ORDER OF DRESS NHL

Every player does it. Every player acknowledges its importance. So how can this be a superstition? Isn’t it just a habit? No.

Ask any player and he’ll tell you he dresses either left-right or right-left. That is, he puts on left shin pad, right shin pad. Left elbow pad, right. Left skate, right. Everything left to right (or right to left).

What’s interesting about this superstition is that it is unalterable. When they are in a slump, players will change sticks, sweater numbers, skates even, but they won’t ever change the order of getting dressed. Putting equipment on is the fundamental first step of playing the game. Each player has his own method, and each method started when he was a small boy. That is the superstition of getting dressed in a particular way.

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That comfort and familiarity, that childhood reference point, allows the player to relax. It gives him the confidence that he knows what he’s doing because he’s done it countless times before. It makes him comfortable because it’s something he can do by rote, without thinking. Anyone who has ever tied a skate too tight or tightened an elbow pad too much knows how uncomfortable equipment can be.

To change the order of getting dressed almost feels like wearing someone else’s equipment. It feels strange to put on the right skate first if you’ve always put on the left one first. And strange is not a good feeling for a hockey player. Familiar is what he wants. He wants his equipment to feel like house clothes. Guy Lafieur used to say he felt his skates were like slippers. Bobby Orr always went barefoot when playing (as did countless kids of the next generation, trying to emulate the great number 4).

In the end, the superstition can be boiled down to this. By dressing in a particular way, a player feels the most comfortable, and this, in turn, will allow him to play his best. That is the essence of all superstitions.

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