You’ve heard about not stepping on the logo in the locker room, being the first or last on the ice, and secret handshakes, but there are a lot more superstitions in the NHL – and you bet your favourite player has one or two of these.
Superstitions are commonly defined as “irrational beliefs” and depending on everyone’s definition of “luck” they can either be considered a harmless practice or a negative one. If we’re being honest here, superstitions bring flavour to the NHL because, friends: this league is plagued by superstitions.
Most players deny it, others call them “rituals”, “routine”, or “habit” (as Dougie Hamilton said, they are “creatures of habit”), but if they are ever in a situation where they have to change their so called routine, they will most likely flip and find ways to do things the way they always do.
Are you ready to learn about a couple of “irrational beliefs” from some players?
It’s all in the tape.
Every player has their own taping style – even the NHL made a Puck Personality video about this. But some players go as far as having their sticks cut to a specific length, in a specific way, and no one can touch them once they are taped (because that would obviously mess with the juju).
Who: Sidney Crosby himself has that “don’t touch the stick” policy, and if anyone touches it, he re-tapes the stick. Also, if the Penguins are on the road, he will only use tape supplied by the home team. Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Matt Duchene (Ottawa Senators) have very specific ways of taping their sticks, going around a certain number of times, and doing some tricks here and there with the tapes and other stuff. And then there’s Anthony Beauvillier (New York Islanders), who chooses to tape only one (1) stick before the game.
Socks, skates, pads, left, right…
Also noted by the NHL in their Puck Personality series, players have their own ways of getting their gear on. Whether they put this or that first, dress left-to-right or right-to-left, the magical secret to a good game may relay on how you put on your jersey and pads.
Key word: may.
Who: almost every player has this one, even if they say they don’t, but to name a few…
Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) has a specific order to put on his equipment. Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) puts his gear on at a certain time and puts on his left shin pad first. Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar prefers to put on his right skate first. We’re gathering a group of scientist to look into this.
Another superstition brought to you by Sidney Crosby. Apparently, Crosby doesn’t call his mother (nor his sister) on game days, as the times he has done so have resulted in a dislocated shoulder, a broken foot, and shattered teeth. We are sure Mamma Crosby understands.
Is Crosby going to extremes with this? Maybe, but we wouldn’t be surprised if other players did that too – but we understand if they don’t want to share that piece of information. Nobody wants to piss their mom off, right?
Don’t touch the hardware!
Legend has it that touching the Conference Trophy (Prince of Wales Trophy for the Eastern Conference champions and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the Western Conference) will impact the team’s chances to get the Stanley Cup, hence why some teams will avoid touching and just smile for the photo.
Maybe yes, maybe not, but what we do know is that both Alex Ovechkin and Deryk Engelland chose to touch the trophies last year, which turned out well for Ovi and the Caps. Back in 2008, Sidney Crosby (king of this list) didn’t touch the trophy and the Penguins lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. The following year, Crosby did the opposite and the Pens won the Stanley Cup.
There might not be actual magic powers on not shaving during playoffs (there are a bunch of players who don’t shave all year long), but playoff beards have become more of a tradition than a superstition per se – though it wouldn’t be surprising if some players did it for superstitious reasons.
Who: Any player who can grow a beard. And even those who can’t but try their best. Best regards to Mitch Marner and Andre Burakovsky (boy, do they try).
Some players have to be the last to hit the ice and the last off the ice. Just because.
This applies during warm-ups and at the end of each period as well. You might want to pay closer attention to which players casually and discreetly make time to be the last to leave the ice.
Who: Tyler Seguin and Mark Scheifele have to be the last ones to leave the ice after warm-ups. It’s especially funny when it’s a Dallas Stars vs Winnipeg Jets game as you will see Segs and Scheifele literally going all “after you” from one end of the rink to the other. Obviously, Sidney Crosby falls into this one as well, although he is the second to last to hit the ice and second to last off the ice. Turns out that Evgeni Malkin has to be the last one. Speaking of the Penguins, Phil Kessel and Patric Hörnqvist are said to be the ones to leave the ice first after practices. That’s the way it is in Pittsburgh.
Chicago Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews tends to stay on the ice to congratulate his teammates before stepping off the ice. Subtle, very subtle (we see you too, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen (Colorado Avalanche)).
