50 Greatest Traditions in Hockey

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IAugust 13, 2012

50 Greatest Traditions in Hockey

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    Hockey is a game with hundreds of years of history and years of illustrious tradition. There are so many things about the game that make it great, and traditions give the game some meaning and nostalgia.

    Knowing that the game is respecting the ways and memories of the past is something that makes the NHL an amazing league and sport. This slideshow will take a look at some of the greatest traditions in hockey. 

3 Stars of the Game

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    After every professional, minor, junior and collegiate level hockey game, the three stars of the game are awarded, but do you know how the tradition was started?

    Imperial Oil became a chief sponsor of CBC during the start of the 1936-37 NHL season. The sponsorship made sense because Imperial Oil sold a brand of gas named "Three Stars." In an effort to promote this gas, the network would award the game's three stars.

    Eventually, the sponsorship ended with CBC, but the tradition continued and the rest is history.

Touching the Goal Posts

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    Goaltenders have been known to have tons of traditions, rituals and superstitions. Touching the goalposts is one of these traditions that has been passed down through the ages. 

    During this video, Jhonas Enroth taps the goalposts with his stick and gives it a nice touch for good luck as he prepares for third-period action.

Kate Smith Sings God Bless America

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    Kate Smith is one of the most renowned anthem singers in NHL history. Her voice was the anthem of Flyer nation during the 1970s, and she was considered to be their good-luck charm. Listening to her sing God Bless America before a game evolved into one of the greatest traditions in NHL history.

    Smith's performance is on tape, and during the playoffs, she often sings a "duet" with current anthem singer Lauren Hart.

Hockey Night in Canada

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    Since 1952, Hockey Night in Canada on CBC has become a staple of NHL hockey. Every Saturday night, thousands of Canadians tune in to watch NHL action and they tune in to see Don Cherry and Ron McLean on Coach's Corner and other amazing tidbits of action.

    HNIC has definitely become a big part of NHL tradition.

Roger Doucet Singing the National Anthems

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    Roger Doucet is another iconic singer who has been weaved into the fabric of NHL history. Mr. Doucet was the longtime singer for the Montreal Canadiens until his death in 1981, but he will always be a big part of the history and tradition of the Montreal Canadiens.

Tossing Hats on the Ice After a Hat Trick

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    This is probably one of the most common traditions in the NHL today. Players are considered lucky when they score one goal, they are even luckier if they score two and it is even better if they score three in one night.

    In the video above, Derek Stepan scored three goals during his first NHL game. That is something that is very rare.

    After a hat trick, the fans will launch their headwear onto the ice, and the building usually goes nuts unless the recipient is a member of the away team, like the video above.

Cheering Through the Anthem at Chicago Stadium/United Center

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    This video does a great job showcasing the Chicago faithful screaming their lungs out before the start of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final. The collective singing through the national anthem started back in 1985 when the Blackhawks went down 2-0 against Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers.

    In an attempt to hype of the building, the fans started to cheer and sing along with the national anthem to get the building rocking. This tradition grew even larger after Chicago hosted the 1991 All-Star Game, and it is stronger than ever today.

Playoff Rats

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    The Florida Panthers were able to revive one of their traditions when they made it back to the playoffs. The Panthers faithful made it rain rats once the Panthers sealed a victory, and this video really does a good job showing the passion and fury of the fans.

Playoff Beards

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    Playoff beards are something that really unites players and fans alike. Fans ditch their razors as long as their favorite team is still alive in the playoffs.

    The same rules apply to the players because they keep the beard as a sign of their achievement. Once they win the Cup, it is an amazing feeling for the players because they get to finally shave their lumberjack beards.

Trash Talking

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    Trash talking is a huge tradition in the NHL. One guy chirps at another, and then he chirps back at you. However, if you decide to engage in chirping, it makes sense to have a good comeback.

    Brad Richards gave Tom Sestito a quick and witty response to the Flyer bruiser's trash talk.

Joe Nieuwendyk Takes Good Care of His Sticks

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    You can file this pre-game tradition under a file marked "WEIRD AND ABNORMAL." 

    Joe Nieuwendyk is a Hall of Fame forward who had a lengthy career, but he had a few interesting traditions.

    One of these traditions included Nieuwendyk putting baby powder on his sticks. He felt that this baby-powder treatment would give him luck and the ability to score more goals.

Lacing Skates

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    The lacing of skates is something that each player does differently. For example, Ray Bourque was one of the most interesting players when it came to his skate laces.

