A GOOD COB NHL

The word cob is used in hockey to describe a shutout, the corn on the cob resembling a big zero, as it were. A team that wins 4-0, say, wins the game “four cob.”

But cob has another positive superstition attached to it, thanks to the Ottawa Nationals of the World Hockey Association during the league’s inaugural season. The end of the 1972-73 schedule was shaping up to be a disaster for the team and a playoff spot was a distant hope at best. But before a game against the Alberta (later to be Edmonton) Oilers on February 25, 1973, Nationals trainer Peter Unwin found a halfeaten cob of corn in the corridor outside the team’s dressing room.

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Unwin picked up the odd discard and tossed it to Gavin Kirk, telling him it was a good-luck charm. Kirk kept it at his stall for no particular reason, but that night the Nationals beat the Oilers, thanks to a lucky goal. Before their next game, against Cleveland, Kirk had a special ceremony all ready. He had kept the cob tucked inside one of his gloves. Before going onto the ice, he removed it, got six players to touch it, and then took one kernel from the cob and tossed it to teammate Ken Stephanson.

Kirk and the Nationals used this ritual for twelve of the team’s final thirteen regular season games, winning every time. Their only loss, to Los Angeles, happened when they didn’t perform their superstitious ritual. The team made it into the playoffs despite losing the final two games of the regular season.

That’s where the cob-ian luck ended. They lost 4-1 to the New England Whalers in the first round of the playoffs, and Kirk sent the cob whence it came, to the trash.

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