Top 10 Urban Legends in NHL History
The term "urban legend" refers to folklore and myth that has been passed along through time. Some urban legends are stories that have come to be considered truth after time, while others are stories that seem so far-fetched they cannot possibly be true.
From an unconventional firing to a hammered netminder winning a game in the Stanley Cup Finals, here are 10 of the best urban legends in the NHL.
10. Go Away, Billy Reay
Billy Reay is one of the great coaches in NHL history, yet somehow he isn't in the Hall of Fame. During Reay‘s tenure, the Blackhawks finished first six times and made three appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. In 12 of his 13 seasons, the Blackhawks qualified for the postseason.
But everything didn't end well between Reay and the 'Hawks.
During the 1977 season, only a few days before Christmas after a slow start to the season, Reay was relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks when a note was slid under a hotel room door.
As far as we can tell, this is the first, and last, time room service delivered a pink slip to a head coach.
One of the most questionable urban legends in hockey is that touching the respective conference championship trophies is bad luck. Each spring, when each conference championship is decided, the debate begins whether or not the captain will touch the trophy.
Some captains, like Philadelphia's Mike Richards in 2010, see no problem with touching the trophy.
Others, like Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Boston's Zdeno Chara, appreciate the trophy from a distance.
Either way, the stigma of touching a trophy that isn't the ultimate prize has developed an alleged curse in urban legend.
8. The Hook
Take a good look at the blade on Mikita's stick on this old hockey card.
For a long time, hockey sticks didn't have a hooked blade. That was until Mikita got frustrated.
As the story is told, Stosh broke a stick blade late in a practice once in the mid-1960s, and shot a puck out of frustration with the broken blade. The crooked blade caused the puck to sail through the air in a way he had never seen before.
Mikita started practicing with a crooked blade, and when teammate Bobby Hull saw how well Mikita could control the puck, he started hooking his blades as well.
Soon, the league found out about the two 'Hawks and, by that point, other players were doing it around the league. As the league tends to do, they regulated the amount of hook a player could have in their stick blades. There is still legislation on the books limiting the depth of the hook to this day.
Just ask Marty McSorley...
7. Drunk Goalie
There's a story from 1992 that, after being swept out of the Stanley Cup finals by the Penguins, the Blackhawks painted the town. The beverages flowed, and at the end of the night, now-Hall of Famer Eddie "The Eagle" Belfour was forced to spend the night in his car.
In Chris Chelios' driveway.
Chelios has since confirmed this minor urban legend, but it ties that team back to the second Cup championship team in Chicago.
Back in 1938, Blackhawks goalie Mike Karakas broke a toe and wasn‘t able to play in Game 1 of the finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Commissioner‘s office allowed the 'Hawks to use a minor-league goalie, Alfie Moore, in the American organization, but not without protest from the Leafs.
The league wavered on whether or not they would allow the 'Hawks to use Moore for Game 1 until just hours before the game. When the league finally gave Chicago the OK, the team dispatched one of Moore‘s friends, forward Johnny Gottselig, to round up the goalie for that night‘s game. He found Moore at a local bar, already having a good time.
Gottselig recalled later that Moore was "about 10" drinks into the evening when he was pulled from the bar and dropped into the showers with a pot of coffee. He allowed a goal on one of the first shots he faced that night, but the 'Hawks came back to win the game 3-1.
6. Glenn Hall Honks
With all due respect to Cal Ripken, Jr. and Brett Favre, the most impressive "Iron Man" record in professional sports belongs to Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall.
During his tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks, Hall started 502 consecutive games in net—without a mask. He played against some of the best players in the game's history, and practiced against some of the best as well; Bobby Hull, his teammate in Chicago, was reported to have a slapshot that was clocked at 118.3 miles per hour (perhaps also an urban legend!).
The urban legend involving Hall comes three decades before Willie Beamon appeared in "Any Given Sunday." Before each of his starts, Hall would vomit. In fact, he would get so sick that the 'Hawks often kept a bucket behind the bench "just in case."
5. The Great Tuck
There are a couple urban legends involving The Great One that we'll consider here.
First, as you can see in the photo, Gretzky was a rare player who tucked his sweater in. When asked why, he admitted that he had to do it in his first days of organized hockey; as you might guess, he was better than everyone else his age, so he was playing against players three and four years older than him. Because the sweaters were so big, he had to tuck it in so he didn't trip on the extra jersey.
Second, there's an urban legend surrounding Gretzky's pregame beverage(s) of choice. The Superstitious One would drink four specific beverages, in order, before every game: Diet Coke, ice water, Gatorade and another Diet Coke.
4. The Buried Loon
Before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, a member of the Canadian crew hired to handle the ice for the hockey tournaments buried a one-dollar coin into the ice.
When the women won gold, many of the team's members kissed the spot on center ice where the loonie was buried.
When the men's team followed suit, Wayne Gretzky dug the loonie out of the ice and sent it to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
3. Let It Grow
The Playoff Beard.
Some players, like Paul Bunyan-like Shea Weber, are able to put together a fantastic face-fro in a short amount of time. Others, like Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos, are still waiting for puberty to run its course.
The ritual certainly began with the New York Islanders, but there is a disagreement regarding when it began. Some within the Isles' alumni believe the laziness began in the early 1970s. However, the first confirmed team-wide shave-free postseason was the 1980 Islanders.
Either way, many players (and fans) allow their facial hair to do its thing in April, May and June each year.
2. The Origins of the Term "Hat Trick"
There are two stories behind the origins of the term "hat trick."
According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Blackhawks forward Alex Kaleta was hat shopping in Toronto on January 26, 1946. He found a lid he wanted to purchase in a store owned by Sammy Taft, but didn‘t have enough money. Taft agreed to waive the cost of the cap if Kaleta scored three goals against the Maple Leafs that night. Kaleta scored four.
However, another legend recalls a hat store, Henri Henri in Montreal, originated the term at some point during the Original Six Era. The store rewarded any player who scored three goals at the Montreal Forum with a free hat.
Either way, the term stuck and the rules of the NHL now include a provision waiving any penalty for hats being thrown on the ice after a player scores a third goal.
1. The Gordie Howe Hat Trick
One of the greats of all time, Howe did just about everything possible in the game a handful of times.
Except accomplish the feat that now, somehow, bears his name.
The irony of the "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" is that this trick‘s namesake is only credited with a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game on two occasions in 1,767 NHL games.