when i was younger, i would day dream quite a bit about being a drummer. when i was a freshman, somehow i duped my father into going halvsies with me on a tama five-piece drum kit. i practiced a lot, listening to songs and playing along. after a while, i finally accepted reality. i'm not cut out to be a drummer. all this time i've thought it was simply because of my skill. now, after seeing the drummer in this video, i know it was not entirely because i was a lousy drummer, but because i will never, ever, be as cool this drummer. in my limited experience in the drumming business, talent only carries you so far. once you hit that zenith, it all depends on how bad ass you are. that's what will get you a gig drumming with stevie wonder.
in november of 1972, stevie wonder introduced the song "superstition" to the world. "when you believe in things that you don't understand/ then you suffer/ superstition ain't the way," said stevie wonder. well, obviously stevie wonder doesn't know a lick about hockey, because in hockey, superstition is, indeed, the way.
hockey players are an extremely superstitious breed of human. of course there is always the exception in any group, but every hockey player i have ever known believes in the supernatural. that one event causes another event to happen, despite physical proof that the two events are linked. breaking a stick on a one-timer, because the stick was taped toe to heel rather than heel to toe, is physical proof enough for a hockey player to never again forget to tape his stick heel to toe.
i've been thinking quite a bit about my own hockey superstitions, and it has sparked conversations with dan and a few of my hockey buddies about their superstitions and rituals. it's been interesting listening to other hockey players' quirks and to my surprise, we even share a few. others are a little mental, but i don't doubt for one second they thought mine were mental, too, and that they make good, good sense to that individual hockey player. some of these superstitions have stood the test of time and others have been ditched without a second thought.
for the hockey player, some rituals begin before they even arrive at the rink. the pre-game meal is vital to the hockey player to be mentally, as well as physically prepared for the game. one of my buddies ate a large chicken sandwich from burger king at exactly three o'clock the afternoon before each Friday home game. another buddy i talked to always eats two slices of meat lovers pizza from ramunto's before every game.
for some, quiet time is sought. in her college days, when she arrived at the rink, my friend emily would find a quiet spot in the bleachers to tape her stick. heel to toe, of course.
when it comes time to get dressed, the hockey player's obsessive compulsive disorder takes over. we all have a certain way of getting dressed, and all of the i's must be dotted and t's crossed. as it turns out, there is one superstition that each of us, all of whom i talked to today, have in common. when it comes to putting on the equipment, we all pay careful attention to which side we put on before the other. i put my left skate, shin pad, sock, elbow pad, and glove on before its opposite. dan does, too. he even takes it a bit further and makes sure he steps on the ice left foot first. my scoundrel of a brother puts right side on first. as does my friend, emily. but here is where this superstition gets interesting, i think. of the hockey players i talked to who go left side first, they all turned out to be left handed shooters all the right handed shooters go with the right side. worth some more investigating in my book...
recently, i seemed to have added a superstition to my list. when i am putting my socks over my shin pads, the sock with the tag on the inside goes on my right leg. the sock with the hole in the knee, goes on my left and the hole must be lined up with the knee cap. emily believes putting her elbow pads on before her jersey is some seriously bad juju.
on-ice warm ups seem to be another place superstitions thrive. in his days at michigan state, dan used to make sure he went down and skated through the opposing teams goal crease. he would shoot only at the center post in the net. it he hit it, it would be a good game. if he didn't hit it, he'd shoot until he did. before the start of a game, he would skate down and tap the ice in front of the goaltender and the goaltender's pads, being very careful not to touch the goalie's stick. it was bad luck to touch the stick.
i don't have too many warm up superstitions other than, stretching in the same order, which isn't unusual. my brother does the same, only he makes sure he is in the referee's crease when he's stretching. finally, i make sure i pick up at least three pucks and put them in the puck bucket at the end of warm ups.
unbeknown to myself and to my brother, we share an odd superstition. when we are sitting on the bench at any time during a game, it's important that the blade of our stick is up with the butt end on the ground. however, because i am the hockey he has always wanted to be, i have no doubt he has picked this particular superstition up from me.
to me, superstitions in hockey are as important to the game as the puck. hockey would be a strange game if neither existed.