Executives Guide to Hockey Team Apparel


Table of Contents: 

  1. What is this playbook?
  2. Who is For the Love of The Game? 
  3. What are the common challenges in team apparel?
  4. How do we work with our apparel partners?

What is this playbook?: 

Leading a hockey association means making some big choices, and we know picking the right team apparel partner is one of those important decisions. It's more than just choosing the right gear. It's about making sure the money the families in your club spend is really worth it, and not putting too much logistical burden on your awesome volunteers.

Our team has been in the hockey apparel game for nearly three decades. We've picked up a lot of tips and tricks about having a great team apparel season. This playbook was put together to share what we've learned – the ups and downs, the challenges teams often face, and the lessons that can really help.

We totally understand that being part of the executive team means you've got a lot on your plate. We're hoping this guide can make at least one part of your job a bit easier, helping you pick the best apparel partner without the extra stress.

By choosing to follow our simple process outlined at the end of this playbook we estimate that teams make [x amount more sales] resulting in [x times more returned to the associations] while also saving [hundreds] of hours of volunteer time. 

Who is For the Love of The Game? 

Based in the heart of Midwestern Ontario, For the Love of The Game is more than just an apparel company; we're a passionate team with nearly three decades of dedicated service in the hockey apparel industry. Over the years, we've built strong partnerships with dozens of hockey associations, proudly delivering tens of thousands of high-quality apparel items, each carrying the spirit and pride of the teams they represent.

Our commitment to excellence recently earned us the honor of becoming the official championship apparel provider for the OHA. With this recognition, we're more driven than ever to expand our reach and share the wealth of experience and insights we've gained over the years. We're on a mission to bring our tested and trusted services to even more hockey associations, helping teams across the region and beyond to celebrate their identity and achievements through top-notch apparel.

What are the common challenges for team apparel?

Quality, Price, and Selection: Striking the Right Balance

When choosing the right team apparel partner it’s crucial that you understand what they offer in terms of quality, price and selection. Of course, it's crucial to have gear that's high in quality so it lasts through the season and beyond, but it also needs to be priced so every family can afford it and have a selection of items to fit players' different tastes.

Specific Challenges: 

  • Quality: when choosing an apparel partner you want to ensure that they’re able to match the level of quality you’re looking for. Ideally, the partner should be able to offer you a range of samples before making a commitment. 
        • When reviewing samples there are a few things to keep in mind: durability of the materials, color matching for garments, logo details, etc. 
  • Price: generally, in hockey associations you’ve got a wide range of families and what is affordable to them. Ideally, the partner should offer you a range of apparel that overlaps with all of the possible price ranges for your families. 
        • When choosing a price range for your apparel keep in mind that you should aim to choose items with the best overlap with what your families are willing to spend. 
  • Selection: having a wide selection of apparel items allows you to not only have multiple price points but also allows you to offer families many different options. 
      • Simple accessories like stickers, backpacks, hockey bags, etc allow players to customize their experience and show their team spirit in whatever way they want. 

    Pro Tips for Quality, Price and Selection: 

    1. Ask partners how the items you choose from their catalog sell in other associations. Ensuring that whatever you choose will be in demand. These items tend to change over the years. 
    2. Exclusively work with a single apparel partner as this ensures that your entire association has the same fit, colors and designs. Keeping the team looking coordinated and sharp. 
    3. Ask your apparel partner if they’re willing to do some custom, one off or high end items if there is desire from a small selection of your teams. These don’t necessarily have to be offered to everyone. 

    Sizing and Fitting: Ensuring and Perfect Fit

    Navigating the sizing and fitting of team apparel is a critical aspect of selecting the right partner. Differences in fit between companies can be significant, leading to the risk of returns and dissatisfaction if the apparel doesn't meet player or family' expectations. The inability to try on clothing before purchase can complicate matters, increasing the likelihood of mismatches in sizes and subsequent returns.

    Specific Challenges:

    • Consistency in Sizing: Different apparel providers may have varying size charts, which can lead to confusion and ill-fitting gear. Ensuring players can try on sizes for all apparel items is essential for player comfort and satisfaction.

    Pro Tips for Sizing and Fitting:

    1. Sizing Kits and Try-On Sessions: Consider working with a partner who can provide sizing kits or arrange try-on sessions. This approach allows players to find the perfect fit before placing an order, significantly reducing the risk of sizing errors and returns.
    2. Clear Communication of Sizing Charts: Ensure that the apparel partner provides detailed and accurate sizing charts. Clear communication about sizing can help families make informed decisions and reduce the likelihood of ordering incorrect sizes.

    Logistics and Volunteer Time: Streamlining the Process

    Managing the logistics of team apparel involves complex tasks that often fall on the shoulders of volunteers, who might already be stretched thin. From handling payments to distributing apparel, the process can be time-consuming and prone to errors, making it essential to find a partner who helps streamline these operations.

    Specific Challenges:

    • Payment Collection: Gathering payments can be cumbersome, especially when dealing with various forms like e-transfers and cash. Ensuring that all payments are collected accurately and on time is a major concern.
    • Order Management: Keeping track of orders, sizes, and payment statuses often involves managing a lot of paperwork or digital files, which can lead to mix-ups or losses of important information.
    • Distribution of Apparel: Coordinating the distribution of apparel, ensuring each player receives the correct items, and offering convenient delivery options are critical but time-consuming tasks.

    Pro Tips for Managing Logistics and Volunteer Time:

    1. Online Store and Payment System: Work with a partner that offers an online store and a centralized payment system. This setup minimizes the hassle of collecting and managing payments and reduces the risk of errors.
    2. Digital Order Tracking: Choose a partner that provides a robust system for tracking orders and sizes digitally. This approach helps maintain order accuracy and prevents the loss of important information.
    3. Flexible Delivery Options: Ensure that your apparel partner can offer flexible delivery solutions, such as direct shipping to individual addresses or centralized pickup points. This flexibility can significantly reduce the logistical burden on volunteers and provide convenience for families.

    Window of Availability: Maximizing Access and Convenience

    The timing of team apparel purchases can be a significant challenge, especially when families are juggling multiple financial commitments. The start of the school year often coincides with the hockey season, tightening budgets, but not all apparel partners will open their ordering window at the same time. Additionally, replacements are often needed throughout the season and some apparel partners won’t have the ability to accommodate those requests. 

    Specific Challenges:

    • Budget Constraints: Families have limited budgets, particularly during peak seasons like back-to-school, making it essential to align the availability of hockey apparel with their financial planning.
    • Mid-Season Needs: Throughout the season, unexpected needs arise, such as replacing lost jackets or other items, requiring a flexible and responsive system for additional orders.
    • Executive Workload: The peak times for apparel ordering often create a crunch for executives, who must manage order sheets, chase down payments, and ensure timely distribution.

    Pro Tips for Managing the Window of Availability:

    1. Extended Ordering Periods: Work with a partner who can offer extended ordering windows, aligning with back-to-school seasons and allowing families to manage their budgets more effectively.
    2. On-Demand Ordering System: Choose a partner that provides an on-demand ordering system, enabling families to place orders for additional or replacement items as needed throughout the season.
    3. Streamlined Order Management: Ensure that your apparel partner offers a streamlined process for order management, minimizing the administrative burden on executives and allowing for efficient handling of orders, even during peak times.

    Quality Control: Ensuring Excellence in Every Piece

    Maintaining high standards of quality control in team apparel is vital to ensure that every player feels proud and confident in their gear. However, the evolving landscape of the apparel industry presents challenges, with providers sometimes compromising on quality or not addressing issues effectively.

    Specific Challenges:

    • Return and Replacement Processes: Some providers are not equipped to handle individual returns efficiently, leading to delays and frustration when items need to go back for printing errors or quality issues.
    • Declining Product Standards: As the apparel market becomes more competitive, there's a risk of providers cutting corners, offering lower quality products, or not standing behind their products to correct issues.
    • Commitment to Satisfaction: Ensuring that the provider is committed to the team's satisfaction, willing to offer guarantees, and make things right in the face of any issues is a concern for many associations.

    Pro Tips for Ensuring Quality Control:

    1. Clear Return and Replacement Policies: Work with a partner who has clear, efficient policies for returning and replacing items. This ensures that any quality issues can be addressed promptly without significant delays.
    2. Quality Assurance Checks: Choose a partner who conducts rigorous quality assurance checks before distributing apparel. This step minimizes the chances of receiving items with defects or quality issues.
    3. Satisfaction Guarantee: Ensure that your apparel partner offers a full money-back guarantee or a satisfaction guarantee. This commitment indicates that they are confident in their product quality and are willing to stand behind their merchandise.

    Missing Opportunity: Fundraising and Association Apparel

    Many associations might not realize that team apparel can be more than just gear—it can be a powerful tool for fundraising. While associations are constantly seeking ways to enhance their budget for events like year-end banquets, power skating, and player development programs, team apparel offers a unique, often untapped opportunity to raise funds effortlessly.

    Specific Challenges:

    • Awareness: Associations may not be aware that apparel sales can contribute significantly to their fundraising efforts, missing out on a valuable revenue stream.
    • Partnership Alignment: Finding a partner that understands the dual goal of providing quality apparel and supporting the association's fundraising efforts is crucial.

