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"Who Knew?" #10: Hockey Superstitions!

January 28, 2010, 11:10 AM ET [ Comments]
Shawn Gates
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”Who Knew?” #10: Hockey Superstitions!

Athletes are an interesting lot in a number of ways. Standouts in physical abilities, gifted with above-average talents, and most importantly (for the intnt of this article anyhow!) quick to base their performance on something to do with neither the former or latter! Specifically, many athletes, hockey players included, tie their ability to do their jobs onto the performance of ritualistic activities or superstitions prior to or during a game that at their most basic level have no influence on how they are going to do during the contest (although on a psychological level there are reasons to support not dropping a superstition or pre-game ritual such that one’s play won’t be negatively impacted, but I’ll save that for a different column!). Even so they engage in these rituals habitually throughout their careers to the wonderment of those of us who watch the games!

In the spirit of recognizing some of the odd things players do to get them into their zone or bring them luck I have scoured the depths of my available resources to bring you some of the more interesting habits of the past and present when it comes to both player and team superstitions. Let the head shaking begin!

Max Talbot (Penguins Forward): Boxes/spars with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as they wait to leave the dressing room and hit the ice.

Karl Alzner (Capitals Defenseman): In the past he made sure to tap his stick 88 times during the national anthem and trace the outline of the Canadian maple leaf in time with the music

Glenn Hall (HOF Goalie): Would vomit before every game as he believed he would lose if he didn’t.

Patrick Roy (HOF Goalie):Roy had a number of superstitions during his career. First, he would have long conversations with goal posts. Second, before each game he would carefully lay out each piece of his equipment on the floor of the locker room and dress himself in a specific order. Third, during intermissions he would both juggle a puck and bounce it off the ground. Fourth, he would not skate over any line on the ice, stepping over them instead. Finally, before each game he would skates to his blue line, crouch down and stares at his goal in an attempt to visualize the net shrinking.

Félix Potvin (Former NHL Goalie):: Before each game he made a cross out of tape and stuck it to his locker.

Wayne Gretzky (HOF Forward): The Great One had an extensive list of rituals and superstitions! First, Gretzky refused to get his hair cut on the road (he did once and the team lost). Second, he always put his equipment on in the following order : left shin pad, left sock, right shin pad, right sock, pants, left skate, right skate, shoulder pads, left elbow pad, right elbow pad, then the jersey, with the right side tucked into his pants. Third, his first shot during warm-up was always to the extreme right of the goal. Fourth, after warm-up he would return to the dressing room and proceed to drink a Diet Coke, a glass of ice water then a Gatorade…… followed by another Diet Coke. Fifth, he always put baby powder on the blade of his stick.

Chris Chelios (Defenseman): Had to be the last player to put his uniform on before a game.

Jocelyn Thibault (Goalie): Six and a half minutes before the game he would pour water over his head.

Bob Gainey (HOF Forward and current Canadiens GM): In between periods he had to have a 50/50 Coke and water drink.

John Tonelli (Former NHL Forward): Once while Tonelli was going through a scoring slump he was stopped by an equipment man before stepping on the ice. What did he do? He spat on the blade of Tonelli's stick and rubbed it in. Tonelli broke out of his slump that game.

Stéphane Quintal (Former NHL Defenseman): He wouldn’t speak to anyone after one thirty in the afternoon on gameday.

Ron Hextall (Former NHL Goalie and Current Assistant GM of the LA Kings): He would hit the posts and the crossbar with his stick at the beginning and ending of every period.

Joe Nieuwendyk (Former NHL Forward and Current Dallas Stars GM): He ate two pieces of toast and peanut butter before every game.

Sidney Crosby (Penguins Forward): What is it with the really great players and their laundry lists of superstitions? Here’s what Sid gets up to. First, he won’t call his mother on a game day because the last three times he did he got injured (busted teeth, dislocated shoulder and a broken foot). Second, once he has taped up his sticks before the game no one can touch them or make like they’re going to. If they do Sid will remove the tape and re-tape the stick. Third, if the team is travelling on the bus he will lift his feet and touch glass if they have to cross railroad tracks. Finally, if playing on the road he will only use tape supplied by the home team for his sticks.

Brendan Shanahan (Former NHL Forward): While in Detroit he would only wear the shoulder pads he wore while playing junior hockey. He also had a habit of listening to Madonna on game days

Pelle Lindbergh (Former NHL Goalie): Wore the same orange t-shirt under his equipment each game. If it started to fall apart he would have it sewn up, and it was never washed. Ever. In addition, the only thing he would drink during intermissions was a Swedish beverage called ‘Pripps'. Not only did it have to be that drink but he could also only drink it if it had exactly two ice cubes in it, if it was given to him by a specific trainer, and would only take it from the trainer with his right hand.

