Does the NHL need to relax its dress code?
What’s Happening: As anticipation for the new NHL season continues to grow, playing styles aren’t the only sophistication some teams are working to perfect. A recent ESPN story by Emily Kaplan revealed that the Arizona Coyotes are the one club to officially relax its dress code on game days for the upcoming season.
Discontinuing its strict suit-only policy and allowing players to choose what they wear to games was something the Coyotes started last season. The relaxed policy will carry over into the upcoming campaign.
Emily Kaplan @emilymkaplanEventually, the NHL may ease up on its suit & ties game day dress code. Behind the scenes, the NHLPA is pushing for it. But it takes time to change longstanding norms. As of now, there's only one trailblazing team: the Arizona Coyotes. https://t.co/5ILsfl0Idj
Did You Know? Of the four major sports leagues in North America, the NHL is the only one with strict game-day attire regulations outlined in its collective bargaining agreement. According to the NHL CBA, “Players are required to wear jackets, ties and dress pants to all club games and while traveling to and from such games unless otherwise specified by the Head Coach or General Manager."
Emerging Personalities: Arizona being the first team to jump on board makes sense; they need as much branding creativity as any team in the league. But in the bigger picture, allowing player personalities to shine would be a boon for a league that has been accused of stifling player voices.
The NBA is perhaps the most well-known league for players expressing themselves via fashion. With players walking into games akin to a fashion runway, it not only generates chatter but has also sparked an entire industry. Dex Robinson, an athlete stylist, told The Athletic that “when you think of sports fashion, you go NBA, and NFL second, and hockey isn’t even part of it.”
You don’t need to look far for plentiful examples in the NBA. Serge Ibaks went viral with his “scarf game” in 2020, something that helped grow his YouTube channel. Russell Westbrook appeared in GQ just for his game-day style.
With NHL economics already apples to the NBA and NFL’s oranges, hockey players’ desire to capitalize on other revenue opportunities makes sense. Developing a personal brand around fashion is one such opportunity, but something the NHL is still for whatever reason resistant to these changes.
Katia Dragotis is the COO of Pro Trending, a company which helps athletes grow and sell their pregame fashion directly to consumers. She told The Athletic: “We want to work more with hockey, and I think right now the sport hasn’t really taken that big step yet.”
Winds of Change: Whereas NBA tradition is to grow the game via the players, the NHL is also steeped in the tradition of growing the game first, players later. Wearing suits to games is so entrenched that it also extends to minor hockey, where youth hockey players are also tasked with wearing jackets and ties to games.
But the NHL is also a copycat league and some teams have taken Arizona’s lead and started pushing the boundaries of what their players can wear. The Nashville Predators announced plans to have team tracksuits and the Seattle Kraken are going with “business casual” for this season.
For the players, the movement is a point of excitement. Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun said he loved wearing a funky sweater last season that was “loud.” Leafs star Auston Matthews has spoken out about his preference to relax the code. Dallas forward Roope Hintz expressed his desire for more off-ice revenue. And in a 2019-2020 NHLPA poll, 73 percent of players were in favor of a more relaxed dress code.
The NHL seems to be trending in the right direction, but like its history, it may take some time for the league to show some personality.
Weigh In: Are you in favor of players wearing what they like?
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