The Washington Capitals defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins to get to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since the 1997-98 season. They now lead the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning 2-0 in their best-of-seven conference finals series. If they are able to advance to just the second Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, it will be because of one thing – superstition. Yes, that’s right. The Capitals’ fate likely rests on star Alex Ovechkin’s hot laps or possibly even the placement of his stool during post-game interviews. NHL players, like many athletes, are unique, superstitious creatures.
It has long been considered a bad omen – as ridiculous as it sounds – to touch a conference championship trophy. Teams that touch the trophy after winning their conference are believed to receive some bad juju. The Pittsburgh Penguins and captain Sidney Crosby elected not to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy in 2008 after the Penguins won the conference. Despite not touching the trophy, the bad karma theory happened anyway and Pittsburgh lost to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals. A year later, Crosby accepted the trophy and the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Speaking of Crosby…
Elite athletes like Crosby are some of the most superstitious. Take his sticks as an example. Each must be cut to a certain length and taped exactly according to his specifications. Once completed, the only person who can touch the stick is Crosby. If anyone else does, Crosby will fully re-tape the stick himself. He believes that if anyone else touches the stick it will not perform as well.
The greatest player of his day, Wayne Gretzky, had his own superstitions one of which was putting baby powder on his sticks. In warmups, Gretzky would always miss his first practice shot wide right. In between periods, he always consumed the same beverages and always in the same order. He started with a diet Coke, moved to water, then some Gatorade, and then finished it up with the diet Coke. Must have worked. He the NHL’s all-time leading scorer and in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Glenn Hall, who played 502 consecutive NHL games in goal, earned the moniker Mr. Goalie for his efforts. He had one of the more interesting pre-game routines among NHL goalies. Before every game, Hall would force himself to throw up. It worked 407 times, the number of victories Hall accumulated during his Hall of Fame career.
Long-time goaltender Patrick Roy was an interesting character and very good at what he did. Before each game, he would skate backwards to his net and as he did so he envisioned the goal getting smaller and smaller. During games, he would talk to the goal. The only response he ever got was a loud ding of a shot hitting off the post.
No, Not Cousin Eddie
Hall of Fame center Phil Esposito had a cold one night and, when playing against Toronto, he slipped a black dickie over his head. It had a high neck and helped keep Esposito warm. After he scored three goals that night, Esposito donned the dickie every night. Cousin Eddie of Christmas Vacation fame wore a white dickie. Esposito’s was black as it was customary to wear something black under the Bruins’ game jersey.