One of the more famous superstitions is the significance of the octopi being thrown onto the ice during Detroit Red Wing games. It started in the 1950’s when Detroit was going after the Stanley Cup. They only needed to win eight games (two series) because there were only the “Original Six” back then. The eight legs on the octopus represented the eight straight wins Detroit took in 1952 at Olympia Stadium in Detroit.
Other superstitions included Wayne Gretzky putting on his uniform from left to right and not getting a hair cut during road games. Patrick Roy would bounce and juggle a puck during intermissions and then hide it so no one would find it. Ron Hextall would hit the posts and the cross bar on the goal at the beginning of every period. The Philadelphia Flyers, during the 1970’s, believed that singer Kate Smith would bring them luck. When she sang “God Bless America” before a game, live or on tape, the Flyers went 62-13-3. And then there the one about the 1950-51 New York Rangers who were losing that season until a restaurant owner made a liquid concoction. After drinking it, the Rangers won 13 straight games. Unfortunately, the effects didn’t last long and New York wound up in fifth place.
Do these superstitions actually work? Some say yes and some say it’s all psychological. I do know that when I swam competitively in High School (yes, we had swimming pools back then), we would shave all the hair off of our bodies to cut down on the drag in the water. Did it really help? Some took seconds off of their best times after they shaved. Was it an actual help? Or was it all in their minds?
What I do know is that the NHL has some of the most talented players in sports today. Just watch the highlight reels. Players scoring while sliding across the ice, passing pucks with amazing accuracy and making defensive plays that make fans shudder in their chairs. Do the rituals help? Who can really tell. If the player stopped their superstitious ways would they begin to lose? Some of the pros would say “Oh, yeah!” So they continue them, as ridiculous as some may be, until this one doesn’t work and they discover another one.
There is one last question, though. For the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, should I put on the right sock first or the left one?