Tag Archives: hockey


Main Piece:

The informant: “I’d always play pondy in the winter, I never played hockey though”


The informant grew up in a small, midwestern town on the Great Lakes where winters were always below freezing and lakes were of easy access. The informant’s high school also had a very competitive hockey team. Hockey was ingrained into the town as something all kids would play for at least a year, according to the informant.


The informant was telling me about her hobbies she had when she was younger.  I thought she played hockey, but the prior quote is how she corrected me.


This demonstrates a piece of folk speech that has been created to differentiate one activity. Outdoor hockey is exclusively known as pondy while indoor, rink hockey is just hockey. From context clues, this word is easy enough to understand which lends itself to being used by young kids out playing games. Pondy also implies a sort of casual play to the game instead of competitive hockey. It is interesting to see the same sport be defined by its location through a colloquial expression.

Pre-game ritual: Goalies


Main Piece

Informant: Before every game starts, when I am in the crease, I’ll tap the right post with the handle of my stick and the left post with the blade end.

Background:  The informant is my brother. He is a senior at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. There he plays goalie for the club hockey team and has been playing at a club level for well over a decade. He first learned of this superstition through his first goalie coach. He has done this act before every game he remembers playing in. For the informant, the act has become less superstition as he has gotten older. Still, the informant continues this ritual as it has become second nature in his mind. The interview took place over the phone and was recorded for transcription.

Context: The informant will do this act around 30 seconds before the game starts. The informant has been a committed teammate and goalie for the better portion of two decades.

Analysis: Sports are ripe with pre-game superstition and rituals, just like this one. Hockey goalies are especially habitual in the pre-game routines. Whether it be tapping the post with their stick, eating a certain meal or throwing up before the game (Yes, that one is true). However, this is not restricted to only hockey or goalies themselves. Players of all positions in all sports have their own specific pre-game rituals. (For a list a list of similar superstitions of professional athletes, please see Jeff Mclane’s 2008 article, For The Eagles, Superstition Is The Way (TCA Regional News)). Specific to this piece, I found the transition from superstitious behavior to second-nature for the informant interesting. While it might have started out as a superstitious pre-game ritual intended to bring good look for the upcoming game, it has since morphed into an acknowledgement of origin for the informant. The informant does not continue this ritual because he feels it will bring him good luck. He does so because he became the goalie he is today through tapping each post. When the informant continues this tradition, he is reminding himself of everything he has been through to get to where he is.

Hockey in New Jersey and no-shave rule

The informant and I were talking about sports and superstitions so he mentioned something specific to his home state’s sports culture.

“Hockey is really huge… a culture unlike anything in California. Everyone grows out their beard during playoffs season, and they don’t shave it until their team’s out of the playoffs. Bad luck for your team if you shave your beard. I don’t [participate], because I’m Asian and I can’t grow a beard.”

Sports superstitions are nothing unheard of, but it’s still interesting to observe how they vary from region to region. Some people don’t wash their jerseys until their team is knocked out of the playoffs, and some people don’t shave their beards. How such a tradition begins and spreads amongst a group of people would be interesting but probably difficult to investigate.

The “Playoff Beard”

My informant was a competitive hockey player his entire adolescence and was raised in Elk River Minnesota, a hockey powerhouse. He played Division 1 hockey until an injury caused him to transfer schools where he played Division 3 hockey. His father has been a prominent boys hockey coach and local legend in the state of Minnesota for 26 years.

The “playoff beard” is a tradition that hockey players do where they stop shaving when they enter the play-offs and do not shave again until the team is out of the tournament (or wins). Which results in the stereotypical scruff, mustaches, goatees, or out of control hair seen in hockey players. The playoff beard is a unique practice of the National Hockey League during the Stanley Cup playoffs but has spread to being performed in high school and NCAA teams. My informant participated in this tradition during his time as a hockey player, and noted its importance to the hockey community. My informant said that that they do it “because of superstition.” The tradition started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders, and has grown to be a trademark of hockey.

From personal experience, I have witnessed my high school’s hockey team grow out their facial hair and refuse haircuts when the state tournament came around. Upon my own research, I found that some teams do it to have a sense of team unity. An example of this is seen when the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team all bleached their hair blonde in the 2006-07 post-season. A high school tennis team all gave themselves Mohawks for their trip to the state tournament as well. The growing of hair and beards has been seen in other sports such as tennis, basketball, and football in high school teams or individual athletes. It has also spread to philanthropic organizations such as “Beard-A-Thon” that raises money for each team in the Stanley Cup’s charity, and to the development of the “fan beard,” where fans grow beards to support their team.

The Beard is Back

When the sight of “playoff beards” becomes more and more frequent, it is most likely Stanley Cup hockey season.  Between the months of March to April, during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NHL (National Hockey League) players and fans begin growing out their beards in hopes of taking home the championship.  My informant, a hockey player himself, explains the tradition: “When playoffs begin, players don’t shave until their team is knocked out of the tournament or until their team wins the Stanley Cup.  Fans do this too to show their support for their team.”

