To make it to the National Hockey League one must be dedicated, hard working, ambitious and resilient. There's no question about that. To be good in a league comprised only of other perfectionists and consummate warriors is even more difficult forcing players to turn to the absurd to try and find ways to control aspects of the game that are out of their control.
This is where superstitions come in. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has publicly denounced the practice of superstitions claiming that they are counterproductive and would more likely hinder his game than help it. Captain Serious indeed.
He should try to school teammate Brent Seabrook on the matter as he performs so many superstitious rituals on game day that he alone could warrant his own article on the matter. In fact, other teammates have complained they will not room with him on the road due to his eccentricities.
And Seabrook is not alone. Some of the best hockey players to ever lace them up have ridiculous superstitions that span from not calling mother on game day to not getting a haircut while on the road.
Many of them preform these idiotic voodoo dances to keep that bad mojo at bay. But if it works, why knock it? Especially in the post-expansion NHL where there are so many teams battling it out over a 82-game season, it is hard to argue against having a lucky beer between periods or wearing your jaw raw by chewing on a grotesque quantity of gum. If it gives you a little extra to leave on the ice; placebo effect, be damned.
Generally, the rule of thumb is if your superstitions don't take over your life, you're fine. When it comes to professional hockey players though, their livelihoods depend on how well they play in every second of every fast-paced game and if changing the number on their sweater from one season to the next will keep the injuries at bay, it's hard to fault them for it.
10 Brendan Shanahan
Brendan Shanahan is one of the best power forwards to have ever played the game and is second all-time for the most Gordie Howe hat tricks with 17, which might seem surprising given that he apparently liked to hype himself up on game days by listening to none other than the queen of pop herself, Madonna.
This Hall-of-Fame left winger was also very superstitious over his gear and wore the same flimsy shoulder pads he had from playing junior throughout his entire career.
9 Stephan Lebeau
It is a shame that Stephan Lebeau's promising albeit short NHL career, which saw him pot 80 points during the Montreal Canadiens' 1992-93 season and would culminate with winning the Stanley Cup, will forever be overshadowed by the his superstition.
8 Maurice Richard
Maurice "Rocket" Richard was the first player to score 50 goals in a season and the first to reach 500 goals in a career. For his efforts he brought Montreal eight Stanley Cups with the Canadiens. And to think all that may not have happened if he hadn't changed the number he wore on his sweater from 15 to his now iconic number 9.
The story has it that while wearing the number 15, The Rocket was plagued with injuries. During his final year in the Quebec Senior Hockey League, Richard was sidelined with a broken ankle which not only took him off the ice but prevented him from joining the Canadian military during the early years of World World II. Richard would return that season only to be injured again, this time with a broken wrist.
The following year he was moved up to the Canadiens playing in his rookie NHL season. However, that campaign, too, would be cut short only 16 games in due to a broken leg. His string of injuries would lead critics to voice that maybe Maurice was too fragile for the NHL.
7 Pelle Lindbergh
The late Philadelphia Flyers goalkeeper Pelle Lindberg had an impressive young career that was cut short by a fatal car accident.
During his time between the pipes this talented Swedish netminder was known for his eccentricities. While there are several on this list that have an attachment to lucky equipment, Pelle had a lucky shirt, an orange t-shirt to be exact, manufactured by a Swedish sporting goods label. Lindbergh thought the shirt so incredibly lucky that when it became worn and torn instead of having another shipped from his home country he would just have his original mended.
6 Stephane Quintal
Only 290 people have ever played over 1,000 NHL games during their career, an honour increasingly difficult to achieve. Stephane Quintal, former defenceman and current Senior Vice President of Player Safety, was one to pass that benchmark with 1,037 games played, though possibly unbeknownst to most because he did so without saying a word.
5 Glenn Hall
Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Glenn Hall currently sits 8th all-time among goalies for regulation wins with 407, 4th all-time for regulation shutouts with 84 and 18th in playoff wins with 49. And on top of that, he is also credited with having redefined the position by having developed the butterfly style of goaltending.
