As a rookie with the New York Islanders, Mat Barzal arrived in Brooklyn with plenty of speed and skill, but found himself lacking in the wardrobe department.
“I came in with not too much,” he says with a laugh, “not too many clothes—a couple pairs of this, a couple pairs of that.”
While Barzal’s on-ice play caught plenty of eyes around the league—the forward led all NHL rookies with 85 points and is a finalist for the Calder Trophy—he needed a little help doing the same off the ice.
Enter Rebecca Seidenberg, who, along with husband and Isles defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, took Barzal into her home and under her wing.
“She said, 'You're playing in the NHL now, you need some new, nice clothes,’” Barzal says. “We would go shopping and she would help me pick stuff out, especially early in the year. I didn't know too much about clothing and all the brands and she really introduced me into that.”
Much like his acclimation to the NHL, Barzal took to fashion quickly, keeping a close eye on his Instagram feed in order to keep up on trends and new arrivals. Now he’s got himself a closet full of options from Supreme, Kith, Theory, Undefeated and more, everything from game-day suits to casual streetwear. When it comes down to it, though, Barzal is a comfy hoodie-and-sneakers kind of guy, but it has to have some pop.
His newfound appreciation for clothes—specifically a growing collection of sneakers—make him a natural as the latest to join the adidas family of athletes and ambassadors.
“I just love their outlook on things, I love what they're trying to be,” Barzal says. “Being creative on the ice is something that’s important to me. I consider myself a creator, a player that’s electrifying and maybe a little shifty on the ice. Adidas being the creator sports brand was something that meant something to me—they challenge the norm and I do that, too.”
He joins an adidas lineup of hockey style mavens that includes P.K. Subban and Brent Burns, a pair of defenseman that constantly grab headlines for their creative spins on the game day suit. What Barzal brings to the lineup is a style inspired by their basketball brethren.
“I follow the NBA really, really close, so I see a lot of those guys,” he says, adding that his repertoire includes a few pairs of James Harden’s signature sneakers, a nod to his favorite player. Of course, footwear isn't the only thing about the NBA that catches his eye. An overhaul of the free agency system might not be in the cards anytime soon, but the NHL’s dress code policy could possibly use some freshening up.
“I’m a pretty traditional hockey player so I personally love going to the rink in a suit,” he says. “Every once in a while if people wanted to switch it up and wear something different, something a little bit more stylish—I'm not saying every game or you can wear whatever you want at all times—but if you're looking professional and you look good, it'd be cool to see other guys add a little more style to that aspect.”
Does that mean Barzal is willing to try something like a certain news-making shorts suit? No. …Well, maybe.
“No... no... no no no no,” he says. “I don't know. Actually, maybe. I don't think so, but it may be funny one time or cool to try it once. Maybe once. You never know, maybe once.”
While it may take some time before Barzal truly warms up to the idea, he plans to go with a slightly more classic look at teammate John Tavares’s wedding this summer, though he’ll make sure he’s got some of his personal touches.
“Probably do something a little bit colorful, a little bit out there. Johnny is a pretty serious guy, so I might have to just go black and white, keep it professional.”
Barzal has plenty of new looks to choose from, and he’d like to pay it forward—he knows the teammate who would use some schooling in the ways of style.
“Oh, Jordan Eberle, for sure," Barzal says without any hesitation. "He's jeans-and-runners every day, and that's not for me.”
A teammate shopping trip for some new shoes and maybe a fresh jacket could be in order for the pair, and Eberle might want to heed Barzal's advice—he's quickly become a style veteran.