________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 22. . . .February 11, 2011.


Hockey Superstitions: From Playoff Beards to Crossed Sticks and Lucky Socks.

Andrew Podnieks.
Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2010.
175 pp., pbk., $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-7710-7108-9.

Subject Headings:

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

*** /4



Perhaps the greatest example of a number change, though, is Maurice Richard's switcheroo from number 15 to 9. In 1940 41, his last year in the senior league, with Quebec, he broke his ankle during the first game of the season. The next year, he broke it again after just sixteen NHL games with the Canadiens. The summer of 1943, though, his first daughter was born. Huguette weighed nine pounds, and to celebrate her birth and to try to change his fortunes on ice he changed to number 9 for the upcoming season. The rest, as they say, is history.

Canada being the hockey crazed nation it is, Hockey Superstitions is likely to become a very popular book. It will refresh the memories of older fans for which many of these superstitions are iconic and fascinate those who have yet to be exposed to some of the more unusual aspects of the game. It is suitable for recreational reading.

     There are two sections in the book. The first, "Group Superstitions: Universal Tribalism," deals with, as the title suggests, superstitions held by a large number of people or a team. There are 28 of these superstitions, most between one and two pages in length. The second, "Player Superstitions: To each His (Crazy Own)," deals with the superstitions of individual players. Of these, there are 105, their descriptions varying in length from a paragraph to two pages.

     Probably the best known superstition in the first category is the Playoff Beard. This odd superstition becomes obvious to fans shortly after the payoffs start. Every player on the 16 teams that have reached the post season promises not to shave until his team wins. After a few games, the players all begin to look quite swarthy. By the end of the end of the playoffs, many have full-blown beards.

     Another unusual group superstition concerns Red Kelly, the famous hockey player for Detroit and Toronto and later a Member of Parliament. When he coached the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1970s, he believed that having small pyramids under the players' bench would help his team win. They didn't. More bizarre is the superstition in Detroit where fans believe that an octopus thrown on the ice will help their team win.

     Some of the superstitions of individual players are equally outrageous. Bobby Orr, for example, would wear the same socks as long as he was scoring. When he failed to do so, he would put on a clean pair. One of Sydney Crosby's superstitions is that he won't allow anyone to touch his sticks once he has taped them. Punch Imlach, the late Toronto coach, had a number of superstitions. The most unusual concerned his suits. Before Toronto played Montreal, he bought a new suit from the same tailor. If Toronto won, he would wear the same suit again.

     Hockey Superstitions has many black and white photographs spread throughout the book. They are decorative since they do not illustrate any superstitions. There are also numerous sidebars highlighting players' superstitions. One example, Quickshot, is the superstition of Alex Stingbush who wouldn't let anyone touch his shoes.

     There is likely little about the game of hockey that author, Andrew Podnieks doesn't know, having written over fifty-five books on the subject. He is, therefore, more than qualified to write about some of the game's oddities. His titles include The Year of the Blackhawks, Celebrating the Game and The Spectacular Sydney Crosby. In addition. he produces media guides for tournaments such as the Olympics and the World Junior (Under 20) Championships.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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