I always say it’s a good thing hockey people aren’t superstitious. After all, if they were, they might think something is going to happen to the Avs centers some time soon. Just like anything, though, there are a few folks out there who go against the norm...which, in this case, means pretty much anyone involved in that funny little sport with skates and sticks and pucks and stuff.
Players, as we know, are often driven by their superstitions to a such a degree they seem, well, a bit like nutters. For your entertainment, here are some of the more outlandish and unique hockey superstitions and rituals.
Patrick Roy - Who else should top off this list than our beloved St. Patrick, one of the most superstitious guys to ever hit the NHL? Roy had a few idiosyncrasies. When skating to and from his crease, he would not skate across any line; he’d step over them instead. Before games, he would crouch down at the blue line and stare at his net, trying to visualize it getting smaller and smaller. He would also talk to his posts, perhaps giving them a pep talk so they’d be on their game. In the locker room, he placed each piece of equipment out on the floor before putting it on in the same exact order each game. Finally, in between every period, you would find him juggling pucks and bouncing them off the floor.
Wayne Gretzky - The Great One also had a ton of superstitions and rituals. Like many players, he put his equipment on in a very specific order: left shin pad, left sock; right shin pad, right sock; pants; left skate, right skate; shoulder pads; left elbow pad, right elbow pad; and finally, his jersey. (Kevin Porter puts all of his equipment on left side first.) He always put baby powder on his stick (maybe that’s why the puck always seemed to find it and stay on it until he let off a wrister). His first shot during warm up was always far right of the goal. Right after warm up, he would drink a Diet Coke, ice water, Gatorade and one more Diet Coke, in that order. I’m hoping he hit the john before the ice after that. And you would never, ever catch him getting his hair cut while on the road. He did it once and the team lost, so there you go...another superstition is born!
Sydney Crosby - Another big star, another huge list. Syd the Kid refuses to call his mom on game days. What a jerk, huh? Well, there’s a reason for it: he got injured during each of the last three games he did it. He’s also got a bit of primadonna in him (shocker, I know) in that no one can touch his sticks after he’s taped them. He’ll re-do them if anyone does...and probably cry about it. He also only uses Penguins’ tape to do it. (Kevin Shattenkirk also doesn’t let anyone touch his game stick, but he’s awesome. Oh, and he never sharpens his skates on game days either.) When travelling on the bus to and from games, Crosby does a common superstitious act: lifts his feet and touches the window when driving over railroad tracks. Kid, indeed.
Kyle McLaren - His superstitious tradition started as a joke. His teammates replaced his visor with a yellow tinted one. As he’s color blind, he didn’t even notice. That first game, he scored the game winning goal. Even after the joke was confessed, McLaren continued to wear the yellow visor.
Chris Chelios - They say he insisted on being the last player in the locker room to put on his stuff. I say he was just old, and it took him forever. You go, Gramps!
Ron Hextall - I’ve seen a lot of goaltenders do this, so maybe this is something Hextall started that others made their own, but he would always hit his goal posts and crossbar before the game, doing it in the same order each time. Thanking posts after a puck careens off it and away from the net is also common, as we’ve seen from Peter Budaj.
Glenn Hall - Another goalie who’s got that odd-ball thing going on (okay, who are we kidding? They’re ALL crazy) is Hall. He puked before every game, believing it was a sure-fire loss if he didn’t. Maybe he was just bulimic.
Félix Potvin - Potvin would make a cross out of tape to put on his locker.
Jocelyn Thibault - He’d poor water over his head exactly six and a half minutes before a game.
Ken Dryden - He never left the net during warm up - screw the back up - and refused to leave the ice if he didn’t make a save on the last shot.
Ray Borque - Ray always changed all of his sweaty equipment between periods. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m thinking changing the gear isn’t too crazy of a ritual. Have you ever smelled hockey funk?? Another thing he did was re-lace his skates and throw out the old laces (Milan Hejduk keeps his laces but always laces up his left skate first).
Pelle Lindbergh - Unlike Bourque, Lindbergh chose NOT to change gear. In fact, he wore the same orange shirt under his equipment, one he wouldn’t ever wash and would just sew up if it tore. He never drank anything but Pripps, a Swedish drink, during pre-game and in between periods; moreover, it had to have two ice cubes in it and given to him by the same trainer using his right hand only. See, I’m telling ya, goalies are strange.
Shane Doan - Being a religious man, Doan has "29:11" written on each of his sticks. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." It’s obviously an important verse for him. In related news, Matt Duchene also has a Bible verse on his sticks: Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Bob Gainey - What is it with Coke and water? He’d have a 50/50 mix of them in between periods.
Evgeni Malkin - He’s an abusive sort. Malkin insists on shooting a puck off the trainer Chris Stewart at the end of warm ups. I suggest he never try that with Chris God Damn Stewart.
Georges Laraque - Also a bully, he’d bump into trainers and other team personnel in the same order as he was rushing through the locker room door before each game.
Bruce Gardiner - I think this guy gets the "Really, dude??" award for traditions. He dipped his stick in the toilet before every game. Ewwwwww. I really wouldn’t want to get a high stick from that guy. Should be a double minor if you ask me. (In case you’re wondering why...Gardiner was in a scoring slump so a teammate told him he was treating his stick too nicely, and it needed to be dunked in the toilet if it was going to respect him. I’m calling practical joke on that one. However, it worked, and Gardiner’s slump ended that night.)
Daniel Briére - He’s got the reverse jinx going on. He has three sticks he uses. If he has a good game with a particular stick, he allows it to rest the next game as a thank you to it and uses one of the two others.
Brendan Shanahan - Not too unusual, he would only wear the shoulder pads he used in junior hockey. But I think we’ve found some key evidence on this guy: he generally would listen to Madonna before games. Oh, Brendan. We KNEW something was a bit off with you.
Karl Azner - I leave you with this one because I think it’s kind of cool. During the Canadian National Anthem, Alzner used to tap his stick exactly 88 times and then trace the outline of the maple leaf. Pride in one’s country is never a bad thing.
So there you have it, folks: a sampling of superstitions in the world of hockey. It seems the trend of the younger guys is to try to NOT be superstitous. Just ask Brandon Yip. I think as time goes on, however, they’ll find a few rituals. After all, if it works, it works.