10 Weird and Wonderful Ice Hockey Traditions and Superstitions
Ice Hockey teams boast some of the most passionate, loyal, die-hard fans of all sports. It’s no surprise with so much to love about hockey – from the brawls, the speed of the game and wild goal celebrations.
Fans and players alike have adopted many weird and wonderful traditions and superstitions in their desire for team success. They range from bodily functions to throwing animals onto the ice. All in the name of doing everything possible to win.
Here are just a few of our favourite traditions and superstitions:
1. The ‘Legend of the Octopus’
We’ve all seen the Octopus thrown on the ice at Detroit Red Wings games, but how did it start?
Well, this bizarre superstition stemmed from two brothers way back in 1952. They threw the eight-legged mollusc onto the ice during the Stanley Cup playoff that year. Each tentacle was to represent the number of wins necessary for the Red Wings to capture Lord Stanley’s cup in the original six era. Sure enough, following the tentacle-creature toss, they stormed their way to seal a championship triumph, winning all those 8 games.
To this day, Octopi are thrown onto the ice during play offs for luck. However, now with an ‘octopus-throwing etiquette’ in place – boil your octopi with lemon and white wine for at least twenty minutes to avoid a bad smell and to increase bounce-ability on the ice.
It’s not the only smelly tradition in ice hockey – in 1975, the New York Islanders carried around elephant poo for luck and were convinced it was the reason for their victories.
2. Don’t touch the Cup…
Don’t touch the cup until you’ve won the cup, otherwise you’ll never win it. Some very superstitious players won’t be in the same room with it to avoid a jinx.
If you’re lucky enough to win, each team player is allowed one personal day with the cup in the off-season. It famously took a swim in Mario Lemieux’s pool, has been used for many a breakfast cereal, and one even christened his daughter in the bowl during his personal day.
With the original Stanley Cup bowl kept safely in the Hall of Fame, the presentation cup is the one presented as the confetti falls, we’re sure it has many a tale we can only imagine.
3. Sudden Death Tension
Unlike other sports, Hockey still widely favours the good old sudden death overtime, playing until someone finally gets that victorious goal.
In the 1936 Stanley Cup, there were 116 minutes of overtime, the equivalent of another two games.
Recently in a record breaking game, a Norwegian play-off game had 217 minutes of overtime and finished later than 2am.
The drama and tension from this potentially infinite overtime is unrivalled in other sports.
4. Playoff beards
They aren’t always pretty, but are sometime majestic! Playoff beards have become the ultimate hockey tradition. The longer into the play off season, the longer the beards get.
A player will shave as they enter the play offs and continue to grow their facial hair until their team either wins or is knocked out.
Greek mythology tells us that hair = strength. It’s thought that this tradition however began in the 1980s when the New York Islanders didn’t get chance to shave over four closely timed matches. So, the play off beard grew and it is still grown today. Loyal fans even join in too.
5. Hats for hat tricks
Ice Hockey fans definitely boast the most unusual hat trick celebration across sports.
If a player scores three goals in a game, the fans toss hats onto the ice. It’s thought this is linked to history when a hat company would present a player with a new hat if they achieved a hat trick.
One of the most famous hat tricks came from Mosienko for the Chicago Blackhawks, when he scored three goals in 21 seconds.
Once the ice crews have gathered all of the hats from the ice, they are generally given to local charities.
6. The ‘Rat Trick’
Now the ‘Hat Trick’ is unique, but weirder than that is the ‘Rat Trick’. Florida Panthers’ player, Scott Mellanby, killed a rat in the locker room prior to a game with his stick.
After the rodent-murder, Mellanby scored two goals that game and for a time, fans have thrown plastic (not living) rats onto the ice when the team scores significant goals.
Throwing things has caused so many delays that the NHL has now banned throwing all items, except hats, onto the ice.
7. Pre-match vomiting
Glenn Hall is an absolute goalie legend in the Ice Hockey world and played through the 50s and 60s. What could be the secret to his success? Throwing up before the game!
This began due to nerves but then became a superstitious pre-match ritual for him. Hall claimed he played better if he had vomited beforehand.
Individuals often have their (slightly less messy) own personal customary pre-match traditions, like only dressing either left-to-right or right-to-left when putting their kit on.
8. Towel Power
In 1982, Vancouver Canucks fans believed that they lost the game to the Chicago Blackhawks due to poor refereeing. The ref gave numerous penalties against the Canucks and at the end of the game, their coach mocked a surrender by waving a white towel on the end of a hockey stick.
‘Towel Power’ was born and by the next game, fans waved white towels in support. Nowadays it’s used to pump up the team.
9. Don’t step on the logo
When stepping into an NHL locker room, DO NOT step on the logo!
‘It’s obviously quite a logistical issue when a large portion of the room is unavailable to walk on. Teams are now waking up to the issue and are designing their rooms with logos on the ceilings instead.
There have been many famous incidents of celebrities falling foul of the tradition, but no matter who you are, just watch your step, or feel shame.
10. The Handshake line
Despite going at each other with everything they have, players will line up and shake the hands of their foes after each playoff series.
It would be wrong to pretend that all exchanges are pleasant and full of good will after hitting, slashing and chirping each other for the last few games.
There are however those moments of real sportsmanship when a pair of combatants or friends off the ice, meet in the line and show their respect for each other.
Other sports have traditions and superstitions but they can’t come close to the weird, long-standing ice hockey traditions. They unite entire fan bases, have been passed down the generations and bring even more excitement to the rink.