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The Story Behind The NHL's Hat Trick Tradition


Courtesy of Michael Martin via Getty Images

Hockey is a sport that is full of history and traditions. The National Hockey League is no exception. One of the longest standing traditions in the NHL is that when a player records a hat trick, scoring three goals in a single game, fans throw their hats on the ice to celebrate the accomplishment. 


This began because of a Toronto store owner offering free hats to any player who scored three goals in games that involved the hometown team back in the 1940s. Although the first ever hat trick in the NHL was recorded on Dec. 19, 1917 by Harry Hyland against the Toronto Arenas on Dec. 18, 1917, it wasn’t until this gimmick was established that fans started throwing their hats to mark a hat trick. Since then, thousands if not millions of hats have rained down onto the ice during NHL games.


But a question that most hockey fans still wonder about is what happens to all those hats once they hit the ice and are collected? Each team has a different protocol for the hat trick hats so let’s dive into where the illustrious accessories go after the fan celebration.


Many teams collect the hats on the ice and put them on display in their home arena. The Philadelphia Flyers have a specific display in Wells Fargo Center full of a wide variety of hats that have been thrown during hat tricks. The display has had to be expanded due to how many hats have been collected over the years and the team has labels for each player and date of a hat trick. The Seattle Kraken also save some of the hats to put in a designated display at their training facility. