If you’ve ever watched a hockey game on television, you may have noticed the camera shots of players arriving at the arena they are playing at wearing some really nice suits.
But why do hockey players wear suits?
Hockey players wear suits because it is required under the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA. Exhibit 14: Form of Standard Club Rules, point 5: Players must wear jackets, dress pants and ties to all team games and while traveling unless otherwise specified by the Coach or General Manager.
Source: NHLPA Collective bargaining agreement
Hockey is a sport big on tradition
It also comes down to tradition in the sport. Hockey is probably the one sport that values tradition above all. Players have been arriving to games in suit and ties dating all the way back to the 20’s. Nothing has changed since then.
Starting in peewee (ages 11-12) players on A and AAA teams are required to wear suits to their games. They continue to do so throughout their playing career.
When I was 12 years old, I still remember the clip on tie I would wear because, well, I was 12! And hadn’t learned to tie one yet.
The idea behind wearing formal clothing on your way to playing a hockey game is to promote team unity, hygiene, professionalism, self-respect, confidence etc.
As they say, look good, feel good, play good.
Hockey dress codes are losing popularity
Not everyone in the hockey world is thrilled with the old school dress code.
From youth hockey parents to broadcasters, to NHL players and even their agents, there is a growing movement to shut down this old “tired” tradition of suiting up before you suit up for a game of hockey.
In the National Hockey League
The current NHL dress code unjustly restricts players’ self-expression, inhibits their marketability, and leads to a system in which parents must purchase new suits for their young children every year, putting yet another financial obstacle in the way of minor hockey.
The NHLPA and the NHL agreed to a more relaxed dress code for the league’s return-to-play plan during the 2019–20 season, which was put on hold due to global events.
Many players, including NHL superstar Auston Matthews who players for the Toronto Maple Leafs, were very receptive to the idea of being able to express themselves in their clothing choices without being held down and told what to wear.
In youth hockey
The cost of youth hockey is high enough, parents are not thrilled with the added “unnecessary” costs of purchasing suits for their children as well.
As we know, kids grow fast, this means parents are purchasing a new suit nearly every year, the cost of which quickly adds up.
Gord Miller, who calls NHL hockey games for TSN, is vocally opposed to the idea of continuing on with hockey players having to wear suits.
More specifically, he doesn’t think it’s right to force 13-year-old kids playing minor hockey to wear suits to games.
Why do hockey coaches wear suits?
Anytime you watch hockey, you’ll notice the coaches behind the bench are always dressed to the nines. But why do hockey coaches wear suits?
Hockey coaches wear suits to portray an image of professionalism. They are the leader of their team and representing their organization and dress accordingly. NHL coaches are also required to wear suits by their organizations.
Part of being a coach is leading by example, and if leagues require their players to dress up for games, then the coach needs to set that standard and show up looking professional each and every night.
Is the hockey dress code going to change?
It seems as time goes on the dress codes are slowly being loosened starting at the NHL level.
It’s going to take the NHL doing away with their current dress code rules to create a ripple effect down to the lower levels of hockey.
Really, it’s only a matter of time until hockey players will be able to wear what ever they like before games, much like the players in the NBA.
Personally, I think that day can’t come soon enough.
UPDATE: As of September 30th 2021, the Arizona Coyotes have become the first NHL team to ditch the suit dress code. Starting in the 2021-22 NHL season, players for the Arizona Coyotes will no longer have a game day dress code.