Question, straight up: Exactly when did it become popular to flip on a hockey game and obsess over everyone’s ties?
Think about it. When you take into consideration all of the forechecking, goal-scoring and glove-dropping, it’s hard to imagine that there’s any time left in the span of hockey viewing to devote to fashion critique.
Yet in many sects of professional sports, fashion has intertwined itself and stolen the audience’s focus, and hockey is no exception. Since those working in the National Hockey League don dressy duds, it has become habit for a lot of us to be on the lookout for whatever spiffy neckwear the gentlemen in front of the camera or behind the bench are rocking during any given game.
In the wake of such fashion-forward fandom, there is a hub giving any cravat worn during the hockey season all the love—and criticism—that it deserves.
Enter NHL Ties: The Twitter destination created for giggles, continuously growing into a well-recognized spot “where ties still count.”
“We watch a lot of hockey up here,” the NHL Ties team told me in an interview from their headquarters just outside of Seattle. “Sometimes a game just needs to end in a ‘tie’ and we feel the only skills competition should be used for knotting a (neck)tie, not unknotting a tied game.”
The masterminds behind NHL Ties choose to keep a bit of anonymity as to not ruin the whimsy and mystère behind their Twitter persona. But here’s what we can tell you: the team is run by a CEO and CTO—Chief Tie Officer, for those keeping track at home. Their operation also has the help of a “scoring intern,” and a few “unpaid interns” who help grade all neckwear and rank them at the end of the evening in the team’s coveted Tie Battles, a lead up to the highly-coveted “3 Stars of the Night.”
We also know that the concept for NHL Ties came along while watching a San Jose Sharks broadcast, and was solidified as an idea for a Twitter hub thanks to a little encouragement from Sharks Pre-Game Live host Brodie Brazil.
“Our CTO was watching some Sharks pre-game shows… Drew (Remenda), Randy (Hahn) and Brodie had some incredible knots and dimples going to the first night, so we tweeted a screen cap and ‘ranked’ them. The next game Brodie quipped back ‘You need a whole new account for this tie thing.’”
So on March 14, NHL Ties sent out its first tweet, and has been rating tie patterns and knot dimples well into deep in the 2014 playoffs. Any day or evening that NHL games are televised, the team is at work putting games hosts’ and coaches’ wears up against each other for Tie Battles in a fight for who gets “3 Stars” honors at the end of the night.
The team is also generous when it comes to retweeting clever snippets from followers, endearingly named “knotheads.” They tell me that one of their regular followers came up with the tag #Tie99—Drew Remenda’s Twitter persona likening his rockstar neckwear to Wayne Gretzky.
So not surprisingly, the account garnered a fan base “right out the gate,” the team told me.
— Jamie Ashlyn (@jamie_ashlyn) April 7, 2014
NHL Ties’ band of loyal followers doesn’t just include puckheads at home watching games on the tube. Some nationally-recognized subjects of the accounts’ many Tie Battles have responded to the attention brought to their neckwear. “Some of the broadcasters who are very active on Twitter retweeted their battles and would often make comments about the 3 Stars: ‘I was robbed!’ or ‘No fair, Bob Miller messed up my tie before we went on camera.’
“The guys on NHL Network are the most vocal—and that includes a number of behind the scenes production personnel—about their battles. I’ve heard they rib each other during commercials after a Battle or 3 Stars has been posted. “Next to them is probably the Sharks team. We also have a few behind-the-camera personnel from (Comcast SportsNet California) who chime in and actually help us get shots of the guys.” Of course, because without screen caps of the subjects, how in the heck would the staff show their public out in the Twitterverse how all these fancy ties are being critiqued?
When it comes to grading, NHL Ties isn’t just simply “liking” or “disliking” someone’s neckwear. Oh no, this operation out of Redmond, Washington takes its tie-ranking seriously. “The KDS (Knot, Dimple, Style) matrix really focuses on symmetry of the knot, the symmetry of the flare of the tie from the knot, and the dimple,” the team informs me. “Knots have difficulty levels, so even a perfect four-in-hand will score lower than a good half or full Windsor. And just as true, a bad full or half Windsor will score way lower than a good four-in-hand.”
Everyone catch that? That isn’t even getting into how the dimples are scored. Which, I was taught, are “graded based on the same sort of symmetry.” Yet, even with this rigorous judging platform: “Anybody wearing a proper bowtie will win all the time and is guaranteed a first star at the end of the night.” Because, just as every hockey tilt has its three stars of the game, every evening full of hockey viewing deserves a Best Dressed ranking as well. While NHL Ties’ grading system seems to rival most formulas on a TI-89, their “tie-lestrator” is decidedly modest machinery. “It’s just an iPad, Penultimate App and a Wacom Bamoo stylus.”
— NHL Ties (@nhlties) April 25, 2014
With the 2014 season drawing to a close, we have to ask: What is NHL Ties going to do in its off-season?
Go underground until September? Grade ties on broadcasters for other sports to stay fresh?
“We’ll do some Throwback Thursday battles with classic games, and look at ways that we can make things a little more interactive with the followers next season.”
However, we can expect the team to take a brief hiatus, just as the rest of the league will. “We don’t want to do too much, because absence makes the heart grow fonder… right?”