Although he cannot remember precisely when the tradition began, my informant says that the tradition probably began when a team had back-to-back games in a single series (in which two teams compete to win best out of 7 games).  If this is the case, they may not have had a chance to shave, or did not care enough, since the playoffs were on their minds.  My informant explains that the tradition eventually turned into superstition: the bigger and thicker the beard, the better chance of winning the Cup.

In doing more research on the “playoff beard,” the majority of sources state that the tradition began in 1980 by the New York Islanders, “when the team won the first of four straight Cups (1980-83)” (Podnieks 8).  After their Stanley Cup winning streak, other teams dared not imitate the Islanders’ tradition, but were unsuccessful in winning the championship.  Therefore, it became superstition that a team cannot win the Cup unless they embrace the beard philosophy.  Over decades, the tradition and superstition has been reinforced because every year, the team that does win the Stanley Cup has full beards.  Yet, this also may be due to the fact that the beard philosophy has caught on.  All teams in the playoffs have players growing out their beards!

Podnieks, Andrew. Hockey Superstitions: From Playoff Beards to Crossed Sticks and Lucky Socks. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2010. Print.

Tweeters, Five-Holes, and Soft Goals

“He went tweeters!”

“He scored through the five-hole!”

If you understand this terminology, you are most likely a hockey player, or at least a hockey fan.  My informant, a hockey player and fan, explained this hockey slang to me during a Los Angeles Kings game, after he exclaimed: “Oh man, Kopi got lucky with that five-hole shot!”  With this statement, he was referring to Anze Kopitar – who plays either center or left wing for the Kings and is nicknamed “Kopi” – and his shot on goal.

The term “five-hole” derives from the five open areas that the goalie is responsible for covering.  When a goaltender stands in front of the net, he holds his stick with his dominant hand across his body, down to the ice.  Therefore, there is a “stick side” and a “glove side.”  My informant further explained the five areas: stick side, low; stick side, high; glove side, low; glove side, high; and finally the “five-hole,” which is the gap in between the goalie’s legs.  He also told me that you can use the expression “going tweeters” to refer to this shot.  Nevertheless, the five-hole is a relatively difficult shot to make since goalies guard this area with the blade of their stick and can easily close the gap by falling into the splits, or “butterfly position.”  So, for hockey goalies, flexibility is mandatory.

My informant also explained that there are 2 additional, but minor holes as well: on either side of the goalie between the arms and the body.  However, since these three holes are relatively easy to guard, it is rare for players to deliberately aim for these holes; rather, they can be “luck shots,” where the puck sneaks through due to lousy goaltending.  Consequently, the five, six and seven holes are considered “soft” goals.

Now that you know the slang, make sure you use it properly because if you misspeak, hockey fans will quickly know that you are an outsider!

Hockey: After a Trade, The Player Must Be Shaved

“I’ve heard that in the NHL, when a player is traded, his new teammates shave him from head to toe.”

My informant says he first heard of this ritual when he was on a hockey team while in high school in the 1980s.  He says that hockey is full of superstitions so initiation rituals are common, especially for rookies and traded players, but not necessarily for hockey veterans.  Some “newbies” go willingly and others are sometimes forced by their teammates.  He also explained that if this ritual is still practiced, it is one of the mild forms of initiation; others can be pretty sexual, grotesque and/or humiliating.  Nevertheless, this hazing tradition appears to be a type of purification ritual that literally cleanses the player of anything and everything he physically had while playing for his previous team.

Folk Superstition

Folk Superstition

“During hockey playoffs, a lot of guys grow beards for good luck until the end of the season so that their favorite time will win.”

My manager at the Original Pancake House is a huge sports fan, especially when it comes to hockey.  He absolutely loves the Rangers and goes to as many games as possible every season.  He is a very intense fan, and he and his friends do a lot of different things to try to bring their team good luck.

He said that this superstition is really common, especially with hockey fans.  If a favorite team makes it to the playoffs (and some even do this during the whole season, but it is generally based on the playoffs), a lot of the fans will let their facial hair grow, specifically their beards.  They tend to believe that as long as they keep their hair growing, their team won’t lose.  Of course this isn’t necessarily true, but it gives them something to hope for.  One of the reasons this superstition is probably to common is that it encourages fans to be more involved.  By growing their beards out and doing something that seems to contribute to the team’s success, the fans feel more involved.

The specificity of growing a beard is most likely due to men’s desire to come across as being very masculine.  Since men already tend to love sports because it associates them with masculine qualities, this trend seems to emphasize that.  In growing a beard, which is clearly a trait that is unique to men, they are asserting their masculinity and trying to make a statement that they have the male power to control, or contribute, to a sports team’s success during the playoffs.

Furthermore, growing a beard can be symbolic of the teams success (or lack thereof) because of the fact that bears grow and can be cut off.  As the beard is growing, so is the team as they win games during the playoffs.  However, if the team loses, the fans can easily shave off their beards in order not to be reminded of the downfall.  Growing a beard provides an easy and convenient way of showing support for a team without making any huge commitments, and it still makes a bold visual statement.  When people who are aware of this tradition see a man with a beard during the playoffs, it can serve as a sort of advertisement for the team and for the sport in general.  In many senses, this superstition is a convenient and practical way for men to show their support and assert their masculinity during game season.