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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 the majority of players have no problem with dressing up for a game some of them would be just as happy in a pair of jeans and a sweater.
The reason NHL players arrive for work in a jacket, tie and dress pants on game day is because the league and players’ association (NHLPA) have agreed to it in every collective bargaining agreement since 1995. In addition, each club may have it’s 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 while recreational players are free to wear what they choose to their contests.
Why a dress code?
The league and NHLPA want their players to look professional when representing their respective organizations and feel this is the ideal way to do it. The players realize the difference between games and practices while wearing suits and the dress code is also meant to promote team unity.
Players are typically asked by their clubs to also wear a jacket, tie and dress pants while traveling and attending team functions and meetings. They can still dress creatively and express their unique personality and individuality as long as they adhere to the code.
On the odd occasion, somebody disobeys the dress code they are typically punished for their non-conformity. 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 the 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.
Exceptions to 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 Some players feel the code is a little strict or outdated since they just wear a suit and tie to drive to home games and walk into the locker room before taking it off.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, other players enjoy dressing up 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 already, making it easy to adapt to since it’s seen as a tradition. Many organized minor hockey leagues have dress codes for youngsters and teenagers and they’re simply used to being told what they should and shouldn’t wear when representing their organization.
The NHL’s dress code is never going to 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 dress code may be altered or removed by the league in the future but we’ll have to wait until the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated in 2023.
As for dress codes for youngsters, many parents feel the price of hockey is high enough already and asking them to dress up just makes the sport more costly.
What do you think, is it a good or bad thing that players are forced to wear suits?