Jason Spezza has worn a suit to nearly every game he's played since breaking into the Ontario Hockey League at age 15.
Now 37 years old, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward doesn't know anything different. But with the NHL relaxing dress code rules during its restart, he's open to change — especially in a season like no other.
"I personally love a shirt and tie, and wearing a suit to games," Spezza said. "It's something I've grown accustomed to. I'm also in the school that I'll adapt to situations."
As part of the agreement on the resumption, the league and the NHLPA nixed rules regarding what players on the 24 teams inside the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles wear to games.
Part of the decision probably came down to logistics. Players will be inside tightly-monitored secure zones in hopes of keeping COVID-19 at bay for upwards of two months, so bringing bags full of suits didn't make a lot of sense. It's also the middle of summer.
And while there's no guarantee the new rule will stay this way whenever life returns to some semblance of normal in a post-pandemic world, the NHL is also opening a door that allow individuals to venture outside hockey's general conformity, if they see fit.
"Really looking forward to it," said Leafs centre Auston Matthews, who has appeared in fashion publications and often dons the latest trends. "It'll be a pretty cool opportunity for guys to express themselves like other leagues are able to.
"At times hockey can fall behind as far as that stuff goes."
The NBA and NFL allow players to wear whatever they want to games, with many outfits garnering attention from fans and media. Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka's giant scarf was just one example of an instant hit, while the fashion choices of quarterback Cam Newton, now a member of the New England Patriots, also consistently turn heads.
Hockey has resisted going down that path, but a number of younger NHLers are keen try something new.
Toronto winger Mitch Marner, who like every other player involved in the restart entered the bubble Sunday, said he expects Matthews and Leafs forward William Nylander to push the envelop.
"Those guys aren't afraid to get wild," he said. "It's going to be a 1-2 punch in that category. It's going to be a great even for the older guys.
"I was talking to Spezz ... he's a little mixed up about what to wear."
He wouldn't have that issue on at least a couple of other teams.
Players on the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens have already indicated that while the dress code has been relaxed regarding suits, they will be wearing branded apparel to games.
"I don't think you're going to see too much of a surprise from our team," Canadiens captain Shea Weber said.
Leafs captain John Tavares, however, said that although Toronto will have club-issued gear available, the leadership group felt it was important to loosen things up.
"We want to give guys the freedom to be themselves," he said.
That's not something hockey has historically embraced. Stepping outside the box has been frowned upon in a team-first, all-hands-on-deck, don't-rock-the-boat sport.
And Marner knows that if a player wearing something flashy to a game doesn't perform, there will be criticism from the outside.
"People are going to try and blame the dress code," he said. "Nothing like that is going to have anything to do with our on-ice play.
"I'm excited to see what the guys bring."
One guy that didn't bring anything was Tyson Barrie, who packed light when he headed back to Toronto for voluntary workouts as the NHL started to ramp up towards resuming a season suspended in mid-March because of the novel coronavirus.
"We were going to wear track suits to the game," he said with a laugh. "And then they announced that there was no dress code. I've got board shorts and flip flops and t-shirts. So I don't know what kind of style I'll be bringing."
Winnipeg Jets winger Mathieu Perreault, meanwhile, is also looking forward to the change.
"I like to mix it up," he said. "(Jets defenceman Dmitry) Kulikov might have some pretty cool outfits.
"It's going to be different, but I think it's going to be nice and refreshing for the NHL."
Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said even if the dress code rules changed permanently, plenty of players will continue wearing suits.
"There's nothing wrong with having your own identity," he said. "I think that shows some class in our sport.
"At the same time, I'm one of those guys that has been in the game for a long time that's not afraid to evolve."
Spezza, who's in his 18th professional season, said he likely won't change his habits if there's a 19th or even 20th campaign.
"You can still show personality in a suit," he said. "The younger generation wants to show their personalities a little more, and if that's what guys want then you embrace it. (But) it's important not to get caught up in some of the changes that are being made just because we're in a different situation.
"We're going there for hockey."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press