REFEREES ARE PEOPLE, TOO NHL

Players aren’t the only ones on the ice, and they’re not the only ones expected to perform to the best of their ability. The pace and quality of the game is often dictated by the quality of the officiating, and referees also have to prepare if they are to be at their best.

The officiating crew always arrives at the arena as a group, with security, and they all do various things to prepare for a game. They skate more than any player all night, so they have to stretch, work out the kinks, and be mentally ready for anything. Like players, they also have a game-day meal in the early afternoon, followed by a nap.

They also dress left to right or right to left, as they have all of their career, but they don’t have sticks and don’t have as much opportunity to be superstitious. Their job is to perform so well that the fans don’t even know they’re out there.

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In the days before Plexiglas, when there was fencing that extended only in each zone not even to the blue lines, referees were very superstitious about one thing in particular. They would never jump up and sit on the dasher if play got too close to them. On more than one occasion a little old lady with a hat pin would poke such a ref in the butt or smack him on the head with a newspaper (which hurts like hell for those who have never experienced such a smack), and as a result, it was good practice, and superstition, to avoid the dasher and have a good game.

In the television era, the referee who dropped the puck to start the game always had a superstition of signalling to the camera for his family watching at home. The ref knew that in those few moments before he dropped the puck the camera was fully focused on him while the play-by-play man announced the officiating crew. The ref would touch the collar of his sweater, flip the puck in the air, wink, or do something visual so that wife and kids would be able to know he was thinking of them. It was their good-luck charm, their final preparation to ensure that they had a good game.

SUPERSTITIONS ON AIR

Broadcasters can be superstitious as well, particularly when it comes to saying anything that might jinx the home team (or the team affiliated with the broadcaster). The most common example is a shutout for a goalie. If the home team is winning by a shutout early in the third period, the commentators will not refer to the goalie’s shutout bid or anything associated with it (i.e., the number of shutouts the goalie has this season or in his career). Conversely, if the opposing goalie has a shutout going, the commentators won’t hesitate to mention the fact, hoping to get their team a goal.

This superstition can carry weight for anything important a big win, a record, an historic event of some sort.

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