Caps Talk Hockey Superstitions
The last time I chatted with Karl Alzner, the Caps rookie blue-liner told me, among other things, that he used to have this one superstition where he would tap his stick 88 times during the national anthem, and would also trace the outline of the Canadian maple leaf in time with the music. It was trippy stuff.
But those superstitious days are long gone for Alzner, who said he "had people talking me out of it, saying it's crazy."
"Crazy" makes for great copy, and fortunately, the Caps dressing room hasn't run out of crazy superstition tales. Like, Tyler Sloan, unsolicited, offered up this one.
"I played with a guy that tied his skates before the game in the [rhymes with fritter]," Sloan said. "Sat in there on the [fritter], just sat. Closed the lid, sat on the toilet and tied his skates up in there, every game. I don't know if he just wanted to be alone...."
"I know guys that have to stare at themselves in the mirror for a couple of minutes before every game," Sean Collins said.
"That's you Collie, you do your hair in the mirror," Sloan said.
"Guess I set myself up for that one," Collins said.
"I've seen some weird ones, man," said Bryan Helmer, who, in his 36 years, has had plenty of time to gather stories. "I played with a goalie, he had this box and it had Billy Smith's picture on the front of it. And he had it locked too, he had the box locked. No one knew what it was. Already carried it, was always holding it before games and stuff. So one day he was out on the ice and the guys broke into it. There was a horseshoe in it. That was probably the weirdest one I've ever seen."
As for Helmer, he has a pretty normal one (puts every piece of equipment on his right arm or leg before his left arm or leg, which he calls a routine, not a superstition) and a sort of odd one.
"You know, I'm not a coffee drinker, but I have a half a cup of coffee before games," he said. "I did it once, had a good game and just kept it up. [But] I never drink coffee. Like, that's the only time I ever drink it, is before games."
I suggested that maybe this actually makes him a coffee drinker, since he's now had thousands of half-cups of coffee.
"I guess I am now," he agreed.
One member of the Caps puts all his equipment on the ground and then steps over it backwards. One just hangs out in the training room before games. Bruce Boudreau has more superstitions than hair; like, with his pre-game meals.
"Eating the press meal, not eating the press meal," Boudreau explained. "You know, when you go to a building, there's a press meal. If we've won in that building and I ate it, I'll eat it again. If we haven't, I won't. You know? Stuff like that."
And if he's not hungry? "Doesn't matter," Boudreau said. "Whatever works, works. I'll have a bowl of soup. I won't eat, really, per se."
He changes suits, ties. He'll move a few steps down the bench if things aren't going well. He knocks on his head if he thinks bad thoughts, in sort of a reverse knock on wood thing. I asked if a skull could really count as wood; "well, mine does, evidently," he said. "My wife thinks I'm weird."
As for Alzner, he does have two fabric bracelets, one blue and one brown, that his girlfriend made for him. He's been wearing them since September.
"These are more summer-y things, but see, they're knotted on, so they're not coming off until they break," he said. "I've had them already since the beginning of September and they're ok. A little bit [ragged] from my dog chewing on it, but not too bad."
Oh, and Alzner said he knows one kid from the minors who's "way worse" than he ever was. So I guess his superstitions weren't that great to begin with.
"He tapes his stick a little bit," Alzner told me, "then he untapes it all, then he rips the tape off and throws it away and rips more tape off, and if he doesn't rip it perfectly he's got to rip more off. He's unbelievable. He kicks my butt."
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