Stanley Cup Playoffs: 6 Odd Stanley Cup Superstitions

John B MathesonCorrespondent IJune 8, 2012

Stanley Cup Playoffs: 6 Odd Stanley Cup Superstitions

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    Hockey players are a superstitious bunch. From players who put their equipment on the same way every game to Patrick Roy talking to his "friends" the goal posts every game.

    Even fans have jumped into the fray of superstitions as some will wear the same jersey for every game their team plays.

    The Stanley Cup playoffs are no different, filled with superstitions of its own.

    Such as players not touching the conference trophy (believing it will bring bad luck) to the playoff beard.

    Some superstitions come in the form of a team tradition, but the fans or players religiously perform the tradition, making it a superstition as well.

    NHL ran a series of videos this year to promote the playoffs. In one narrated by actor Al Trautwig, he talks about the Boston superstition in Game 7 of the finals.

    It was one of the stranger superstitions to be in the playoffs: An injured Horton brought with him a part of Boston to Vancouver to help his team win.

    The oddness of Horton’s act was not the strangest thing to happen in an attempt to help the team win.

    In the slides that follow, we look at six odd superstitions that have happened in the playoffs.

The Winning Power of a Towel

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    It started during the Western Conference Finals of 1982, but the prelude began as that season was drawing to a close.

    The Canucks were playing the Nordiques near the end of the season, when a fan started heckling the Canucks' head coach.

    It resulted in a fight breaking out, as back then, there was no glass separating the players and fans.

    The head coach was suspended, as was defenseman Doug Halward. An assistant coach, Roger Neilson, stepped up to coach the Canucks for the remaining six games of the season.

    He remained behind the bench for the sweep of Calgary in the opening round and was recommended he stay.

    He led the Canucks past L.A. and on to the finals in Chicago, where they were the underdogs. Vancouver managed to take Game 1 in double overtime.

    Game 2, amid speculation that referee Bob Myers was making biased calls for Chicago, Neilson and the Canucks were getting frustrated.

    After a disallowed goal and four consecutive penalties, the last of which put the `Hawks up 4-1, the assistant coach was yelling "We surrender."

    Once Myers raised his arm to signal another penalty, Neilson grabbed a stick and tied a white towel on it. He then began to wave it in surrender; a few of the players followed suit.

    When they returned to Vancouver, the fans had brought white towels with them and waved them in support of the Canucks.

    Vancouver would go on to win the series and play the Islanders for the Stanley Cup.

    The towel may not have helped them in the finals, but to this day, fans will wave the towel believing it will encourage the players to win. 

Kate Smith’s Rendition of "God Bless America"

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    It all started in 1969, when the Flyers were making a push in the playoffs. Patriotism was at an all-time low.

    In an attempt to rally the fans, who had seemed disinterested while the "Star Spangled Banner" played, then vice president Lou Scheinfeld played Kate Smith’s version of "God Bless America."

    At first it drew the ire of fans, calling it disrespectful, until the Flyers defeated the Maple Leafs 6-3.

    The Flyers did not play Kate’s song for their next home game, and they ended up losing. For their following home game, they played her once more and won.

    The superstition was born.

    Kate would perform live for the season opener of the 1973-74 season. Leafs goalie Doug Favell knew the history of the song as he had played five years with Philly, and knew his team was in trouble.

    By the time Kate Smith sang live during a playoff game, the league had learned of the superstition.

    Bruins players Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito tried to reverse the jinx by shaking Smith’s hand and giving her flowers.

    By then however, it was too late and the song’s power was too great. The Flyers would go on to win the Stanley Cup that year.

    Smith passed away in 1986, but the Flyers still play her song for big games, and have even added songstress Lauren Hart to accompany the recording live.

    Even though Smith is gone, the power of her rendition of "God Bless America" still rallies the Flyers, and is used during their home games during the playoffs.

    According to FlyersHistory.com, as of April 2012, their home record when Smith is played is a remarkable 92 wins, 26 losses and four ties.

Lucky Butt

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    This situation is not widely known and it is hard to come across information, yet a book review of Andrew Podneiks Hockey Superstitions mentions it.

    It was during the 1989 playoff run when the Los Angeles Kings faced the Edmonton Oilers.

    It was the first time the Great One would play against his old team in pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

    Gretzky had been worried about his reception in Edmonton, as the Kings were set to face the defending champions in the first round.

