Excellence comes down to details. Whether you are running a Fortune 500 company, studying for a math test or trying to improve your team’s power play, it is often the little things that separate the best from the rest.
Developing a passion for the game of hockey works the same way. As much fun as simply stepping on the ice with your buddies is, many times it is all of hockey’s unique traditions and superstitions that make the game so unique and help the game take such a special place in our hearts.
Here are 10 of hockey’s top traditions and superstitions:
The Hat Trick
Few things say hockey like the tossing of hats on the ice after a player scores three goals in the same game. It is one of the game’s oldest traditions, starting over 50 years ago in the NHL, and it continues to provide excitement to hockey fans of all ages.
When it comes to recognizing highlight reel plays or goals and players getting up after injuries, clapping just won’t get the job done. Hockey players show their support by tapping their stick on the ice or on the boards. Remember though, if mom or dad recently bought you that new stick you have been dreaming about, you can cut down a little on the enthusiasm while still playing your part.
You probably won’t see this tradition carried out very often by the players in youth hockey, but that won’t stop the parents and coaches from participating. The notoriety of playoff beards has grown so much over recent years that players and fans of other sports are starting to follow suit. That’s okay though. The beards grown during the Stanley Cup Playoffs aren’t likely to be beat.
If new players or fans of hockey ever wonder about how important goalies are to hockey teams, all they need to do is watch as teams come onto the ice for games. While a few teams are led onto the ice by their captains, most have the goalie(s) lead the way. Goalies play a critical role on each hockey team, and most teams show that in a variety of ways.
Tapping the Goalie’s Pads
See! We told you goalies are important. It is common for players to give them a tap on the pads before face offs, after great saves and after disappointing goals. These little gestures provide support and encouragement that words can’t always convey.
The Stick Salute
This is tradition doesn’t really happen at the youth levels, but it has increasingly become a custom of hockey players at upper levels for the home team to do a stick salute after each game or series. The simple act gives them an opportunity to show their appreciation of the fans that come to watch them play.
No other sport encourages handshakes between opponents after games the way hockey does. It is one of the game’s time honored traditions, especially at the youth level. It promotes good sportsmanship and teaches players from an early age that while it’s important to compete, hockey is still a game. The longer a player participates the more likely they will face friends on opposing teams. In fact, you may even end up playing against a sibling some day. There’s nothing wrong with competing hard against them during the game and taking time to catch up afterwards.
The Team Celly
In some sports, players celebrate on their own or are congratulated by a couple of teammates. In others, players don’t have time to celebrate at all. In hockey, everyone on the ice celebrates together, and fairly often, players will follow that by heading to the bench to give all of their teammates a fist bump.
Taping Your Stick
It may sound simple, but almost every player does it differently. Is it heel-to-toe or toe-to-heel? White or black tape? Thin strips or standard width? Should you tape the toe? What about stick wax? So many questions and that’s just for the blade of the stick.
To make matters worse, some players are very superstitious about taping their stick, especially when it is a part of their pregame ritual. For instance, the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby is well known for not letting anyone touch his stick after he tapes it. If someone touches it, he takes all of the tape off and starts over.
Don’t Touch the Cup Unless You Win It
Treated with white gloves throughout the year, the Stanley Cup is the world’s most famous trophy. Hockey players that dream of making it to the NHL (and many who don’t) imagine hoisting the Cup over their head. Part of what makes that moment so special is one of hockey’s unwritten rules that you don’t touch it unless you win it. After all, don’t you want your first time holding the Stanley Cup to come after you have earned the right to have your name engraved on it?
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