    Bourque had the habit of changing his skate laces before every game and during every intermission. Considering the lengthy career of the Bruins' Hall-of-Famer, you realize he went through tons of different laces.

A Lucky Visor

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    While we are on the subject of equipment, Kyle McLaren was a very special individual. He was a player who was color blind and he wore a clear visor. Due to the fact that he wouldn't notice a change in color, his teammates fitted his helmet with a yellow-tinted visor.

    As fate would have it, McLaren scored a game-winning-goal and continued to wear the visor as long as the San Jose Sharks stayed on a win streak.

Chirping at the Goalie

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    Every NHL player has done this on occasion. During the course of a game, players try to get inside a goaltender's head. If you watched the episodes of Rangers/Flyers 24/7, there were few occasions when both the Rangers and Flyers chirped at opposing goalies.

    However, if you do end up poking the bear, he may snap at you if you provoke him enough.

Braden Holtby Shuffle

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    This is one of the newer traditions for the Washington Capitals and their goaltender, Braden Holtby. He was called up late in the season to be the starter, and he has a very unique routine.

    The video above can only describe his movements as the Braden Holtby shuffle.

Corn on the Cob

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    Gavin Kirk, a player for the Ottawa Nationals of the WHA, had a weird superstition and tradition for his team.

    The Nationals player thought a rotting piece of corn on the cob would lead the team to victory. He seemed crazy at the time, but it actually worked in the long run, as the Nationals won 12 of their last 13 games to qualify for the playoffs.

Goalie Fights

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    Regular fights are apart of the history of the game. Defending teammates and answering the bell when asked to fight can do a lot for the morale of the team.

    However, when the goalies decide to drop the gloves, all bets are off because when two teams are going at it, the goalies can't decide to stay on the sidelines.

The Legend of the Octupus

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    This is one of hockey's greatest traditions. This video does a great job explaining the tradition of fans throwing octopi onto the ice. The eight legs of an octopus symbolized the eight wins needed to win the Stanley Cup back when the tradition was started.

The Winter Classic

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    The Winter Classic has emerged as one of the biggest traditions in the NHL. It started with the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens back in 2003 when the two teams faced off in the Heritage Classic.

    That gave birth to the Winter Classic, which has become one of the best events in the NHL.

    When you add the outdoor elements, the excitement of HBO 24/7, the alumni game and the actual Winter Classic, it is an amazing young tradition in the league's history.

    Anytime you can recreate a setting that symbolizes the game of hockey and its roots, you are surely in for a treat that will make you appreciate the past.


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    Handshakes are an important tradition in the NHL and it is a very unique tradition.

    After a lengthy playoff series in which tons of blood, sweat and tears are shed, both sides still line up to acknowledge one another even though it may be awkward for the losers to embrace the winners.

    It is something that is truly amazing and separates the NHL from the other sports  because despite the animosity and ferocity between the two teams, each side still is willing to line up and look the other in the eye and acknowledge that they each gave it all they had.

Skating with the Stanley Cup

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    The greatest moment for a player is not just hoisting the Stanley Cup. The greatest moment for a player is when they are passed the cup and they get to skate up and down the ice with it in celebration.

    There once was a time when the captain was simply presented the Stanley Cup and the team took a picture with it.

    Now, players are handed the cup and they get to celebrate and the tradition continues. 

Stan Mikita and His Tobacco

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    Stan Mikita is a real "Jekyll and Hyde" type of player. During one stretch of his career, Mikita was one of the dirtiest players in the game, and then he eventually cleaned up his act and he became a Lady Byng winner.

    Throughout his career, Mikita had a strange tradition. During the course of a game, Mikita smoked a cigarette between each period and he had to toss the butt over his left shoulder when he was finished.

    He did it for good luck, and when you look at his career, it is safe to assume that it worked.

Wayne Gretzky's Beverage Tradition

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    If you have read any book about Wayne Gretzky, you probably know this story. Gretzky was a very particular individual, and he had a tradition when it came to his refreshments in between periods.

    The Great One would drink these four beverages in this order during intermission. He would start with a Diet Coke, he would follow it up with an ice water, next in line was a Gatorade and then he finished it off with a second Diet Coke.

    It was a weird tradition for Gretzky, but you can't argue and say that it didn't help him in the long run.

Each Player's Day with the Cup

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    When the Stanley Cup is awarded, each team celebrates with it on the ice, but then the real fun begins. Each player gets to spend a day with the Stanley Cup and do whatever they want with it. 

    Stanley Cup champions have acted like children by eating ice cream sundaes out of the Cup, the Cup has ended up in a canal and it has even been used as a beer cooler.

