NHL player pregame rituals and routines are the stuff of legend.
We all do it. Whether we wear jerseys, we haven’t washed in forever, the same hat for home games, or drink and eat the same food while watching our team play. But NHL player pregame rituals and superstitions are at a different level. Allow me the pleasure to highlight some of the more unique superstitions and pregame traditions around.
Pregame Rituals and Superstitions Definitions
A pregame ritual is something an NHL player does before a game to ensure luck is on his side. As a ritual, it is done regularly. To add to these rituals, he may also have some superstitions. Superstitions, however, are different from rituals. For example, they may include not wearing a specific color on game day.
When we talk about pregame rituals, pregame meals come to my mind first. I can’t help but think about the Great One’s, that is, Wayne Gretzky’s pregame meal of four hot dogs with onions and mustard. He would wash this meal down with a Diet Coke. Sometimes, he would mix it up by exchanging his dogs for a pizza or sandwich, depending on where his team was playing.
Check out the video below to see the Great One talk about his pregame routine.
Wayne Gretzky’s Pregame Diet Video
Another memorable pregame meal includes Sidney Crosby eating peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Like most other players, they consume a regular meal earlier. Many believe this is more psychological rather than giving him any trustworthy energy source for the game.
Rumor has it that Gordie Howe ate steak before his games. Alex Ovechkin eats at Mamma Luccia’s ahead of every home game. His order includes a massive intake of the Ovi Special, a meal that is a mix of chicken parmesan with noodles, bread, and cheese.
On the more vanilla side, Connor McDavid sticks to chicken, vegetables, and rice. But he does admit to loving his licorice. Ultimately, most stick to what they know, what they have been eating since they were young. But they are rare to change it if they feel it’s working.
Over the years, hockey players don’t eat as they once did. With nutritionists on staff, pregame meals have changed a lot. One commercial that comes to mind that makes me laugh is the following legends versus young stars pregame food consumption.
NHL Players Carb Loading Video
NHL Pregame Routines
If you watched the Gretzky video above, you will recall how he mentioned he would dress the same before each game. He notes how it could have been superstition, but it was also just habit. Many players have developed these habits over the years.
In the video below, Andrew Shaw, who used to play for the Montreal Canadians, talks about his pregame rituals. He also states that all players have them, and if they say they don’t, they are lying.
Andrew Shaw’s Pregame Routine Video
Some even go so far as to have game day routines, many of which will not share them with the world. The fear is that if they do, people may think they are weird or discover their secrets. In cases where players move to another team, a former teammate may use it against them.
For example, Dustin Byfuglien, a former Winnipeg Jet, is a notorious prankster who will purposely mess up another player’s setup if he believes it is part of his superstitious beliefs. For those players’ superstitions we do know, let’s dig a little deeper into the strange NHL player pregame rituals.
Sidney Crosby is very strict with his rituals. From exercising at a particular time to taping his stick in a specific way to even being the last on the ice. But that last superstition would change, as Crosby explained in the video below when Evgeni Malkin came to join the team.
Sidney Crosby Pregame Video
The reverse also happens; some players will wait until all their teammates have left the ice before heading to the dressing room. Such is the case with Chicago player Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, who congratulates others before getting off the ice.
And the oddities don’t stop there. Other hockey players have become known not just for their play on the ice but also for their strange rituals:
- Chris Chelios was the last in the dressing room to put on his jersey before he hit the ice.
- Brendan Shanahan listened to Madonna before a game.
- Karl Alzner would tap his stick 88 times and made sure to trace the outline of the maple leaf before the national anthems would end.
- Ray Bourque would change his laces before every game and between each period.
- Stan Mikita, back in the day when this was allowed, would smoke a cigarette between each period. When finished, he would toss the cigarette over his left shoulder.
- Joe Nieuwendyk put baby powder on his sticks to give them an extra nice treatment and bring luck.
- Winger Luc Robitaille taped his sticks with black and white tape before each game.
Once a team gets into the playoffs, you can anticipate even more rigidness with each ritual. For example, ever notice how some players have beards that come down to their chest? This is thanks to the superstition of those who believe you should never shave your beard when in the playoffs lest you tempt fate.
The playoff beard is believed to have begun in the 1980s with the New York Islanders. The idea behind it is if you are winning, why would you change anything, including your beard. The next playoff superstition is somewhat insulting; no touching another trophy.
Why is this the case? Because the Stanley Cup is what they covet most. The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and the Prince of Wales trophy represent the conference championship trophies, a feat to win in their own right. Which is why I think it’s insulting not to touch them, but hey, that’s just me. That said, if what you want is the Stanley Cup, then hands-off.
You might like our What is icing in Hockey? Feature.
Goalie Rituals and Superstitions
Now, here is where we get into the extra crazy. Over the years, goalies have had their own set of rituals and superstitions. Patrick Roy had a few unique ones. From never talking to reporters on scheduled game days, never letting his skates touch the red and blue lines on the ice, to even talking to his net posts.
The last superstition, when asked about post-game, he declared that they had come through for him with stops in that particular game. The goalie rituals move to the even odder. Ken Dryden, one of the ultimate goalies, always had to make one last save before leaving the ice.
Eddie, “The Eagle” Belfour, refused to let anyone else touch his goalie equipment. He even went so far as to disassemble a glove if he felt he had let in a bad goal. And while that may seem strange, I don’t think anything can beat the following superstition.
Another legendary goalie, Glenn Hall, would vomit before a game. He felt as though he wasn’t giving his team his all if he didn’t do it. On game day, he only ate because he had to; he would then throw up at the rink. And if that didn’t do the trick, he would down a glass of water, just to have something to bring back up.
I don’t know about you, but learning some of the unique NHL pregame rituals and superstitions of players from all over put a smile on my face. Superstitions and rituals may seem crazy to others, but passion drives and connects us all. For the love of the game, the team, our favorite players, let’s all celebrate our pregame rituals.
By Danielle L’Ami
Danielle is a writer who lives in Canada and supports the Montreal Canadiens. Currently, you can find her setting up all of her Habs memorabilia just so. And she may or may not need to rub her Habs’ monkey’s stomach before each playoff game.
You are on our NHL Player Pregame Rituals and Superstitions page.
You might like: