Strange Hockey Superstitions and Player Rituals

Like most sports, hockey has its share of good luck superstitions. Depending which end of the crazy stick you hold, pro hockey players are either athletes of instinct, power, and intelligence, or they’re athletes of instinct and power who also need to hustle it downtown posthaste for counseling. Here’s a quick look at some noteworthy hockey superstitions, rituals, and other goings-on.

NHL Conference Trophies

After 82 games of smash-mouth action, you might think lifting the trophy that signified you were one of the two best teams in all of hockey would be a highlight of any professional’s season. You’d be wrong.

Since 1997, when the Philadelphia Flyers first eschewed trophy touching like it was a plague-infested rat, many other conference champions have carried on the tradition of “look but don’t touch.” The thinking is that if the trophy doesn’t have the name Stanley attached to it, it’s not worth the calories to hoist, and touching it might bring bad luck in the form of a finals loss.

The statistics supporting this superstition are iffy at best but, hey, this is pro hockey—a game where fans throw dead fish on the ice and players don’t touch trophies. It’s all good.

Hockey Hair

We’re familiar with hockey beards, and most of us probably remember it was the 1990s New York Islanders who made facial hair a must-have for possible playoff success. These days it’s almost odd to see a player without something on his face during playoff time. One wonders, though—do playoff beards help entire teams, or just the player? Do teams hold meetings to discuss beard strategy? And if most everyone’s got one, what’s the advantage? But that’s the thing about superstition: it’s almost impossible to slip logic through its five hole.

Do you remember Samson, whose power came from his uncut hair? Even ‘The Great One’ learned the hard way to not touch his tresses. At least not before games. Legend has it that Wayne Gretzky, who sported a healthy Kentucky Waterfall (Canadian Passport, Tennessee Top Hat, Mudflap, whatever) on more than a few occasions, decided to have his hockey hair trimmed before a game and ended up being crushed for it in an obvious instance of cause and effect. Maybe he should have brushed up on the Samson and Delilah story first. His team lost so badly he vowed never again to have his hair cut before a game. And lo, he did not.

More Wayne Gretzky Superstitions

Speaking of ‘The Great One’…Wayne had more than one superstition worth noting. It turns out he always needed to gear up in a particular order. From the waist down, he put on everything from left to right, but went right to left from the waist up. Alrighty, then.

After warmups, he felt it essential to sip from three different beverages in the same order every time: Diet Coke, ice water, and then Gatorade.

Gretzky would also miss his first warm-up shot intentionally, just to get it out of the way. But that superstition seems to have worked, because he racked up points like a madman.

Of course, he isn’t the only player to harbor a slew of abnormalities.

Sidney Crosby Rituals

Appropriate that The ‘Next’ One follows The Great One, don’t you think? Check out these Crosby rituals:

  • Won’t call his mother on gameday because he suffered injuries the three times he did (dislocated shoulder, smashed teeth, broken foot.)
  • Has to lift feet to touch window when team bus crosses railroad tracks (what?)
  • Can’t pass opposing team’s locker room, ranging far and wide to avoid it.
  • Wraps his hockey stick with only home-team tape, and must retape if someone so much as glances at his stick afterward.
  • Wants to be last on the ice, but must settle for second-to-last because Evgeni Malkin’s been a pro three more years and isn’t having any of that nonsense.

Patrick Roy’s Little Friends

Something about Patrick Roy talking to his goalposts—scolding them, encouraging them, soothing their hurt feelings—makes one smile. It’s almost like Roy needed a dolly at his side while working his way to being, arguably, the greatest goalie ever to mind the net. We’re not sure it qualifies as a hockey superstition, but anyone talking to pipes deserves a place here.

During warm-ups, Roy skated to center ice and stared down his own net, imagining it growing smaller and smaller until it could barely fit a puck. Then he held conversations with his posts between periods. “The goalposts are always with me,” he said. “They talk back to me.”

That seems like a suitable ending.