Seven of hockey’s greatest traditions

What makes the game of hockey unique? It's the traditions that get passed down from generation to generation.

On Saturday, the 17th annual Hockey Day in Canada will take place in Kenora, Ont.

The day celebrates our nation’s favourite sport and its esteemed place in Canada’s history.

With that in mind, here are some of our favourite hockey traditions.

Playoff beards

Players growing beards during the post-season might not be pretty, but it can surely be majestic.

The NHL’s tradition of forgoing facial grooming during a Stanley Cup run appears to have begun in the 1980s with the New York Islanders.

It’s possible that the team took inspiration from Bjorn Borg – the tennis legend stopped shaving during his Wimbledon runs – though Denis Potvin suggested that “it just sort of happened.”

Nevertheless, the playoff beard has become a staple of the spring; from Mike Commodore’s ginger forest, to whatever the heck Sidney Crosby had on his face in 2008.

The practice has made its way into baseball, with the Boston Red Sox adopting the tradition in 2013, while Brent Burns and Joe Thornton have seemingly dropped the “playoff” aspect altogether in San Jose.

The presentation of the Stanley Cup

The NHL, more than any of the big four professional sports leagues in North America, takes very special care of its big prize.

You may have noticed the mugging given to the Vince Lombardi Trophy on its way to the New England Patriots after Super Bowl LI, but the NHL prefers to keep the Stanley Cup in the gloved hands of Phil Pritchard until the time is right for commissioner Gary Bettman to make the handoff.

Sure, that might result in some rather awkward exchanges (you can read Down Goes Brown’s definitive Stanley Cup handoff rankings here), but there’s nothing like seeing the captain finally get to lift the trophy he’s spent his whole life trying to win.

And of course, the grand presentation allows for moments like this:

We’re going to include trophy-related superstitions here too, like the whole will-they-or-won’t-they dance done after winning the conference final. Some teams touch their prize (Prince of Wales Trophy for the East, Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the West), while some act like it carries the plague.

Then there’s the belief that hockey players shouldn’t touch the Cup until they’ve won it.

While those two traditions get included here, our next one, while related, deserves its own space.

The booing of Gary Bettman

This one’s more for the fans.

Fair or not, booing the commissioner has become something of a ritual among hockey fans; whether it’s when he delivers the Cup, or at the draft.

Hockey fans are rarely satisfied, and what better way to unleash your frustration than on the man in charge.

At this point, the booing of Bettman has become almost a contest, with each fan base attempting to outdo the other with their reactions.

Bettman has seemingly started to enjoy it a little. He sarcastically told Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford in an interview he “hadn’t noticed” the sea of anger his presence tends to inspire.

Yelling “shoot” while your team is on the power play

Of all the traditions listed here, this one might actually be the most polarizing.

When the home team has a power play, you can be sure to hear a sizeable portion of the arena telling their team when the perfect opportunity to shoot has revealed itself.

Unfortunately, that perfect opportunity tends to “reveal” itself pretty much whenever possession is gained in the offensive zone.

Here’s former NHLer Andrew Ference sharing his appreciation of this very tradition.

Now some think that a fan telling professionals how to do their job is a waste of time, but there could actually be some value to it.

It’s much easier to sell a fake from the point when everyone in the building is anticipating a shot, and having thousands of people screaming for one can only help in that regard.

So if you’re a fan out there who enjoys barking orders like Punch Imlach, go ahead.

Not standing on the logo

Note for people entering an NHL locker-room: Do not stand on the team’s logo.

Many have made this mistake before, most famously Justin Bieber in 2013.

Most recently, it was UFC star Brock Lesnar who obliviously stepped into the Winnipeg room and drew this hilarious reaction from the Jets.

Teams are starting to catch on to the logistical issue of having a considerable part of the locker-room floor be considered unavailable to fans and media who enter, and are now designing locker-rooms with the logo on the ceiling.

But until all 30 organizations (plus Vegas) can get on the same page here, people are going to have to mind their step, or be prepared to get shamed.

The solo rookie warmup

Let’s say you’re a rookie, or maybe a lifelong minor-leaguer, who gets called up for your first taste of NHL action.

The team welcomes you, and even lets you lead the gang out onto the ice for warmups, what a treat!

Of course, everyone but you will remain in the tunnel while you skate around for a couple of laps by yourself, much to everyone’s delight.

This has become quite predictable nowadays, and probably isn’t as funny as it once was, but the solo rookie warmup is an entertaining, yet harmless piece of initiation into the big club.

It usually takes place during a player’s NHL debut, but here’s the Arizona Coyotes sending Max Domi out on his own for his first game in Toronto, where he grew up.

Another warmup tradition that deserves some love is the knocking down of the puck pyramid.

Someone, usually an equipment manager, will delicately place a good bucket of pucks on the boards before the players take the ice.

Then, of course, it gets smacked down (ideally with one swing of the stick) as the players storm out for warmups.

The handshake line

Look, playoff hockey is intense.

For up to seven games, two teams go at it with a life-or-death passion, and when it’s all said and done, only one team gets to move on.

From there, the teams will line up, and shake hands with the very opponents they checked, slashed, chirped, and outright hated for the last little while.

Here’s Crosby and career-long foe Alex Ovechkin after their second playoff meeting last spring.

We’re not going to pretend that much of what is said in the handshake lines is truly in line with the idea of good sportsmanship, and some believe it’s more of a fake performance than a genuine act of goodwill.

In fact, it’s been the scene of some rather ugly exchanges in the past, from Milan Lucic versus Dale Weise to Martin Brodeur snubbing Sean Avery.

But every now and then a genuine heartfelt moment can occur as two players who respect each other cross paths one last time before the off-season.

And for that, we have the handshake line to thank.

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