Hunt for Winnipeg whiteout gear leads to some bizarre fashion choices

Winnipeg Jets fans cheer on their team outside T-Mobile Arena before the Jets face the Vegas Golden Knights during Western Conference Finals, game 3, in Las Vegas, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (Trevor Hagan/CP)

WINNIPEG — If the Winnipeg Jets make the post-season again next year, Sean Udow will start his search for white clothing well before the first day of the playoffs. This time around, the Winnipeg-based doctor began looking for white gear a few hours before Game 1, which, not surprisingly, turned out to be a mistake. He wanted to buy a Heritage Classic jersey, but the lineup at the Jets store was too long. He also needed white pants, which he couldn’t find.

With time ticking closer to puck drop, Udow was getting desperate. That’s when he found himself inside an American Eagle Outfitters. “I asked if they had men’s pants, which they didn’t have,” says Udow. “Then I saw women’s pants.” He asked the clerk if they would fit him – she suggested he buy a size 14, the largest size – and sure enough, they fit perfectly. “They’re jeggings,” he says. “There’s lot of give to them.”

Udow has worn those jeggings, along with a hoodie, to every game he’s attended – and it’s a good thing he found them: no one wants to be the only person not wearing white during a Jets whiteout. “I even have white Jacob Trouba socks that I bought years ago,” he says.

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In the days after the Jets clinched the playoffs, people started buying white clothes in droves. According to True North Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the team, 50,000 pieces of white playoff apparel have been sold through their stores, while more than 10,000 jerseys have been purchased. Traffic volume at Jets stores inside MTS Bell Place has also been six times higher during playoff games than for regular season games.

For many Winnipeggers, finding white clothes hasn’t been easy. There are anecdotes of sold out shirts and hats at retailers across the city, long lineups at stores and many fans have had to take elaborate measures — like buying size 14 jeggings — to find the right clothing.

Fortunately, the hunt for white clothes has been nearly as entertaining as the games themselves.

Finding Your ‘Playoff Suit’

A couple of weeks before Game 1, Jon Hochman, a restauranteur who has been to five playoff games so far, decided that he wanted to go all out. He had purchased a white disposable painter’s jumpsuit in 2015, but with a potentially deep run ahead and with more playoff games in the future, he wanted to buy a “playoff suit,” he says. “I wasn’t content with what I had last time. I wanted something I could dust off every Spring.”

Finding that forever fashion, though, was easier said than done. Hochman wanted to wear a jumpsuit again, but one made from cloth or another material that could last for a long time. He called nearly every store in town and spent six hours driving to painting and hardware stores, but all he could find were disposable suits.

After three days of searching, he came across something on Walmart’s website that looked like what he wanted: A beekeeper’s outfit, complete with mask. Unfortunately, no Winnipeg stores carried it, but, like Mark Scheifele during the third period of Game 2 against the Golden Knights, he pressed on. BeeMaid, a Winnipeg beekeeping supplies store, was his final stop. “I found the holy grail,” he says. “They had every size and kind of white coveralls you could imagine – thick, thin, different fabrics, different hoods, you name it. I felt an immense feeling of joy.”

For Hochman, who now has his go-to playoff gear, his quest for clothes made the playoffs that much more fun. “I loved the search,” he says. “It’s quirky and it’s weird, but it’s great to watch everyone get into these playoffs.”

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A Business is Born

Some people have gone to even greater lengths to find the perfect apparel. Chad Scarsbrook, a newspaper editor, wanted a shirt with the nation’s anthem lyrics on it to pay homage to the Jets fans who yell the words True North every time O Canada is sung.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t find one anywhere. Rather than buy something else, he and two friends made their own shirts — they created a design and had it pressed on a T — and then made 24 more to sell to others. They sold out in two days and are now about to press more.

His search for white inadvertently led him to starting a business, Way Back Winnipeg, which he hopes will sell whiteout-related shirts, and other Winnipeg-themed clothes, for many playoff runs to come. “I think this might be a business,” he says. “Seems people want these shirts – we even sold a couple to ex-pats living in Mexico.”

Even now, with the Jets in the third round, people continue to hunt for white clothing. The pickings are getting slim, says Udow, who is now looking for the True North made “Winnipeg is Good” t-shirt and hat, but can’t find them anywhere.

Like Hochman, the constant search for better white clothing has made the playoffs that much more enjoyable, and seeing some of the outlandish costumes people have put together — someone keeps showing as the Queen with four friends dressed up as Buckingham Palace guards — has made the whiteout atmosphere that much more wild.

While the Jets are still in it, Udow already has an idea for next year’s whiteout. “I’d go as the Ultimate Warrior with a white bushy wig and white face paint,” he says. “But my wife would never let me do that.”


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