By: Bailey Massey
Edited By: Kylie Augis
Ever since 1995, NHL players have worn suits upon entrance to whichever arena they are playing at. This is because the league and Players' Association (NHLPA) have agreed to it in every collective bargaining agreement since then. Furthermore, both the NHL and NHLPA want their players to look professional when representing their respective organizations and feel this is the ideal way. When suits are worn, the players realize the difference between games and practices. The dress code is also meant to promote team unity and excellence. Another reason the NHL claims that suits are worn is because the league is a business with sponsors and thus, various means of revenue. Therefore, they’d like to steer clear of bad fashion choices, as it could impact those valuable dollars coming in. According to theScore, “It remains the only major professional sports league in North America that requires players to wear suits and ties on game days”.
Courtesy of "dagenshockey.com"
PROFESSIONALISM IS KILLING INDIVIDUALITY
This photo above of Auston Matthews shows just about how creative these players can get with their gameday attire. Matthews is seen accessorizing his suit with a fashionable scarf and beanie. Although it is an undeniably professional look, there is a complete lack of individuality here. An individual’s personality can truly shine through via their wardrobe, and this strict NHL dress code is preventing players from expressing themselves fully. When everyone looks the same, it becomes difficult to separate the athlete from the sport.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE
One of the most notable and flamboyant hockey players in the NHL (since retired), is without a doubt P.K. Subban. In fact, he is often cited as one of the best dressed athletes of all time (according to Sports Illustrated). Although a vast majority of his most fashionable outfits have been worn outside of a game setting, he has long been known to accessorize his gameday attire.
He has inspired both other athletes and people in general to express themselves through fashion, especially younger athletes who look up to him. Subban has received criticism about his outfit choices, but he continues to do his thing and be his truest self. This is why so many people love and respect him as a professional sports figure, and I believe that many more athletes need to take a page from his book.
INSPIRING A YOUNGER GENERATION Courtesy of the NHL
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that kids look up to professional athletes. They emulate them in various aspects of life and dream to be like them someday. This does not exclude fashion. I would argue that, as a young child, seeing your favorite professional athlete wearing clothes that express themselves is extremely critical. This simple act sends a message to young, impressionable minds that being yourself is okay, and that you don’t have to be exactly like everyone else to succeed in life. I believe that the game day suits are sending the wrong message to kids, whether they are receiving it consciously or subconsciously.
STUCK IN THE PAST
As mentioned earlier, the NHL is the only major professional sports league in North America that requires players to wear suits and ties on game days. Every other major league or organization has adjusted and adapted to the changing times, and are fairly lenient with player wardrobes. And, contrary to what the NHL fears, these leagues have maintained viewership and revenue. Therefore, this disputes their claim that the suits are remaining due to a fear of decreased revenue.
Although the NHL may not be the league with the most viewers, I highly doubt they would take a massive hit as a direct result of giving players the freedom to dress more casually.
Much like many other aspects of the league, I think the suits are a result of an outdated and undiverse belief system that continues to remain in place. While other leagues seem to move forward, the NHL remains stuck in a past time that no longer exists.
ALL IN ALL…
As someone who appreciates fashion, I can’t say I completely hate the suits. But, as someone who believes in inclusivity and the power of change, I think it would be beneficial to see them go. Certainly, there will be critics against the suits being scratched. Some diehard fans may even threaten to boycott.
Regardless, I think this change is a necessary one and one that would bring about a lot of positivity. The cons are largely outweighed by the pros in this situation, and I can’t help but wonder as to why the league hasn’t considered scrapping the suits sooner. I firmly believe that this is an obtainable and achievable change, and one that we’ll probably see within the next five to ten years.