Fashion Statement

From Slap Shot’s Reggie Dunlop to the stylish sophisticated look of the new NHL, the world of fashion continues to drastically impact the game of hockey, but at what cost?

From Don Cherry ranting about NHLer’s wearing track suits during the Sochi Olympics back in the day, to highlighting players attire on Coaches Corner every week, to the countless magazine covers and media outlets showcasing the games sharpest dressed stylish players, hockey like no other sport continues to be influenced by the fashion world.

In the past hockey players made their statement on the ice with their skill, but now more than ever the fashion world is spilling over into the world of sports, especially the game of hockey. When did this shift occur? It certainly didn’t happen in the 1970’s as witnessed by Grapes coaching card. Nevertheless, Reggie did look pretty sharp back in the day.

It’s evident that the modern day profession has to consider the top fashion when coming to the rink, just to fit in.  There has certainly been a trickle down affect into minor hockey ranks with more and more young players arriving to the rink in the proverbial team jacket accompanied by the usual personal statement with a suit or dress pants and a loud tie of some sort. 

Unfortunately, I found myself commenting on the use of “white sport socks” rather than nice dress socks several years back to a group of Bantam aged kids. 

Come on coaches you have to comment on their play, you might as well comment on their attire and the fashion “Do’s and Don’ts.”  

I actually bought 20 pairs of black socks for that Bantam AA team. I just couldn’t handle it any more. I was sick and tired of seeing nice dress pant, shirt and tie combinations ruined by ugly and mostly dirty “white sport tube socks.”

We all shared a laugh about the sock fiasco, but it’s unfortunate now that some minor hockey players are entering rinks with hats on, which in my opinion look a bunch of thugs. I guess I might be too old school.

There comes a point where some guidelines have to be set in place, but has the hockey world gone too far with the unwritten fashionable dress code?

It’s my opinion as a former coach that comfort has to play a role in the pregame preparation especially when you are on the road or travelling.  

For younger age groups dressing up for games can often be a distraction. Let’s face it they have a hard time tying their own skates it’s only going to complicate things to ask them to tie a tie!  

I’m sure you all remember the good old days of the zipper tie and I’m almost certain that’s going to come back in style. Yeah right, never!

Certainly pro sports have had its share of flashy characters over the course of history, but hockey was definitely the last sport to adapt fashion statements by individuals.

The concept of being an individual just didn’t fly in the culture of conformity surrounding the game. Oh how the times have changed.

Hockey players certainly didn’t want to draw attention to themselves back then, clearly it’s all about the team in the game of hockey, but the paradigm shift had to occur at some point.  

From the early outspoken stylish suits of the late Ray Emery to the chic and sophisticated look of Henrik Lundquist, the NHL has come a long way in the fashion world.

A trend in hockey culture doesn’t usually happen overnight, but coming to the rink prepared for games has dramatically changed.

Personally, I always dreaded getting dressed up and hated the thought of wearing a tie to work or to the rink.  Nonetheless, I guess it took me trying on my suit for my wedding to gain an appreciation for the feel of a well-tailored suit!   

Never in a million years could I have seen myself wear a suit behind the bench or in a classroom for that matter, but the transition has been seamless.  

Now, don’t get me wrong my hatred of ties still exists, but from a broadcast perspective I don’t mind having a somewhat self-perceived strong ‘tie game’ when the ‘red light’ comes on. 

That feeling isn’t shared amongst my family or my producers with Rogers TV.  The producer often criticizes my tie game, and that’s ok, I guess it all comes down to creativity, he claims I have none and have poor taste as well.

Stylin and Profilin

Whether you are a hockey player, teacher, coach, lawyer or channeling your inner Ric Flair you should try to look as professional and as good as possible, right?  

Seven years ago I was shocked when a veteran teacher and Vice Principal, pulled me aside one day and told me that I didn’t look professional. 

Photo Credit WWE

That teacher and administrator hadn’t seen me teach in quite some time and had no idea what I was doing in the classroom, they were more worried about my appearance than my teaching ability. 

At that time I was predominantly wearing, golf shirts and dress pants to teach. A few years later, I was also told that ‘no one wants to see your legs.’ 

Oh sorry about that, I was teaching physical education at the time and teaching Social Studies in a classroom across the school. I literally had to run to my classroom right after the class, so I couldn’t change out of my Phys. Ed clothes. Well excuse me for trying to look the part.

Clearly perception plays a massive role in how people identify or judge you as a professional. 

Photo Credit Jos A Bank

Does that apply to the game of hockey? Does wearing a suit everyday make me a better teacher? Does wearing a suit make you a better coach? Does wearing a suit make you a better hockey player? 

There’s a big difference between professionalism and people’s perception. 

Personally, I didn’t emulate the fashion of professional hockey players for my love of suits and flashy ties. I chose to look and feel a certain way in front my class, behind the bench, in the stands scouting and in front of the camera.

It was my choice to look a certain way, my choice to feel a certain way. I often ask my students this question. If I wore a t-shirt and shorts would that make me any less of a teacher, any less of a professional? 

My students are always quick to answer, NO.

Some say I may have taken it too far, wearing a suit to school or to the rink. Nevertheless, the question remains are we asking too much of young players to look a certain way coming to the rink?

From track suits, to team hoodies, to embroidered jersey bags, to team hockey bags, to fancy dress clothes and shoes, it might be hockey’s new cultural stylish trend or is it hockey’s new money grab? 

I caution coaches of local provincial teams to expect too much from players and their families when it comes to dress code and looking a certain way. 

Sure there should be a dress code set in place. I’m all for dressing up and looking your best, but are some teams taking it too far making kids as young as 9 or 10 buy suits?

The Bright Lights

Having cameras poised at the entrances ready to capture NHLer’s walking into their dressing rooms hours before the game is all the rage, a behind the scenes look, an up close and personal look at the games greats, but what is it really teaching young players?

To look good is to feel good and to feel good is to play good? Or You have to look a certain way to be respected as a player?

Photo Credit Getty Images

Hockey players in this era are embracing their fashion sense, individuality and creativity, which I think is fantastic, but is forcing young players to wear a suit to the rink adding to the elitist attitude preexisting in the game?  

Does wearing a suit make you a better player? I don’t think so! 

Does wearing a suit make you feel better about yourself? Maybe, but young players should be more focused on the game rather than what they are wearing walking into the rink.

Tons of QMJHL teams wear track suits to the rink when they are on the road and quite frankly I’m sure their coach doesn’t give a rats ass about their appearance for a critical road game, they just want their players prepared.

At the end of the day players all wear the same jersey, that’s what they should be focused on, not the designer or brand name of their suit.

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