    Down three games to one, the Kings were in danger of being eliminated.

    A local Los Angeles DJ stepped up.

    During the fall of 1988, he had sat bare-assed on the pitcher's mound at Dodgers Stadium— the Dodgers would go on to win that World Series.

    Believing he had a lucky butt, the DJ repeated the event. Only this time, he sat with his bare butt on the ice at the Forum, hoping it would help the Kings.

    The Kings managed to battle back and take the next three games of the series, putting the reigning champs out in seven games.

    It’s too bad the DJ did not repeat the task during the next round, as the Kings were swept by the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Calgary Flames.

Home Ice

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    As part of the "Because It’s The Cup" series, the NHL explained an event from last year's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

    The Boston Bruins had pushed the series with Vancouver to seven games. The downside was that Boston had yet to win a game that series in Vancouver.

    Having been shut out twice, and having lost all three games on the Canucks' home ice, the Bruins were nervous about the game.

    Nathan Horton had been sidelined earlier in the series, but attended all the games to show his support to his team. Horton came to Vancouver with a small bottle of luck with him.

    At home in the TD Gardens, Boston had soundly defeated the Canucks. The Bruins out-scored Vancouver 17-3 while playing in Boston.

    Figuring there was something about the home-ice advantage, Horton brought a bottle filled with melted ice from Boston and poured it on the rink in Vancouver.

    The Bruins would go on to win the game and the Stanley Cup.

    It almost makes you wonder why Horton did not do the same thing in Washington this season.

Not Sick Enough

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    The 1968 playoffs were the first postseason for the new expansion teams. The new divisions were slightly unbalanced, yet four expansion teams in the West Division would play.

    In the first round, the top team in the West was the Philadelphia Flyers, who were set to face the third-place St. Louis Blues.

    The Blues had acquired a top-rated netminder during the expansion draft in Glenn Hall, also known as Mr. Goalie.

    Not only was Glenn Hall known as a top-notch goalie, he was also well known for his pre-game ritual.

    Hall had set an NHL record between 1955 and 1962, where he started 502 consecutive games. During this time, it became well known that Hall would vomit before each game.

    It had become such a part of his routine that Hall felt if he was not sick, he would not play well.

    HockeyCentral explains that during the series with Philadelphia, the two expansion teams had split the games, forcing a seventh and final game.

    Hall approached head coach Scotty Bowman, as he felt he had not vomited enough before the game. He explained to Bowman the situation, and requested to be pulled if he did not seem to be playing well.

    Luckily for Bowman, he never had to make that decision as a few moments later he saw goalie pads under a stall in the bathroom and heard someone being sick.

    The Blues would win the game 3-1, and Hall stopped 26 shots to move on to the next round.

    They would make it to the Stanley Cup Finals that year, only to be swept by the Montreal Canadiens.

    It makes one wonder if Hall had not been sick enough during that series.

A Real Dung-Ful

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    The New York Islanders came into the NHL in the 1972-73 season, and showed every other expansion team who had come before them and after, how to build a winning franchise.

    By 1975, the Islanders had made the playoffs, but were still not considered a threat as it was only their third season.

    Back then, the first round of the playoffs had been changed to a best-of-three series, and the Islanders drew their neighbours and rivals, the New York Rangers.

    The Rangers fans saw the upstart Isles as nothing more than a speed bump on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

    Madison Square Garden had also been hosting the circus around the same time and the two teams had to play around that fact.

    The Islanders surprised the Rangers taking Game 1 in MSG. In the second game, the Rangers hammered the Islanders 8-3, solidifying that the first game had been a fluke.

    The two returned to MSG to finish the series. The Islanders took an early 3-0 lead, and held it until the third, when the Rangers rallied to tie it.

    Whatever was said by the Isles' head coach at the end of regulation worked as they took Game 3, 11 seconds into overtime.

    They went on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and lost the first three games of the series.

    The teams asked each other what had been different, when one of them mentioned the overwhelming smell of elephant dung that had filled the arena.

    The circus was still at MSG.

    The team then acquired a bag of dung and carried it with them between Pittsburgh and New York.

    An article on Examiner.com goes into a little more detail, in a piece from 2011 when Detroit was down in their series to San Jose.

    It would be the second time a team down 3-0 would come back and take the series.

    The players still attribute the feat to the "Essence of Elephant."