What Should You Wear to a Hockey Game? Staying Warm 101

A Boston College hockey fan cheers in the crowd.

If you know anything about hockey, you’ll know that hockey games are cold! Do not be that guy who shows up to a game in flip flops and a tank top, because you will quickly regret it. So with open-toed shoes and sleeveless shirts off the table, this begs the question:

What should you wear to a hockey game?

You should wear multiple layers to a hockey game or at least a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and closed-toe shoes. Sweaters, jerseys, hats, gloves, scarves, wool socks, and hoodies are also good options. Professional games are around 60-65°F (15-18°C) and local rinks are colder than that.

Wear layers because you can always take some off if needed. The opposite is not true unless you find a very generous stranger or have a friend with an extra jacket or jersey.

For more ideas on what to wear and bring to a hockey game, this article has you covered.

What to Wear to a Hockey Game

A stand of fans look on at the game.

Experienced hockey fans and those new to the sport will certainly benefit from sticking to the basics when it comes to showing support and being able to function at a hockey game.

The three basic keys to surviving…no, thriving, in the hockey world are layers, layers, and more layers. Of course, what these layers consist of is the most important, and individually driven, aspect of what to wear.

While these choices remain entirely up to the discretion of any individual, the goal here is to provide a guide.

First, determine the experience you have with the sport of hockey itself and the environment in which hockey is played. Hockey players themselves will likely know the specific conditions of the arena they are headed to, as well as the general atmosphere of games.

Newcomers who have only seen a hockey game here or there on television are less likely to be accustomed to the cold and the atmosphere that a hockey game presents.

This means preparing for the temperature, as well as the judgment that will ensue from wearing attire supporting a bandwagon or out-of-town team, is critical to successfully navigating this landmark occasion in the progression of a hockey fan.

The environment of the hockey game will depend on the type of event you attend. If it is a youth hockey game in northern Minnesota, it is likely going to be inside a relatively poorly insulated ice arena with aluminum bleachers (meaning cold for the bottom as well).

There are also many cases in northern states and Canada where youth hockey games will be held outdoors, sometimes with wooden bleachers and sometimes with no bleachers altogether.

These scenarios differ significantly from attending a professional hockey game in a place like Arizona or California. In any case, preparing appropriately for the specific needs of the desired event is of the utmost importance.

But back to the basics. The base layer should be a cotton t-shirt. A moisture-wicking material could be utilized but will likely not be necessary as cotton is warmer and sweating is not likely to occur.

Typically, everyday type undergarments will also do, but for those outdoor games it may be prudent to add a pair of long johns and/or a long-sleeve t-shirt for additional warmth, but this is entirely dependent on the weather and the comfort level of an individual.

Whether attending a hockey game in a professional arena or outdoors, a hat will be a great addition, as the old logic goes that a great deal of heat is lost through the head and feet.

This could be a baseball cap for a warmer day, as this does the same job of keeping in heat, but it won’t cover your ears.

A stocking cap is much more likely to be the best choice. The need for ear coverings is solely up to the individual’s personal needs. Fashion sense warns against it, but earmuffs are also an option for those individuals with ears highly sensitive to temperature changes.

Next, we will cover footwear.

Certainly, thick socks should be worn in any case, period. The type of sock is a personal preference, but I prefer a longer sock, rising to just below the calf muscle. Thick socks are generally recommended but you should adhere to the expected environment.

Two pairs of socks on top of one another should never be worn as this can diminish circulation to the toes, causing them to be more susceptible to the cold.

In general, normal shoes will do as far as warmth, but if outdoor conditions require, a solid pair of boots is definitely worth the investment.

Now the main event, the outer layers. This is where fashionability and showing the true colors of a fan are key. What to wear for this layer is entirely dependent on the ambiance of the particular event and how comfortable an individual is within that.

A new fan may want to minimize the support they show for any particular team and just show an appreciation and support of the hockey game by wearing average clothing. In this case, a sweatshirt, sweater, or jacket will do.

But if there is skin in the hockey game, meaning you are invested in your hometown team, a family member is playing in the hockey game, or you are just a superfan, then a team jersey is probably the best option, though team sweatshirts and other attire are appropriate as well.

At this point, creativity is also acceptable for the more adamant fans. Things like face paint, scarves, gloves, and other team-specific gear are generally accepted and even commonplace at hockey games.

How Cold Are Hockey Games?

View of the New Jersey Devil's ice before a game.

There are varying reports on the actual temperatures inside ice arenas, but the most consistent would be arenas that host professional teams and games in the National Hockey League (NHL).

The NHL has relatively strict standards regarding just about anything, including ice temperature. Indoor ice arenas have to use refrigeration techniques to keep the ice temperature cool while the ambient, or air temperature is warmer.

The warmer the air, the more work it is to cool the ice, and the more likely the puck is to bounce and slow the hockey game down. Colder ice leads to a faster hockey game, so the NHL sets a standard that the ice should not exceed about 24° Fahrenheit (F) by the end of the hockey game.

Your average NHL game will have air temperatures between 50°-60°F, which is why it is reasonable to wear more casual clothing to these events than events at other, less state-of-the-art arenas. It is also important to know that the ambient temperature will be colder the closer you are to ice level.

This being said, the majority of hockey games are not played at the professional level. Anecdotally, as you move down the levels of ice hockey, the ambient temperature tends to be colder.

Not dressing appropriately for your child’s 6:30 am mini-mite season premier held outdoors to be “retro” may leave you in a great deal of distress. In my experience, the feels-like temperature inside an arena can be below freezing.

And do not be fooled; the “heaters” that hang above the stands in those old, county-owned arenas rarely, if ever, are functional, and even if they are, they do not provide enough warmth in January to make a lick of difference.

I also know people who attended, and played in, outdoor games when the temperature was below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Need I say more?

Hockey players and fans are die-hards and will stop at nothing to engage in the hockey game they love. This is why it is so important to nail the basics as well as ensure that these allow for appropriate team representation.

It is a fine balance, but it has been accomplished for years by people of all ages, proving that a solution is within the grasp of anyone.

What to Bring to a Hockey Game?

Hockey goalie positioning themselves to block the puck.

Now that you have an idea of what you should wear to an ice hockey game, let’s talk about what you should bring to a hockey game. Many professional arenas won’t let you bring in certain items, so they can sell them to you inside the arena instead.

This includes coffee and hot chocolate. While these might not be necessities for professional games, because professional arenas aren’t exceedingly cold, they should be serious considerations for attending games at local rinks.

To go along with your hot chocolate/coffee, a blanket is a solid option, especially if you are going to sit on metal bleachers for one or multiple games.

A stadium chair/cushion can also help you deal with uncomfortable (and probably freezing) stadium bleachers. Your bottom will thank you!

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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