By Don Stewart
READING, Pa. – Like most professional hockey players, Reading Royals forward Doug Christiansen wondered what the fuss was about when the National Basketball Association announced that it would be implementing a dress code this season.
The new code states that NBA players must wear business-casual attire when involved in team and league business. Visible chains, pendants and medallions are no longer allowed over their clothes.
Several players have said they’ll rather accept fines than follow the dress code, calling it racist and an attack on hip-hop.
“From my standpoint, when I was looking at the NBA thing, I thought that to ask professional athletes to wear a suit to games or to dress nicely for games is really not asking very much,” said Christiansen.
In hockey, dressing professionally is part of the etiquette from the university and junior levels all the way up to the NHL. The players’ dress code is written into the NHL collective bargaining agreement.
The ECHL doesn’t enforce a dress code, but most league teams have something in place. Royals coach Karl Taylor requires his players to wear a suit when they come to the rink for games.
So, as he watched Saturday night’s home opener against Trenton from the Sovereign Center seats, injured Reading forward Malcolm MacMillan wasn’t wearing a Guy Lafleur throwback jersey, Winnipeg Jets cap and a gold chain.
“Everywhere I’ve been, we’ve always had it (the rule): You go into the rink, you wear a suit,” Taylor said. “It’s just protocol. That’s how we do things in hockey. For the most part, it’s like that everywhere.
“Some teams, when they’re on the road, they wear a track suit. I don’t have a problem with that on the bus. But when we go into the rink, we’re gonna have a suit and tie on. I just think it’s the right way to approach things.”
One of the arguments made by several NBA stars, including Philadelphia’s Allen Iverson, was that the league should compensate the players for the clothing they would have to purchase to meet the dress code.
There’s just a slight difference in the average income of an NBA player and that of a minor league hockey player. The NBA league minimum for a rookie this season is nearly $400,000 a year, while the ECHL minimum for a rookie is $325 per week.
Still, finding a hockey player who owns a suit is easy.
“Over the years, most of the boys have a suit,” Royals forward Shay Stephenson said. “You pretty much know it’s coming.”
As for players wearing jewelry, that’s something that hasn’t come up during Taylor’s coaching days. Gold chains are apparently foreign in hockey culture, as opposed to basketball.
“I left mine at home, actually,” Christiansen joked. “No, that definitely is not part of the culture.”