The majority of us have some type of quirk, some odd belief that if we don’t do something exactly the same in our daily lives, something bad will occur. For most of us, our friends or significant others can laugh off these odd superstitions and they are never known to the outside world.
Athletes do not have that luxury.
Instead, their eccentric behaviors are endlessly discussed and debated.
We seem to think that these superstars—these larger-than-life figures—should have supreme confidence in their abilities. They shouldn’t need something like a particular drink to make them feel like they can perform to the best of their abilities.
But athletes are just like the rest of us in some ways—maybe a little off-center.
What follows are a few of the more interesting superstitions of some professional hockey players, including one from the greatest player to ever play the game.
Bruce Gardiner was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the sixth round of the 1991 NHL entry draft and he would go on to play a total of 312 games in the NHL. He would even go down in the NHL record books, as he was the player who scored the first goal in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But that goal is not what Gardiner is best known for.
Instead, Gardiner is perhaps best known for a quirk he developed during his first year in the NHL while a member of the Ottawa Senators. It seems that Gardiner had an affinity for dunking his stick blade in the toilet before taking the ice.
In keeping with the theme of locker room toilets, we move on to Glenn Hall. Hall holds one of the few NHL records that is guaranteed to never be broken. Hall once played 502 consecutive games in goal over eight seasons—and that was during a time when goalie masks were considered optional equipment.
Goalies are famous for their idiosyncrasies. Hall was no exception, as he forced himself to throw up before taking to the ice.
Ray Bourque will go down in history as one of the best defensemen to ever play the game. During his 1612 regular season and 214 playoff games he racked up points and individual accolades. And he finished his career in the manner that can only be dreamed about by most, lifting the Stanley Cup over his head in his final game.
Bourque always seemed like one of those "regular guy" players. Sure, he was driven to be the best, but one would never expect that he had some type of weirdness going on inside his head.
But he did.
It seems that Bourque was obsessed with his skate laces. Yes, his skate laces.
Bourque would never use the same pair of laces for more than one game; in fact, he wouldn’t use the same laces for more than one period, changing laces before every game and at every intermission.
Dunking sticks in the toilet, throwing up before every game and carting around a huge number of skate laces are all a little weird, but they are also individual weirdness. For this next one, we’ll get to a team-based weirdness and possible health risk as well.
The 1975 New York Islanders defeated the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. The teams shared Madison Square Garden with the circus during the series, and the smell of the elephants and their—shall we say?—leavings filled the air of the arena.
The Islanders moved on to play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the next series. They were down three games to none when someone got the notion that perhaps it was the smell of the Garden that had given the Islanders luck. So they went out and got a bag of elephant dung.
The Islanders would go on to win the series against the Penguins in seven games.
A bag of elephant dung. It makes perfect sense, right?
We move on from a team-based superstition to one that actually permeates through the entire National Hockey League.
The Stanley Cup is the most iconic trophy in all of sports. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either lying, or clueless.
How deep is the Cup’s hold over the players who endlessly pursue it? Many players refuse to lay a hand on the Cup unless they have their name engraved on it as a past winner.
The feeling is that players must earn the right to lay their hands on the trophy.
Wayne Gretzky is, without a doubt, the most talented player to ever play the game of hockey. The NHL record book is practically the Wayne Gretzky record book. You would think that a player of Gretzky’s stature in the game would be without superstition, but you would be wrong.
Yes, even “The Great One” had his rituals.
Before every game, Gretzky would shoot his first warm-up shot far to the right of the goal. He would then go through the warm-up and return to the dressing room, where he would have four drinks, always in the same order: a Diet Coke, ice water, Gatorade and then another Diet Coke.
One has to assume that there was also a bathroom break in there before he took to the ice for the game.