“…No, you go…”@tseguinofficial and @markscheifele55 are at it again. pic.twitter.com/cVEcqmPfzl
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) 6 de octubre de 2018
Handshakes, shouting, and more.
Probably one of the most entertaining things before the game begins is watching the players in the tunnel, right before they hit the ice – this is where some interesting superstitions and rituals pop up.
Handshakes, dances, bumping, shouting; there are many things players do to either pump up or just summon some good energy. And there are plenty of examples on this.
Who: Surprise! Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have a special handshake. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn also have their own handshake. Good bros Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier have theirs too. New York Rangers’ Brady Skjei and Kevin Hayes have a handshake/choreography of their own.
And then there’s Washington Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin and forward T.J Oshie. Whatever they do we can’t really put it into words, but here you have it:
What are we having?
Not all superstitions happen at the arena – some have their place far from it. Like, let’s say, the player’s kitchen.
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but for some NHL players, the most important meal is the one you have before a game. Because, as we’ve learned so far, even the smallest details can influence the vibe around a game.
Who: Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Columbus Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin (again, just to name a few) go for the always magical pasta (and noodle soup for Panarin). Dion Phaneuf (Los Angeles Kings) is part of the “chicken and pasta crew”, along with Arizona Coyotes’ Vinnie Hinostroza, who has some chicken parm with pasta the night before a game, and a good cup of coffee on his way to the rink. On the other hand, Kings’ Drew Doughty goes the healthy route with a Caesar salad.
Mr. Crosby obviously has his food-related superstitions too, and eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 5 p.m (and only specific brands of PB&J).
Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk is all about the drinks: one with caffeine to “get him going”, “a couple of BioSteels”, water, Gatorade, and a piece of gum. Speaking of drinks, Nate Schmidt (Vegas Golden Knights) has this “magic trick” during warmups that involves three water bottles.
- By now, it’s clear that Sidney Crosby is a very superstitious man, and aside from the ones listed above, Crosby sets up in his stall at the same time every day and won’t walk past the visitor’s locker room when playing at home. And we’re sure we are still missing more from this guy.
- Many players have superstitions related to time, and some of them can be very specific. During warmups, once the clock hits 0:00, Evgeni Malkin “takes a few strides, shoots a puck into the empty net, collects another one, and shoots it (relatively softly) at [athletic trainer Chris] Stewart’s foot”. Bryan Rust is another Penguin with a time-related superstition. Rust gets to morning skate 15 minutes before the rest, and even when he is running late, his teammates, confused, debate whether they should hit the ice first or wait for him. Matt Duchene is said to be constantly looking at the clock. He also drinks two bottles of water in the space of about two and a half minutes (we don’t recommend that, though) and goes back to the locker room prior warm-ups at an specific time. Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks) stretches at the same time every day, rides the bike for the same amount of minutes, and also gets dressed left side first and touches all the doors on his way out.
- Goalies have their superstitions too – in fact, they are said to be the most superstitious of all. That is, of course, without counting Crosby. Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) listens to the same music and hits the wall once before first period, twice before second period, and (you guessed it) three times before third period. Another goalie with his own soundtrack is Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, who begins his “ritual” at the same time every game-day, and hasn’t changed his playlist in years (if you are curious, there’s some Eminem, Jay Z, and Taylor Swift in it). Also, got a shutout going on? Don’t mention it. You could jinx it. Nobody wants that (except the team that’s losing).
- During the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Alex Ovechkin took the “hot lap” to kick-off the Caps practices on the road (Jay Beagle did it before Ovi took over). It turned out very well, as we all know now. Speaking of the Caps, John Carlson gives Ovi a “cup check” before going into the rink (seen above). Safety first, they say.
- Another Penguin with his own superstitions/rituals/habits is Jake Guentzel who – among other things – when arriving to morning skate, takes a puck from the stack and tries to land it on the nearest face-off circle “curling style” until he gets it.
- Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman has a “ritual” with equipment manager Rob Kennedy that might seem dangerous for some. Hedman plays “five finger fillet” or “the knife game” with Kennedy, using his stick to tap between each of Kennedy’s fingers. Apparently, this helps him sharpen his focus – and it seems it really works.
- Connor McDavid admits to have superstitions but refuses to talk about them. Just wanted to put that out there.
With 31 teams and over 600 active players, there was no way we could fit them all in this list. Know some current players with unique/weird/funny superstitions that didn’t make it to this list? Share them with us!
Photo: Dallas Stars/NHL