The Chicago Blackhawks are the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss thus far this season. There are many people who believe saying that out loud or writing it down is a curse and will kill the streak. However, since almost every local sports reporter has said it on the radio and television, I think I am safe writing it down here. Although if I hadn't heard it all over from the media I wouldn't dare write it here or anywhere. I am a VERY superstitious hockey fan. I know it is silly but I admit it loud and proud.
Webster’s Dictionary defines superstition as "a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation." I kinda take offense to the ignorance part, but hey it is what it is. My partner at work would literally laugh his rear off at me when I would do some of my game day rituals at work. He mocked me stating "yea because your text will make a difference to the players on the ice." Well Pablo, as the new Bud Light commercial states, "it's only weird if it doesn't work." As long as it is working you keep doing it, I learned that young, thanks to the wonderful 1988 movie Bull Durham. In that fantastic movie, even though it was about baseball and not hockey, Kevin Costner's character Crash Davis says, "If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you are!" AMEN Mr. Davis, AMEN! (For the record I am picturing several hockey players in women’s underwear right now.)
I have always been superstitious. I constantly knock on wood, I believe the broken mirror will lead to 7 years of bad luck and if you spill the salt throw some over your left shoulder for crying out loud! Why tempt fate? So since I am now wrapped up in the game of hockey, it is my obligation to continue my superstitious behavior for the love of the game. God forbid I do anything to throw things of kilter because hockey has some of the most superstitious players and fans of all sports. When you consider some of these NHL players rituals my silly habits aren’t so bad (ahem Pablo).
• Former Chicago Blackhawk Glenn Hall forced himself to throw up before each game. He would make himself sick and then drink a glass of orange juice before hitting the ice. The OJ I get the vomit no so much. But who am I to argue with Mr. Goalie?
• Hall of fame Blackhawk Stan Mikita, flicked a lit cigarette butt over his left shoulder as he took the ice as a pregame ritual. I love that back in the day athletes smoked and no one cared, yes I know it is an awful habit, but as a reformed smoker, I get it.
• Almost every member of every NHL team I have seen since we have had our tickets grows (or attempts to grow) a playoff beard. There is some dissention as to when the practice actually started but the New York Islanders are credited with the beginnings of the play off beard custom in both versions of the start of the hairy tradition.
• After winning the Western Conference finals in 2010 Hawks Captain Jonathan Toews posed next to the Clarence Campbell Bowl for pictures but never touched it. That year the Flyers embraced the Prince of Wales Trophy. The Hawks went on to beat the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals.
• He may not be a Hawk, but he is the Great One so here is Wayne Gretzky’s quirky ritual; 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. All I have to say is that is a lot of liquid to intake, and there is a ton of equipment under that uniform so going to relieve one's self several times during a game couldn’t have been easy. Just another reason he is the Great One.
• A non-Hawk but worth mentioning superstitious NHL player is Bruce Gardiner. He was drafted in 1991 by the St Louis Blues and had an incredible career. But he is probably best known for his strange pre-game methods. During his first year as a member of the Ottawa Senators he would dunk his stick blade in the toilet before taking the ice. When he first got to Ottawa he was scoreless and asked veteran Tom Chorske for advice, he told the kid he needed to teach the wood to respect him, and so the toilet dunking began, EEEEWWWW!!!
• Another Non-Hawk example: Defenseman Ray Bourque would never use the same pair of laces for more than one game or even more than one period. He actually changed his laces before every game and at every intermission. That is even more high maintenance than most women, which is kind of strange for a hard-ass hockey stud.
After reading all that my practices don’t seem so strange; so here are some of mine. I wear certain Blackhawks sweaters depending on the game and if the jersey remains lucky I have to stick with it otherwise I switch them up. I wear the same jewelry to every game I attend and I always wear red or black underwear on game days. Also, every time the Hawks score and my hubby and I are not together watching the game, I text him “WOOHOO.” The hubby, aka Big J, has his own rules, especially during the playoffs the year we won the Cup. For example, if we were at a particular bar and won a game he had to sit in the same seat at the same bar for the next game, as long as we weren’t going to the game of course. He also grows his own play off beards and every year during the play offs we hang our Blackhawks flag in the center of the bay window of our home.
Another tradition that has become more of an on-going joke is that my husband has to be in the bathroom or in line for beer at the United Center for the Blackhawks to score. He has missed more goals that he has actually seen with his own eyes at the UC. Our section, before they took out all the rows behind us for the dumb bar, would scream at him to go and get a beer when there was a lull in Hawks goals because as long as his ass was in his seat they knew we weren't going to score. For the past few seasons he has kept track of his goal percentage while sitting and it isn't pretty. So if you see him in his seat at the UC make sure you tell him to get up. And of course no one ever is allowed to utter the words shutout or hat-trick before they occur, every true fan knows those rules.
Examining the numerous examples of hockey player disturbing behaviors and then evaluating ours you will have to admit our silly rituals are not so bad and apparently we are not alone. According to a 2007 poll by ESPN 1 in 5 fans have formal procedures they perform to help their teams to victory.
To ensure the Hawks keep this amazing season on the correct path, please remember to keep doing your own crazy customs. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are nuts, don’t listen to people who say these practices are inane. I assure you if you believe they work then they do. Because according to Crash Davis, a player “on a streak has to respect the streak,” and I believe a true fan should always do their part to also respect that streak. Therefore, if you have to wear the same pair of socks for 15 games in a row, so be it, just please make sure you shower and maybe throw some baby powder in your shoes if you are heading out in public because with my bad luck you will end up sitting next to me at the UC for the next home game.