Players and fans alike embrace superstition rituals

Kris Draper grows a thick and luxurious playoff beard
Kris Draper grows a thick and luxurious playoff beard

During the telecast of Game 7 of the Montreal vs Pittsburgh  series on Versus, the announcers commented on the fact that Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin was again wearing his lucky tie. In fact, the announce team went through and showed pictures of Martin wearing the tie at several games – all of which, including the 5-2 series-clinching-victory, the Canadiens won. The announce crew also featured several other players who performed pregame rituals and went on to play fantastic games that helped propel Montreal into the Eastern Conference Finals.

It’s no surprise that hockey players are superstitious people. Look around the locker room at playoff time and see all of the fuzzy beards that the athletes are sporting. Growing beards has long been a hockey tradition once playoff time rolls around. Younger players that can’t grow beards have embraced other superstitions. Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks has embraced growing out a hockey mullet instead of a beard. And then there is the ever-present curse of touching the trophy presented to the winners of each conference before heading to the Stanley Cup Finals. There is a definite stigma attached to touching these pieces of hardware and most players (unless you play for the Penguins evidently) will avoid touching their respective trophies (Clarence Campbell Bowl in the West or the Prince of Wales Trophy in the East).

In the spirit of superstitions, I asked the members of HWB what kinds of superstitions they carry into the NHL playoffs in order to help give their team a competitive advantage. Here’s what they said:

Chris – Being probably the only Hockey World Blogger that can successfully grow a beard, I undertake this superstition dutifully. As a Wings fan, I grow my beard to rival that of Zetterberg or Bertuzzi and keep the razor in the drawer until the Wings have made their way onto the golf courses. However, this year circumstances caused me to change my usual routine a bit. In fact, allowing my beard to grow didn’t seem to be working much during the Phoenix series as the two teams went back and forth for most of the series. On the day of Game 7, I was forced to trim my beard in order to look presentable for an award ceremony. The Wings went on to win that night by a score of 6-1. Thinking nothing of it, I went back to growing out my beard for the San Jose series. Unfortunately, it occurred to me too little too late that shaving my beard might have been the key to success. For Game 4 of the series, I again trimmed my beard before the Wings trounced the Sharks 7-1. However, when I trimmed again for Game 5 it was already too late and Sharks took the series from the Wings.

I’m also one of those guys that will not watch a game if the team seems to do better when the television is on a different channel. If I flip away during a commercial break and come back to see that the Wings have scored, I’ll flip right back to the channel I was watching and peek in again later to see what’s happening. Needless to say, none of those things worked this year for the Wings. But that won’t sway my dedication and I’ll be back at it again next season!

Matt – My playoff superstitions have definitely evolved as I have grown older. As a young lad, I remember getting my first Red Wings hockey puck. This puck sat on my shelf all season, but come playoff time, it was lucky puck and went with me everywhere during games, no matter where I happened to be. My puck and I battled through a couple painful losses to New Jersey and Colorado, but we were both together when the Wings won the cup in back to back years in the late 90’s. After a few more crushing playoff losses, I finally retired the puck.

The past few seasons, location has been a big player in my superstitions. While I was away from home for an internship two years ago, the Red Wings excelled in the playoffs and brought home another Stanley Cup. However, last year, I graduated college and was back at home to watch a crushing defeat to the Penguins in game 7. This year has been similar. While in my current home in Indianapolis, the Wings manged to break through to round two. However, during game 5, I was in the same basement where I watched the Wings lose a year ago, and they followed it up with another loss. I can safely say that I can never go home for a playoff game again.

EB – As Chris so nicely mentioned, a traditional playoff beard is out for me, so I must look elsewhere for my superstitions. Perhaps not changing my underwear? No no, I think Eddie falls under that category (on the brightside, he does at least interchange between inside and outside). For me, it is all about the apparel. For the Red Wings I wear my #17 Doug Brown jersey. Why you may ask? Growing up playing hockey #17 was the number I wore because of my birthday being in the 17th. (Since then it has changed however because someone else took it… darn Matt!) And Brown is my last name. So combined, my name and number on the Wings jersey just feels lucky.

Similar to Chris, I also am subject to TV station superstitions. I absolutely hate NBC, also known as the Sidney Crosby Fan Club Channel. I dislike it so much, if my team is doing bad, I flip off the TV and swap to the good ‘ol radio. Yep, the radio people. Listening to the game on the radio is also great as almost every play anything could happen at any moment because you have a general idea of what is happening, but you cannot see the play fully develop as if you were watching it. Those with heart conditions, pregnant or under five feet tall should consult their doctor before listening to a playoff hockey game on the radio.

I am also somewhat subject to Versus. I am a lucky person who has the ability to watch Canada’s broadcast on CBC. Although Versus does have a much better video feed as it is in HD, CBC has a game like atmosphere with more sound coming from the sound of the game and not that of the announcers. Plus CBC tends to show more of the scrums after the play instead of the over played highlight reel from previous games of key players, like their NBC, usually Crosby.

That’s about it for me. Maybe the occasional specific beer selection, but that’s about it.

Eddie – Everyone has their own separate playoff superstitions and rituals. I’m probably the most unique in that I change it up on a year-by-year basis. I cannot grow a beard for several reasons including it doesnt grow evenly on my face and because it itches my face after a week or so. I really started doing something seriously in 2007, when I thought the Red Wings had a serious chance to return to the Stanley Cup finals. I was home for Spring Break that season during my senior year of college when I came across an old hat. It was the “Locker Room” edition hat of the Winged Wheelers 1997 Stanley Cup championship. For the die-hard fans, it was the black hat with brown suede as the brim. I wore it for every game I was able to watch on television during that long playoff run before losing to Anaheim in the conference finals.

For the 2008 playoff run, I was unfortunately on an internship where I traveled across the country. I didn’t get to see many games, but for the games I was able to see on television I wore a Red Wings hoodie I packed so that I would represent my hometown where ever I would be. It was my hotel room in Aspen, Colo. where I watched Chris Osgood make a diving save when time ran out to clinch the title. For the last two seasons (depending where I was watching the game) I would wear either my Red Wings practice jersey or hoodie along with a Pavel Datsyuk a friend got me for Christmas. If I was at a restaurant where I’d be consuming messy food, I would take off the jersey because I am not the cleanest eater in the world.

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