TAMPA — On the NHL’s opening night, Victor Hedman kicked off the season in style.
Hedman is not only arguably the NHL’s best defenseman, he’s also one of the game’s top dressers. Before the Lightning’s opener Jan. 13, he picked out an ocean blue and pink plaid three-piece suit with a pink tie to wear to Amalie Arena.
The form-fitting suit and design were not things many could pull off, but Hedman drew raves on social media and from one NBCSN analyst after he did a pregame interview with the network. “A-plus-plus defenseman, A-plus-plus suit,” Eddie Olczyk said after the interview. “He was looking good, 100 percent.”
For Hedman, it was time to show off the suit, which he ordered before the coronavirus pandemic shut down last season in March and then never got to wear because the Lightning wore tracksuits while playing in the postseason bubble on their way to the Stanley Cup.
“I had no idea I was doing an interview (before the opener) until I got there, so that was a good thing,” Hedman said.
Hedman is one of several professional athletes outfitted by custom menswear designer Tom Marchitelli, whose New Jersey-based company, Gentleman’s Playbook, has a client list that includes several prominent Tampa Bay area athletes. Hedman was one of the first big stars on Marchitelli’s roster.
" ‘Heddy’ gets it,” Marchitelli said. “He knows what he looks good in, and he knows what he can pull off. With that flow and that height that he has (6 feet 6), few guys could pull off the suit he wore (on opening night).”
For Hedman, bold, colorful, detailed fashion pieces help him get into the right headspace for a game. When he puts one on, he’s going to work. It’s time to get to business, and his power suits reflect that.
“I wouldn’t really call myself fashionable away from the rink,” Hedman said. “I like to have sweat pants and a nice comfortable shirt on at home. But when you go to work, it’s one of those things that kind of makes me ready for the game. When you put your suit on, you kind of go into that mentality of, ‘It’s game time.’ And it’s just been a part of me.
“We’ve had some success the last few years, and I just kept doing it. I know we won the Stanley Cup in tracksuits, but now we’re back on a regular season wearing suits, so I’m all about it.”
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Marchitelli has made suits for several other Lightning players, too. He outfitted Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy for the 2019 All-Star Game in San Jose. He has made suits for Ondrej Palat for years and designed Blake Coleman’s wedding tuxedo.
Marchitelli delivered Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski a three-piece blue plaid suit 48 hours after taking measurements for the Patriots’ Super Bowl 53 appearance against the Rams and is making him a new one for this year’s game a week from today in Tampa. Bucs receiver Mike Evans has told Marchitelli he’s planning on wearing one of his suits for Super Bowl 55 festivities.
Altogether, Marchitelli’s client list includes 130 NFL players, 70 NHL players, 50 major-league baseball players and four WWE wrestlers. His suits start at $2,000 apiece, and Marchitelli travels to each client to take all the measurements — about 30 total — in person, bringing fabric swatches and then returning with the suits for fittings to ensure everything looks just right.
Hedman has been having his suits made by Gentleman’s Playbook since he approached Marchitelli four years ago, telling Marchitelli that he was having trouble getting suits with the right fit for his frame. Hedman wanted a form-fitting look, and he now owns about 20 outfits designed by Marchitelli.
“It’s been 100 percent my style the whole time,” Hedman said. “Very fit, tight pants and a good fit on the suit jacket as well. Kind of almost painted on, it feels like sometimes. I think it looks good.
“Tom’s done a great job from the start. Until it’s perfect, he’s not satisfied. He’s all hands-on. He kind of set the standard, and he’s kept delivering.”
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Hedman has worn Marchitelli’s designs on travel days, to games and on red carpets. When Hedman attended the 2018 NHL Awards, he wore a royal blue sparkle tuxedo. After he won the Norris Trophy at the ceremony, Marchitelli embroidered an image of the trophy on the inside of the jacket. Hedman wore a black paisley tux to the awards show the following year. His wedding tuxedo was burgundy with a black satin lapel.
Hedman’s favorite Marchitelli creation is a three-piece suit he wore for the Lightning’s 2019 games in his native Sweden. Its blue and gold, plaid design was an homage to the colors on the Swedish flag. The jacket’s inside had Lightning logos on one side and the Swedish flag on the other.
Hedman followed his opening-night look this year with an all-black micro pattern suit and a black top hat for a flight to Columbus. For last week’s flight to Carolina, Hedman wore a suit made of baby alpaca wool, which Marchitelli said is his favorite because of the softness of the fabric he calls “Winter Storm.”
“(Hedman) has just so much swag, I love it,” Marchitelli said. “Heddy doesn’t shy away from color, and I’m all about that. Heddy and I always bring it with the bold patterns. If you’re going to wear a custom suit and spend the money, I think it makes sense, and he agrees, to wear something that stands out.”
Hedman’s looks stand out among his teammates.
“I think he’s got a great style,” forward Alex Killorn said. “I think he pushes it a little bit. I think he does a good job. He said he’s trying some new looks this year. I don’t mind a guy trying new things, and I think he’s got the style.”
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When the pandemic hit, times were tough for Marchitelli. With pro sports leagues shut down, athletes had no need for suits. When games returned, many teams went casual, wearing tracksuits while they traveled. Marchitelli had to adapt as well, and he started designing high-end casual clothes.
Suits are now back, and his business is booming again. But the transition has been slow in some areas. Gronkowski told Marchitelli that the Bucs were going to wear suits as a team only if they advanced to the Super Bowl. Luckily for him, they have.
Two years ago, Marchitelli found himself at a Super Bowl 53 event in Atlanta that Gronkowski was attending. He worked his way into a conversation with Gronkowski after the tight end’s father, Gordon Sr., recognized Marchitelli’s subtle Boston accent and introduced him to his son. Marchitelli told Gronkowski he wanted to make him a suit for the Super Bowl, which was three days away.
Gronkowski, who prefers tank tops and flip-flops, wasn’t sold initially and seemingly took Marchitelli up on his offer because he didn’t think Marchitelli could make him a suit that quickly. Gronkowski had 15 minutes until his next appointment, so Marchitelli ducked him into a side room and took his measurements.
Forty-eight hours later, Marchitelli received the suit from his tailor in California and delivered it to the Patriots hotel for a final fitting. Inside the jacket, Gronkowski’s No. 87 was stitched on one side and an image of his trademark Gronk smash touchdown spike embroidered on the other.
Marchitelli is working on a rosé and navy blue plaid suit for Gronkowski for this year’s Super Bowl. With a little more time this time, he had fabric flown in from Italy. He has a pair of size 16 custom-made taupe shoes — getting shoes that big on short notice is no easy task — arriving from Spain to complete the look.
“It’s so Tampa,” Marchitelli said of the rosé primary color. “(Gronkowski is) a fun guy. It’s a color he’s never worn before.”
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Marchitelli was also fast-tracking two suits he was making for pro wrestling legend Ric Flair for tonight’s WWE Royal Rumble, which will be produced out of Tropicana Field.
Marchitelli made an electric violet silk sheen suit and skirt for Flair’s daughter Charlotte Flair, who debuted the outfit last week.
The next day, Ric called Marchitelli and asked for two suits with a quick turnaround time. Marchitelli was on his way to St. Petersburg to measure him.
Marchitelli would love to do a suit for Bucs quarterback Tom Brady and told Brady last year at the Super Bowl that he could turn it around quickly. Marchitelli even has a design ready for him.
“I’m a one-man shop on wheels,” Marchitelli said. “It’s the life that I lead, but I freakin’ love it.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.
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