Designers Bring Diversity to Hockey

Professional hockey clubs, like pro teams in other sports, are increasingly collaborating with local designers on limited-edition lifestyle apparel collections, many with an eye toward diversity:

  • The Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League introduced a new third jersey at the beginning of this year in collaboration with designer Rhuigi Villaseñor, founder of the luxury streetwear brand Rhude and creative director of Bally, who became the club’s creative strategist last fall. The plan is for the Coyotes’ “Desert Nights” jerseys to be worn in 14 games during the season. Produced by Adidas, the jersey is also available at retail as part of Adidas’ Adizero Primegreen Authentic NHL jersey collection made of recycled materials. Rhuigi also designed a new exclusive collection of hoodies, hats, and shirts that debuted with the jersey, followed by a second drop in March.
  • The Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL, a double-A hockey league formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League but now encompassing teams across the country, collaborated with local designer Tim Horton and his luxury streetwear label KodaFé. He became the first Black designer to pair with a pro hockey team, according to the partners. His collection, which highlighted varsity jackets, was timed to Black History Month 2023 and reimagined the Grizzlies’ logo in the black, yellow, green, and red color palette that has symbolic meaning in Black history. The collection was part of the team’s broader effort to feature black artists, musicians, and other creative talent on Black History Night.
  • This past January, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings turned to its partner, Costa Mesa, California-based hockey lifestyle label Violent Gentlemen Hockey Club, to celebrate Japanese Heritage Night and Filipino Heritage Night. The first limited collection featured the Kings’ logo from the 1990s translated to Japanese and the red rising sun of the Japanese flag, while the latter combined traditional Filipino style elements with the Kings logo. Violent Gentlemen has done several collections and individual items with the Kings since 2020, starting with t-shirts and moving into fleece and hats, with one of the most recent releases being a flannel shirt in March. The label has gone on to work with a number of other teams in the NHL and other leagues, from the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils to the Norfolk Admirals and Bakersfield Condors, as well as signing league-wide licenses with the ECHL and the American Hockey League (AHL).

It is interesting to note, given that hockey is a relatively undiversified sport, that all of these collections are tied to diversity efforts and/or involve designers of color. This fact is overtly highlighted in cases such as the Grizzlies, where the collection was a key element of the team’s Black History Month celebration.

In the case of the L.A. Kings, where some of its collections with Violent Gentlemen have been tied to celebrations of specific ethnic populations, the messaging around the Filipino Heritage Night effort highlighted how meaningful the collection was to the label’s Filipino-American production manager, who grew up in L.A. playing hockey. And Coyotes management noted in its announcement about Filipino-born Villaseñor becoming its creative strategist last fall that utilizing fashion and culture to engage young and diverse audiences who could be future fans was important to the club, the only Latino-owned team in the NHL.

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