The Best (Looking) Hockey Playoff Tradition
Hockey fans really turn it up a notch in the playoffs. From custom sweaters to face paint to glitter beards to dyed hair, the obvious show of support of their favorite team reaches new heights, not unlike the play on the ice. But nobody does it looking as good as the partners of the NHL players themselves.
Every year, the Dallas Stars' better halves show up to playoff games in a matching style that is defining of their group that season. But who decides what they wear? How does the design get pulled off? Who can possibly turn out this many custom jackets and jeans at such a high level with literal days of notice (in some cases, if the team doesn't make the playoffs until the last day like last year)?!
I spoke with Julia and Kristina, the better halves of Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen and forward Roope Hintz, respectively, before the start of Game 2 at the American Airlines Center to get to the bottom of how they got the group to look so good in support of the playoff run.
This is the second year of Julia and Kristina leading the charge in getting the look organized. "We love fashion in general, and both of the guys love fashion and clothes," Kristina said. "We did ask them what their thoughts are [on the design]...but at the end of the day, we trust our intuition."
The two hit an absolute home run on last year's design, utilizing the blackout jerseys as inspiration for the look. "We thought they were so cool, so different. No other team has those colors, that neon green with black," Julia said. "So let's go for it."
The standard for the longest time was to put the players' name and number on the back of the jersey. Instead, Julia and Kristina wanted to mix it up a little bit.
"We wanted to do something different, something that no one has ever done before," Julia said about their 2022 look. "We've both been here a short time, we've both been here five years, which is nothing in the NHL. We wanted to do something the Dallas Stars have never seen."
Then they set out to research designers that work in this space, coming across Taylor Olson of TKO Paintings on Instagram. Olson has done some work with other professional teams before last year, but according to Julia, hadn't really done a full set of jackets for a hockey team before. The duo said they like to utilize small businesses and artists to do their commissions, which have often been female-led, too.
Every partner picked out their own leather jacket - since it was so last minute with the team qualifying at the very end of the regular season, there wasn't exactly time to get a group order together.
The logo was put front and center on the back to really make it pop. Then, they had every guy sign the jacket personally. Which, at first glance, you may think "wow that's not exactly new, their autographs are seen all over the place at games." But their partners aren't asking them for their autograph at home. It was a way for each person to have something special to them for the playoffs.
The players names were placed down the side in a street art-inspired font that really fit the vibe of the black leather and neon color. Every jacket was hand-painted based on the design idea Julia and Kristina initially put together and then worked with Olson to refine into the final product.
But hand-painting takes a lot of time, and the Stars weren't in the playoffs...yet. Julia and Kristina are not superstitious. Though they respected the partners that didn't want to commit to the design until it was official the Stars had made the playoffs, they were busy doing their due diligence and planning ahead, so that if (or in last year's case, when) they do make it, they can just pull the trigger on the design with their vendor already lined up and ready to go.
It's a little bit of a gamble on both sides, to say the least.
"Depending on how many jackets are requested, I usually need about 10-14 days since I work on the jackets by myself and they’re all hand-painted," Olson said. "So timing can be tricky! The Stars ladies actually reached out and sent me their jackets before they were officially in the playoffs. So I was following the team while I was painting them praying they were going to make it. I painted for 12-15 hours a day and it took me 10 days to complete them. I finished painting all 17 jackets right when they officially clinched the playoffs."
"I love how the final design turned out," Olson said. "They sent me tons of photos of them wearing them which I appreciated so much. It was the best feeling seeing them so happy wearing something that I put a lot of work into."
But how do you top last year's design? Well, it turns out, it's harder than it looks.
Julia and Kristina had the idea to use the players' actual jerseys as part of the jacket design this year. The vendor they worked with is a small business that does a lot in the sustainability space, often re-using or re-purposing materials, so it was a natural fit for them to do a first-of-its-kind jacket using elements from the actual jerseys. They really wanted to use the reverse retro design initially, but, (good for the Stars, not so good for their design aspirations), those jerseys were sold out by the time they started trying to procure them.
The kind of retro athletic-style jacket this season features the primary Stars logo on the front side. Opposite that are smaller numbers of their partner and a pocket that features the black, white, and green stripes from the bottom of the home sweater. One arm has the circular secondary logo shoulder patch from the jersey. The back has the nameplate and number of the player, lined in the silver thread the authentic jersey design features.
Their goal for each year is to ensure that it's also able to be re-worn in the next seasons. Once last year's playoff jackets were debuted, many partners wore them at games this season. Julia and Kristina feel that this design ethos fits the more modern style choices people make today.
Julia and Kristina plan to keep being the ringleaders on the playoff jacket design. And when the Stars are featured in the international series the NHL puts on and get to play in front of a hometown crowd in Finland, you can count on them bringing out some neat looks for that special of an event.
"We've got plans already. It's planned," they said. "We're going to plan things for the girls to do, to wear. And Miro and Roope are definitely going to do the boys."