Okay, so the season has suddenly taken an interesting turn. All those teams that were doing better than expected have suddenly bombed, reaching losing streaks of seven games and counting. Yet those that were failing early in the season have suddenly begun to shine, creating gaps in the standings of six points or more. What are the reasons for these sudden shifts in stats? Well, we as fans like to chalk it up to improved (or, in other cases, deteriorated) playing and enhanced strategy. Yet, ask a player and you may find they are more superstitious than one would ever be led to believe.
Superstitions have been around for centuries, whether in religion, work or everyday life. However, it is not as well known that superstitions pervade most sports, with a large impact on hockey players. I’m sure everyone knows about playoff superstitions. All players believe, as long as their team remains in the playoffs, that they cannot shave at all, for it will bring them bad luck and lead to the team’s failure. There are numerous other, lesser known superstitions and traditions that plague both players and teams at large.
Many players believe that it is good luck to tap the goaltender on his shin pads before a game, so when the players skate past the goalie in a line and hit him, don’t be too shocked. Hockey players also refuse to say “shutout” in the locker room before a game, believing that it will guarantee a loss for their team. They also are very careful with their sticks, as they feel that two hockey sticks lying crossed over each other will curse their team with a losing streak.
The most well-known hockey tradition revolves around the “hat trick.” Whenever a player scores three goals in the same game, it is known as a hat trick. This results in fans throwing all their headgear onto the ice to honour this rare occurrence. Some teams, however, have their own traditions. The Detroit Red Wings fans will throw octopi onto the ice after a big win. Two brothers, Pete and Jerry Cusimano, started this in 1952 when they threw their octopus onto the ice, using the tentacles to represent the eight wins in the playoffs. The Florida Panthers had a similar tradition involving rats. In 1996, Panthers’ forward Scott Mellanby killed a rat in the dressing room with his stick and then went on to score two goals. Fans took that as a good luck omen and began to throw plastic rats onto the ice in hopes of encouraging a win. It was so popular that the goalies had to hide in the nets to prevent getting hit with the plastic rats. The practice was banned later in the year, because the delays were too long while the rats were cleaned up. And probably the most amusing team tradition involves the Vancouver Canucks. In 1982, the Canucks were playing the Chicago Blackhawks. The officials had called nine penalties and disallowed one goal, all of which seem unjustified. Roger Neilson, head coach of the Canucks at the time, placed a white towel on the end of the hockey stick in surrender to protest the referee’s seemingly incongruous calls. The Canucks’ players and fans took it up in support of the coach. The practice became known as “towel power.” The tradition has caught on. Today, thousands of fans across North America use towel power to protest referee’s calls.
So next time you are watching a game, and you notice the unshaven player, or see thousands of hats flying through the air, remember ?- even hockey players can be superstitious.