tradition. 

Many organized minor hockey leagues have dress codes for youngsters and teenagers, and they're used to being told what they should and shouldn't wear when representing their organization.

The NHL's dress code will never be favored by every player, but it's something they've gotten used to. Some players would still dress in a sharp suit and tie without being forced to, while others would show up in more casual clothing.

The league may alter or remove the dress code in the future and new rules put in place. Still, we'll have to wait until the following collective bargaining agreement is negotiated.

As for dress codes for youngsters, many parents feel the hockey price is high enough and asking them to dress up makes the sport more costly. 

Why don’t other professional sports leagues make their players wear suits?

Many other professional sports leagues have relaxed dress codes relative to the National Hockey League. For example, the NBA, which used to have stringent dress code rules enacted in 2005, loosened restrictions a few years ago.

As a result, you'll often see basketball players entering the arena or sitting on the sidelines in a hoodie or polo t-shirt.

Other professional sports like tennis have no dress requirements. At the same time, you'll often see NFL players getting off planes and entering arenas in suits.

The simple answer to the question depends on the professional league you're looking at.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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