    Pro Tips for Fundraising Through Association Apparel:

    1. Incorporate Fundraising into Apparel Sales: Work with a partner who can help set up a system where a portion of apparel sales goes directly to the association, turning every purchase into support for your programs.
    2. Align with the Right Partner: Choose an apparel partner who is committed to your association's success, understanding that when the team succeeds, they succeed too. This ensures a mutually beneficial relationship.
    3. Promote Apparel as a Fundraiser: Actively promote the apparel not just as team gear but also as a way for families to support the association's activities and programs, enhancing community involvement and support. 

    How do we work with our association partners?

    This is an outline of our process, but even if you decide you’re not ready to work with our team yet you could use this as a guide for your current apparel partner. Ensuring they’re avoiding the common challenges of team apparel and using the best practices we’ve created over nearly three decades. 

    Step One: Catalog Selection and Review

    Simplifies picking the right team apparel. Through sending a dedicated subcommittee our detailed catalog and questions we help match your team's style and budget with our top products. This early planning, done months before the hockey season, makes sure you get the best mix of quality and price, taking the stress out of gearing up your team.

    1. Form an Executive Subcommittee: executive teams typically find forming a subcommittee in charge of team apparel to be the most efficient way of 
    2. Browse Our Product Catalog: once a subcommittee has been formed we will send our detailed product catalog and a list of questions to your subcommittee to prepare for our consultation. 
    3. Consult Our Team: we consult with to review and determine your associations needs in terms of sales, quality and price. Helping you select items from our proven catalog.

    Timeline: typically this stage starts 2 - 4 months in advance of the next hockey season. 

    Step Two: Prepare for Apparel Launch 

    Preparing for the apparel launch is crucial for a smooth start. Each association we work with is provided a comprehensive sizing kit at cost, clear fitting instructions that ensures a perfect fit for every player and reduces the hassle of returns. Plus, we take the burden off your executive committee by offering a detailed guide and templates for marketing and communication, ensuring your apparel launch is well-promoted and orders are placed on time. 

    1. Sizing Kit and Instructions: part of our partnership includes providing a comprehensive sizing kit at cost to each association, along with clear instructions, to the executive team, ensuring a perfect fit for every player and minimizing returns due to sizing issues.
    2. Schedule Sizing Days: typically associations leave the sizing kit at the rink for players to use at their own convenience, but it often saves executives time to schedule some specific dates and times at the beginning of the season. 
    3. Marketing and Communications: successful apparel launches need to be well communicated and marketed, our team provides a detailed guide and templates to take all the work off the executive committees plates and ensure timely orders from players. 

    Timeline: typically this happens 2 - 4 weeks in advance of the launch. 

    Step Three: Streamlined Ordering, Payment and Logistics

    Efficiently managing orders, payments, and logistics is key to a hassle-free apparel season. Creating a user-friendly online store is part of our partnership, making it easy for families to browse and order team gear without any stress. The store stays open all season, offering flexibility to accommodate everyone's schedules and financial plans. Plus, we handle all the details of payments, logistics, and shipping through our online platform, freeing up your volunteers and executives from extra work.

    1. Setup a Simple Online Store: part of our partnership is to create a user-friendly online platform that makes browsing and ordering apparel straightforward and hassle-free.
    2. Stay Open All Season Long keeping the online store open all season long, allows for flexible ordering times that accommodate every family's schedule and financial planning.
    3. Handle Payments and Logistics: through our simple online ordering platform our team handles all payment, logistics and shipping to ensure no additional work for volunteers and executives. 

    Timeline: this step continues through the entire hockey season with our team always on call. 

    Additional: Decades of Experience, Fundraising and Support

    Partnering with us means more than just getting quality apparel. It's about securing a promise of excellence and support. For nearly three decades we’ve stood firmly behind our products, offering a solid money-back guarantee for any issues related to quality or satisfaction. Additionally, it's a potential fundraising avenue for your team, with a percentage of every order going directly to and supporting your association's activities and initiatives.

    1. Nearly Three Decades of Experience: working with us you’re choosing a provider that offers nearly three decades of experience. We’ve been in the game a long time and have dozens of satisfied associations as customers. 
    2. Fundraising Opportunities: choose to partner with us includes a 10% dividend to your association for all apparel sold. Giving you additional money you can choose to spend however fits your association best. 
    3. Continuous Support: with our always-on apparel program our team is always here to support your executive team should any questions or issues arise. Ensuring that no matter what part of the season you’re in you feel supported.