Kyle McLaren (Former NHL Defenseman): One game, as a practical joke, McLaren’s teammates switched his normal visor with a yellow tinted one. He didn’t notice the switch as he is color blind! Since he scored the winning goal that game he decided to keep the visor on after being told about it!

Bill Ranford (Former NHL Goalie):: Ranford would not allow a linesman to take the puck from him after a save until he had flipped it into the air and had it land on the backside of his catching glove.

Ray Ferraro (Former NHL Forward): Prior to a game where he scored two goals Ferraro had eaten chicken parm as a meal. For the next two years he reportedly ate nothing but chicken parm as his pre-game meal.

Ken Dryden (HOF Goalie): Dryden wouldn’t leave the net during warmup until he had made one last save. Teammate Larry Robinson figured this out and started making sure Dryden had an “easy one” if he was having problems making that last save (remember the Habs of the ‘70s were stacked with snipers!).

Daniél Briére (Flyers Forward): Briére rotates between three sticks. When he has a good game with a certain one he “rewards” it with a rest and uses a different one.

Bruce Gardiner (Former NHL Forward): In the midst of a slump during his rookie season, Gardiner was given the following advice by teammate Tom Chorske (paraphrasing here of course): “You’re treating your stick too well. You need to teach the wood to respect you by dunking it in the toilet.” He did. It worked.

Team Superstitions:

Detroit Red Wings: The octopi being thrown onto the ice superstition started during the 1952 Detroit playoff run. During the six-team NHL days, teams only needed to win eight games (two series) to win the cup. The eight legs on the octopus represented the eight straight wins Detroit took in 1952 at Olympia Stadium in Detroit to win the Cup.

Philadelphia Flyers: In the 1970’s the team believed that singer Kate Smith brought them luck as when she sang “God Bless America” before a game (whether it be live or on tape) the Flyers went 62-13-3.

New York Rangers: The 1950-51 Rangers were putting together a losing season until a restaurant owner made a liquid concoction for the team to drink. After drinking it, the Rags won 13 straight games. They still ended the season in 5th place though!

New York Islanders: The Isles are credited with beginning the playoff beard superstition during their Stanley Cup run in the 1980s when they won four Cups in four years (1980-1983).

Shawn Gates
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Previous “Who Knew?” Articles

#1: Gordie Howe

#2: The Zamboni

#3: Maurice “The Rocket” Richard

#4: Ron Hextall

#5: Stanley Cup Abuse, Neglect and Versatility

#6: The Puck

#7: Don Cherry

#8: Cam Neely

#9: The Early Years of Les Canadiens

Previous “WHAT IF…?” Articles

#1 What If The NHL Contracted To 24 Teams?

#2 What If Quebec Traded Lindros To The Rangers Instead Of The Flyers?

#3 What If Calgary Drafted Martin Brodeur Instead Of Trevor Kidd?

#3a What If Calgary Drafted Martin Brodeur Instead Of Trevor Kidd?: A RESPONSE

#4 What If The WHA Never Existed?

#5 What If The Position Of Rover Had Not Been Eliminated?

#6 What If Pittsburgh Had Not Been Awarded A Team In 1967?

#7 What If Steve Smith Had Not Scored In His Own Net In Game 7?

#8 What If The NHL Had a Cross-Conference Playoff Structure?

#9 What If The NHL Asked For Fan Ideas For Improving The Game??

#10 What If Henderson Had Missed The Net In Game 8?

#11 What If You Could Sneak Into A Stanley Cup Celebration?

#12 What If The NHL Returned To Quebec City?

#13 What if Toronto and Edmonton Had Traded Teams in 1981?

#14 What if You Could Create Your Own Hockey Dream Team?

#15 What if An Active Player in the NHL “Came Out” as Gay?

#16 You Could Assemble Your Own Fantasy Pick-up Hockey Team?

#17 Hockey Had A Champions League Tournament?

Previous “Town Without A Team” Articles

Booger Hollow, Arkansas

Hell, Michigan

Previous “Humpday Hockey Videos”

January 20, 2010: Pain for Pleasure

January 27, 2010: National Anthems

Previous “Hockey Psychology” Articles

State Dependent Learning

Arousal and Performance


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