Superstitions rise to this status by virtue of their success. No one maintains superstitions that lead to demotions, failed careers, and lousy results. Those are the habits that are quickly replaced.

Peter Bondra, whose outstanding goal-scoring abilities took a back seat to those of precious few players during his career, had a superstition that became a vital part of his success. And, like most goal scorers, the superstition had to do with his sticks.

Bondra retired in 2007 having had an impact in both the NHL and the international game, for his native Slovakia. In the case of the former, he scored 503 career goals and twice led the league in this statistic (thirty-four in 1994-95 and fifty-two in 1997-98) before the introduction of the Rocket Richard Trophy. Bondra played the vast majority of his seventeen pro seasons with the Washington Capitals and settled near D.C. after his playing days were over. This despite having scored the most important goal in Slovakian history.

PETER BONDRA Photo Gallery

That came in 2002 at the World Championship when he had the game winner with 1:40 left in the third period of the gold-medal game against Russia. The historic victory was the new country’s first gold since declaring independence from the Czechs in 1993 and was, for his country, of the same magnitude as Paul Henderson’s goal for Canada at the 1972 Summit Series.

Bondra’s superstition was straightforward. For the pre-game skate he would use five sticks. Numbering them, he would decide which one felt like his “game stick” and begin the first period with it. If he scored, he’d keep using it. If he grew restless, he’d put it aside and try another number. Ironically, one of Bondra’s greatest accomplishments came the night of February 5, 1994, when he scored five goals in a single game. No word on what number stick he used, but all five likely came using the same twig.

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