What do I wear to a hockey game?

Congratulations! One of the most fun sports to watch live is hockey – at any level of play. It is fast, has a lot of continuous action, and there are usually numerous momentum changes. 

But what should I wear to the game? Hockey arenas must be somewhat cold because they involve ice. And doesn’t it require freezing temperatures to make ice?

What do I dress to go watch a hockey game? If you are going to watch a professional game, the temperatures are quite pleasant at about 65F (18C) so a sweater or light jacket is required. However, games at a local recreational arena are cooler at 55C (12C) or less and require a heavy jacket, gloves and ski hat/toque.  

Let’s look at both situations a little more closely, and why the differences between the two.

What do I wear to an NHL or professional hockey game?

Despite an event that involves a large amount of ice to play a game at an NHL arena or local minor league team can be quite comfortable temperature wise.

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The NHL has special technology undernearth the surface of the ice that will keep it frozen while the rest of the rink stays warm. The technology is not good enough to keep the building at room temperature, but to have a frozen pond in a building with 18,000 people where the temperature is 65F/18C is quite good.

The NHL has got so good at making the ice survive in warm temperatures that they have even had a few outdoor games in places like Dallas and Los Angeles in the winter!

Now, the ice does start to get soft and hard to play on for the players if the inside temperature gets too high, but for the most part the NHL does a great job at keeping the ice at a high quality.

So how should I dress for one of these games?

It is best to think of a movie theatre atmosphere. Movie theatres are generally a little cooler than room temperature and it is best to bring a sweater or light jacket. There have been a few times in the summer when I go in with nothing but shorts and a t-shirt and freeze for two hours. 

So the best thing to wear to a hockey game is a sweater or light light jacket with pants/jeans. 

Now, the best, best thing to wear to a hockey game is a jersey of the home team. I love when fans are all dressed in the home sweaters. It creates a great atmosphere, and is intimidating to the opposition. And, hockey sweaters are one of the great things about the sports. All of my kids have their own 🙂

What do I wear to a recreational hockey game? (at a local arena)

Now, if you are going to watch a friend, niece, nephew or child at a local hockey arena it is a different story than a professional arena.

Some of these arenas can be cold! They definitely do not have the same technology as the professional arenas to keep the temperature warmer while still having great ice for the players. 

Fans trying to stay warm while watching a hockey game at a local arena

Most of these arenes are probably about 55F (12C), but they could be cooler. 

My brother has told me about an arena in a small town near our city where it feels colder on the inside of the arena than it does outdoors. That particular arena is, basically, in a metal type of barn and located in the cold prairies.

So my advice is that you should definitely bring a winter jacket, ski hat/toque, and gloves to the arena. This will allow you to be at least comfortable when watching the game. 

Some of these arenas will have a few additions that help the spectators. 

Often these arenas will have overhead heaters above the stands. These overhead heaters are simply heat lamps – what you see inside a toaster. Instead of toasting bread, they are warming up humans!

As well, many of these arenas will have observation areas where you can watch the rink from a type of observation room that is not in the ice area itself, but has a large window to view the game through. These are nice to warm up in, but it definitely makes the spectator feel distant from the game because you do not hear all the sounds and do not feel as much a part of the action. 

Finally, most arenas will have a stand that sells hot coffee and tea. Sometimes it is nice to buy it just to hold the warm drink to warm up your hands!

Spectators watching a hockey game dressed warmly with winter jackets, gloves and ski hats


If you are going to watch your first hockey game – enjoy it! I am sure it will not be your last!!!

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Welcome to Hockey Answered: a resource for anyone curious to learn & understand more about the great game of hockey.

I am a lifelong fan who grew up in a major market (Calgary), and I have played, coached, and watched a lot of hockey!

As my daughter began watching NHL games with me, I realized how many questions come up about the sport. Hockey Answered is full of, well, answers! If you are a new fan or lifelong enthusiast, I hope that you can enjoy hockey even more by learning something new around here.

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