Across the SB Nation NHL network this week, NBC Sports is sponsoring a series about playoff hockey and superstitions. Here's our contribution.
Let me tell you a story about my lucky socks.
They were purchased on a trip to Houghton, Michigan in February of 2012. It was snowy and bitingly cold, and I needed extra layers under my boots. These caught my eye because they were purple striped all over.
I love wearing purple on game days--it feels like the Kings' unique color, even if it's not in the official uniforms anymore--and these babies were bright and cheerful. They were even called "Imperial purple" on the tag. Sold!
When the Kings went on to beat Dallas while I was wearing them, I felt even more convinced my choice was right. This win came back in the dire days when no one would have predicted a Stanley Cup for LA. Unless they could string together a ton of wins, it even looked like they would miss the playoffs. The Kings couldn't score goals at a normal rate, and no one could figure out why.
But they scored four times in that game. All right, I thought. Lucky color. Lucky socks.
The Kings finished the year with a blazing 13-5-3 record, and went on to have a brilliant 16-4 postseason run. Since it had been an even more drizzly spring and summer in Seattle than usual, and I'd kept wearing those wool socks the whole time.
Their first Cup in over 40 years?
Sure, it helped that they'd become a dominant puck possession team. But these socks are great.
How rituals help
People without game-day rituals are quick to point out the uselessness of the whole idea. "It's a game. You're not a player. What happens is not controlled by anything you do." It's all logical.
But players do this too. Take Sidney Crosby. Lots of guys are superstitious, but he takes his particular approach to the game to a whole other level. You can listen to a long list of what must be done with his equipment here (it includes never getting rid of an old jock strap that looks like it was stripped off a stinking orc from Middle Earth). He also avoids calling his mom on game days, never washes his 2007-2008 hat, and needs to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before every game.
Would Crosby be a phenomenal player if he didn't eat that special sandwich? Of course. But he does it because he likes his routine.
Routine is soothing. It makes you feel better. It's worth doing for that alone.
This is why I never let anyone give me a hard time about my lucky socks, or anything else I do (like putting up a Lucky Luc bobblehead shrine, and singing certain songs in the shower). Hockey is a wild, unpredictable game often determined by crazy bounces. I get so excited and nervous watching that sometimes it feels like my heart will leap from my chest. When you feel helpless, superstitions at least let you do something about it.
So I paused earlier this week to have a good chuckle at myself. This year in the playoffs, it's seventy five degrees out, I'm wearing shorts, and I'm still putting on wool socks.
I smiled down at them. It feels good when I put them on, and that's comfort enough.
Any little bit helps.
Do you have any game day superstitions? Do you ever make up some good luck rules on the fly? Let us know here!