Hat Tricks To Rat Tricks, A Look At Hockey’s Weird Rituals




Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s only natural that hockey players and the people who cheer them are a little bit, um, wacky.

The game, at its origins, required the harshest conditions, simply so that it could be played. Its fans existed for long years as the third- or fourth-class citizens of the sporting world — their rinks, so many frozen inferiority complexes in the shadows of diamonds and gridirons across the continent.

Their secret society has grown quirky, fraught with rituals requiring little grooming but lots of mollusks — and we love them for it.

Inside This Bazaar of the Bizarre

Here’s a quick look at some favorite hockey traditions:



It’s raining hats!

When a player scores three goals in a game, fans toss their hats onto the ice. Why? Well, in the NHL, the tradition may have begun with haberdasher Sammy Taft, who gave a free hat to any player scoring three goals in a game in Toronto — allegedly after first promising a free lid to the Black Hawks’ Alex Kaleta. Just back from World War II in 1946, Kaleta didn’t have enough cash for a new fedora, so Taft said he could have it for free if he scored three times that night (Kaleta netted four goals). However, the phrase originated in cricket. It seems in 1858, a bowler hit three consecutive wickets, a collection was held to reward his feat, and he was given a hat with the proceeds.


The Color of Hockey

Hanging with Stanley

Perhaps hockey’s greatest tradition is giving each player on the championship team 24 hours with the Stanley Cup — and the Cup’s personal valet. Because these are hockey players, some questionable decisions have been made. The Cup has been to the bottom of at least two pools; after becoming part of a bonfire, it was rescued by players dousing the flames with their urine; a baby used it as a diaper; another was baptized from it; a dog and a Kentucky Derby champ have eaten from it; it has been to at least one strip club, on the Howard Stern Show and on Late Night with David Letterman …


Yahoo Sports

Logo no-no

In an NHL dressing room — no, it’s not a locker room — teams typically have their logos designed into the carpeting at the center of the room. No one — not players, coaches, media or other visitors — is supposed to walk on the logo (begging the question: Why put it on the floor?). Just ask Justin Bieber, who before a United Center concert in 2013 stood on the Indian head to snap a photo of the Stanley Cup, earning Blackhawks fans’ wrath.

It’s raining octopuses

On April 15, 1952, Detroit shop owners Pete and Jerry Cusimano threw an octopus onto the ice during the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup run. The creature’s eight tentacles represented the eight wins necessary at the time to win the Cup. The Wings won, and octopuses have been flung onto their playing surface with regularity ever since.


Sports Illustrated

Stubble trouble

Playoff beards are all the rage these days. Players shave when the regular season ends and don’t shave again until they’re eliminated from the playoffs or win the Stanley Cup. Fans even solicit charity donations from their friends for every day they don’t shave during the playoffs. The New York Islanders are credited with starting the tradition in the 1980s, perhaps owing a debt to Bjorn Borg, the tennis superstar who didn’t shave during Wimbledon (and won five straight titles there).

Really Wayne? Diet?

The Great One was a great one for routine, or superstition. Each intermission of his unparalleled NHL career, Wayne Gretzky consumed, in order, a Diet Coke, an ice water, a Gatorade and another Diet Coke. Of course, he was also known to put baby powder on his sticks, refuse to get a haircut on the road, and regularly eat a pregame meal of four hot dogs with mustard and onions (washed down with a Diet Coke, of course).



It’s raining rats!

The hat trick is a league-wide tradition. The rat trick is province of the Florida Panthers. In 1995-96, former Panthers player Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the locker room before a game in which he scored two goals. The story got out and, as the team made its way to the Stanley Cup finals, fans tossed rubber rats onto the ice each time the Panthers scored. The league has since tweaked its rules, and Florida fans generally restrict their rat tossing these days to the conclusion of victories.

Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Specialist at Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. Lee picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet. He’s an avid Blackhawks fan and is an expert in all things hockey equipment. 

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