Ice hockey is one of the world’s greatest sports and the NHL – which opens its’ 100th season of play this evening, is America’s most underappreciated league.  Today we delve into some of hockey’s best traditions.

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Playoff Beards.  A bonding experience, players don’t shave during the playoffs, leaving the two teams in the Stanley Cup Finals looking like cavemen.

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Original Six.  No professional sports league honors its charter members like the NHL.  The history and rivalries between these half-dozen teams gives the league character.

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Don’t Touch the Cup.  The Stanley Cup is one of the most revered trophies in sports.  Hockey players –who tend to be a superstitious lot – dream of winning it as soon as they are old enough to skate, and the tradition is that you don’t touch the Cup unless you have won it.  Some players go so far as to not even go in the same room as Lord Stanley’s trophy.

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Goal Horns.  Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz liked the sound of the horn on his yacht and had it installed at Chicago Stadium for the 1973 Stanley Cup Finals against Montreal.  The idea caught on, and has since become a staple of NHL games around the league.  When the red lamp lights and the goal horn sounds, home fans get raucous.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Philadelphia Flyers

Hat Trick.  Scoring three goals in one game is rare, so when a player for the home team accomplishes the feat, fans launch their headwear onto the ice and the building goes nuts.

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Playoff Series Handshakes.  After a lengthy playoff series in which players have left in all on the ice – including blood, sweat and sometimes, teeth – both sides line up to acknowledge one another.  Just one of many traditions that make hockey great.

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Names of the Cup.  Unlike the championship trophies in other sports, there is only one Stanley Cup.  It is the only trophy that includes players’ names, adding to its tradition and prestige.

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Stuff on the Ice.  During this year’s playoffs, Nashville fans tossed catfish onto the ice.  In 1996, Florida threw rats.  It all started in Detroit, where Red Wings fans tossed octopi onto the ice – each leg signifying the eight wins necessary to win the Stanley Cup back in the days of the Original Six.

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National Anthem in Chicago.  In 1985, the Blackhawks lost the first two games of a playoff series in Edmonton.  Upon returning home, Hawks fans wanted to get their team pumped up before the puck dropped and started cheering through all of the Anthem.  The tradition has continued, and the noise is deafening from start to finish while Jim Cornelison [accompanied by organist Frank Pellico] belts out the Star Spangled Banner before a capacity crowd at the United Center.

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Hockey Night in Canada.  An institution like no other, fans across Canada and the United States get a double dose of action each Saturday night, when one hockey game is broadcast from each coast.  It all started in 1931, when the legendary Foster Hewitt began calling games on radio.

 

What is your favorite hockey tradition?


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