    Nonetheless, spending a day with the cup has become an amazing tradition.

Don't Touch the Cup.... Until You Win It

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    There is a tradition in the NHL that you can't touch the Stanley Cup until you win it. There are times when a player may cross paths with the Cup throughout the playoffs.

    The Cup travels around the teams that are in the Stanley Cup finals, and although there may be some temptation, a player can't touch the Cup until they win it.

Don't Touch the Conference Trophies

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    This is another tradition that involves hardware.The ultimate prize for any hockey player is winning the Stanley Cup. Hoisting the Cup as a champion is the only thing that matters, so team captains often decide to forgo touching the Prince of Wales or the Clarence Campbell Trophy.

Touch the Conference Trophy

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    Well, sometimes a team captain decides to hoist the conference trophy, and that isn't the worst thing in the world. Sidney Crosby decided to touch the Prince of Wales trophy after deciding to leave it alone the first time.

    Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins would go on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final.

    When Crosby decided to hoist the Prince of Wales Trophy, it worked because the Penguins ended up winning the Stanley Cup.

Stick Salute to the Fans

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    The New York Rangers introduced the stick salute to the NHL right after the lockout. After each home win, the Rangers skate to center ice and they salute the crowd. It was a great tradition started by the Rangers, and it has been copied by many other teams in the NHL.

San Jose Sharks Head

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    The San Jose Sharks are a team that have been in the league for over two decades, and they have a few traditions of their own. One of their biggest traditions is skating through the giant shark head on the ice.

    It is something that gets the fans excited, and it adds theatrics to the overall experience. 

New York Islanders Carry a Magic Bag of $%^&

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    The New York Islanders had one of the weirdest superstitions/traditions in the history of the NHL. Here is an excerpt from the book  Hockey Superstitions: From Playoff Beards to Crossed Sticks and Lucky Socks.

    In the 1975 NHL playoffs the New York Islanders pulled off the near-impossible comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning the best of seven series despite losing the first three games. Their secret? A large bag of elephant dung. The Islanders first discovered the lucky charm in the previous series against their arch rivals, the New York Rangers. They shared Madison Square Gardens with the circus at that time. A friend of Billy Harris gifted the elephant poo and the team stuck with it!

    This is certainly a strange superstition/tradition that the Islanders used back in the 1970s.

Dancing Larry

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    Sticking with the Rangers' traditions, Dancing Larry is a season ticket holder for the New York Rangers and he is one of their biggest fans. He is an individual who, like clockwork, rises up an energizes the crowd when his music hits.

    Larry is a true character, and he is a big part of the Rangers' recent tradition.

Tapping a Goaltender's Pads

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    Goaltenders have a lot of weird traditions and superstitions, and some of them involve the entire team.

    Before the start of a game, the forwards and defenders skate past the goaltender and tap his pads for good luck. It is a routine action that goes on like clockwork. 

Original Six

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    The Original Six is one of the biggest part of traditions in the NHL. It features the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs,

    The history and the rivalries between the six teams gives the leagues tone of tradition.


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    Fighting is an element of hockey that gives the game tons of tradition.There have been many different eras and many different types of players, but fighting has always been apart of the game.

    Fights have helped players police themselves, fights have given fans enjoyment and they have also given players a sense of pride. 

    Over the years, many critics have asked to get fighting out of the game, but without fighting, the NHL would lose years of tradition.

Detroit Red Wings Don't Stop Believing

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    The Detroit Red Wings are a franchise that has tons of history, and they also like to represent their city with a song about their city. This video shows the good fans of Detroit celebrating a win during the Stanley Cup Final like they have for the past few years.

    No matter how down and dark things look for the Wings at times, the fans don't stop believing.

Potvin Sucks!

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    This is a tradition that started amongst Rangers fans, but somehow, this cheer happens to follow the New York Islanders on the road. 

    On February 25, 1979, the Islanders squared off with the New York Rangers. During the game, Denis Potvin took out a Ranger player with a solid body check. As a result, the player was knocked out of the game with a broken leg.

    When the Garden crowd found out what had happened, they started cheering with the help of a pipe organ, and the rest is history.

Daniel Briere Likes His Sticks

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    Daniel Briere is very particular with he pre-game rituals and in-game traditions. Briere is very fond of his sticks, and he makes sure to have three sticks at all times. If one stick is really working for Briere, he takes note of what stick he used and he "gives it the night off" next game.

    It is a weird tradition, but it has been beneficial for Briere thus far. 

Taping of Sticks

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    Sidney Crosby is not the only player in the NHL who is very particular in the treatment of his sticks. This video does a really good job explaining the tradition, superstition and intricacies of taping sticks.

    It is easy to see how involved a player can get with their sticks, especially if they believe that there is some karma or luck involved in the process.

Glenn Hall Has a Strange Tradition

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    Glenn Hall was one of the NHL's better goaltenders during his day. He always seemed to be calm and cool under pressure, and there was a reason he was so calm.

    Hall used to vomit before every game to calm his nerves. It was a strange tradition for Hall, but it worked.

Stephan Lebeau

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    The only way to classify Stephan Lebeau and his tradition is by calling him unique. Everyone knows a kid growing up that loves to waste an entire pack of gum in an attempt to blow a huge bubble. Lebeau attempted to do something similar, but he used two packs of gum.

    Lebeau would chew around 25 pieces of gum before each game. However, as soon as the two-minute mark rolled around, he would spit all the pieces out.

The Green Men

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    The Green Men have slowly become a huge part of the Vancouver Canucks and the team's tradition. The boys in green made their mark and gained national exposure during the Canucks' Stanley Cup run.

    They are funny, interactive and they are a part of a new tradition for the Canucks and their fans.

Engraving Names on the Stanley Cup

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    The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in professional sports. It is also the only trophy that has every player to have won the Cup on it. There are thousands of names on the Stanley Cup, and that adds tradition and prestige to the Stanley Cup.

    Consider that the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the same Stanley Cup that was hoisted by players like Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Wayne Gretzky.

Sudden-Death Overtime

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    Overtime is an amazing part of NHL action, but nothing beats the intensity of sudden death overtime. There are no words really to describe how quickly you can go from a steady heart rate to almost keeling over because of cardiac arrest.

    This game in particular saw Alex Ovechkin hit the post during the first overtime, and the goal light and horn went off and everyone thought the game was over. Then, there were another two-and-a-half periods of back and forth until Gaborik scored the game-winner.

Drinking from the Stanley Cup

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    This may seem like an obvious tradition, but it hasn't always been the norm in hockey. This tradition was introduced by 1896 Winnipeg Victorias, who made the decision that winning teams would consume champagne from the great goblet known as Lord Stanley's cup.

The Dings and Dents

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    One of the greatest things associated with the Stanley Cup is the bumps and blemishes on the cup. Throughout the years, winners of the Cup have engaged in various hijinks while Lord Stanley's hardware was in their possession.

    The Cup has been constantly repaired, but unlike the other major sports, a new trophy is not made each and every year. 

    You can read all about the various hijinks associated with the Cup by clicking this.

Coca Cola in Sneakers= Goal?

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    If you already don't own Hockey Superstitions by Andrew Podnieks, I would suggest picking it up. The book is full of great superstitions, traditions and other random factoids.

    Here is one that really details the obscurity and zaniness associated with pre-game rituals and traditions.

    Little known Red Goupille played in the years before World War II, but his strange superstition also revolved around Coke. During the game he kept a bottle of Coca Cola in his street shoes, believing it would guarantee a goal. It was not an overly successful superstition, however. He only scored 12 goals between 1935 and 1943.

    It is a good thing Goupille used Coke instead of alcohol because his lack of success could have driven him to drink if the temptation was there.

Bruce Gardiner Liked to 'Dunk It'

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    Bruce Gardiner was a fringe NHL player whose career started in 1994, and it ended in 2005. Gardiner had an pretty weird pregame tradition, and it involved him dunking the blade of his stick into a toilet.

    There was no rhyme or reason for this act, but it is just another thing that makes hockey players so much different than the other professional sports stars.

Patrick Roy Avoids Lines at All Cost

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    Patrick Roy was probably one of the zaniest goaltenders during his time in the NHL. He was a man all about tradition and superstition. He would avoid the media on game days, and he hopped over the blue and red lines whenever he skated onto the ice before a game.

More Patrick Roy

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    Patrick Roy had another major tradition that made him appear to be a bit more kooky than normal. Roy thought it was a really good idea to talk to his goalposts throughout the game. He would talk strategy, blow off steam and various other things throughout the night.

    Roy may be looked at as a major head-case, but he still was one of the greatest goaltenders of all-time.

Ken Dryden Finishes Warm-Ups with a Save

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    Ken Dryden was very superstitious and established a few routines and traditions during his time in the NHL. His biggest tradition was finishing every warm-up session on a good note. If Dryden was scored on during the last shot, he would make someone take another shot so he could make a save and end the warm-up on a good note.