So, what is "Mr. Goalie," one of the greatest netminders to ever play the game, most remembered for? His disgusting superstition of vomiting before each and every hockey game. Apparently, his upchuck ritual relieved his nerves before the game and was evidence of how serious he took his job. A philosophy based on the mantra: "If I don't vomit, I don't care enough."
And rumour has it a bucket was always tucked behind his team's bench during play.
4 Patrick Roy
Hall-of-Fame goaltender Patrick Roy's neuroses have been well documented. The now fiery coach of the Colorado Avalanche had an almost zen-like attitude when it came to his superstitions. His pre-game ritual would begin with him gingerly laying out his equipment on the floor and then he would dress himself in the same order almost like it was a meditation. He would also reject all interviews prior to a game.
Once on the ice, Roy would step over all red lines and blue lines on his way to and from his net. At the start of each game, the divisive goalkeeper would stare at his own goal from his goal blue line and visualize the net shrinking.
Once between his pipes, Roy would speak to his goal posts before and during play, asking them to do their part in keeping the puck out of his net. He is even known to have thanked them after a puck had clanged off the iron.
3 Wayne Gretzky
Hockey players are creatures of habit, so why would it surprise anyone to know that the sport's greatest practitioner was also one of its most obsessive ritualists.
While preparing for each game, Wayne Gretzky would dress in a very methodical and predictable manner beginning with his left shin pad, then right shin pad followed by his left sock, then right. Only after would he don his pants and then put on his skates, first the left, then the right. He would put on his shoulder pads and continue his obsessive compulsion by first slipping on his left and then his right elbow pad.
Once all geared up, Gretzky would pull on his jersey and tuck its right side into his pants creating his iconic look that kids all over the hockey world emulate. Little do they know that they are copying one of Gretzky's little idiosyncratic tendencies.
And the superstitions for The Great One do not end there. During warmups, his first shot on net would always be to the wide right of the goal. After returning to the dressing room following warmup he'd test his bladder by downing a Diet Coke which was followed by an ice-cold glass of water, a Gatorade and then another Diet Coke for good measure.
2 Brent Seabrook
Brent Seabrook, defenceman of the Chicago Blackhawks, has so many superstitious, it might be shorter to point out his daily habits which have nothing to do with his pre-game rituals. Apparently, his customs are very regimented and timed, and have caused many a teammate to ask not to room with him on away games due to his finicky sleeping and eating habits.
When traveling to the arena on game day (which he drives himself to. Always.), Seabrook will enter the dressing room and check the wall clock before using the bathroom, after which he will watch exactly three minutes of TV in the team's lounge. He will then proceed to tape only two sticks. Apparently, while dressing he will don his equipment from right to left and tape his socks clockwise. Like a mantra, he will review in his head nine words repeatedly, nine specific words that only he and mental skills coach James Cary know. During his neurotic voodoo dance he will apparently hug teammate Duncan Keith twice as well as eat exactly seven Hershey's kisses before stepping onto the ice.
1 Sidney Crosby
Sid the Kid might be certifiable. If he wasn't the powerhouse of a player he is, he'd probably be straight-jacketed in an asylum somewhere for his superstitions are endless.
Before each game Crosby arrives to the rink early and takes a sequacious route throughout the arena so as to not pass by or near the visitor's locker room. Once finally at the Penguins' dressing room, he prepares his sticks exactly the same way. They are taped to such meticulous perfection. However, if anyone wishes to admire his tapemanship and goes near them, Crosby will undo his taping to only do it again. And the tape used is always that of the home team. On the road, though, his sticks can not be laid against the wall next to any goalie stick.
He also wont call his mother on game days due to the three times he had done so occurred prior to games in which he was injured.
He is infamous for wearing one, sweat-stained hat a season and for wearing ratty, old thread-bare equipment that he has used for decades, which he wont replace. If they become too worn, he has the team's equipment manager patch up whatever needs patching.
Also, when on the team bus if they pass over railroad tracks, Sidney will raise his feet and touch his toes to the glass.
And last, but certainly not least, his number 87 is derived from his birthday, August 7, 1987 -- or 8/7/87.
Hey, you can't argue with success, right?
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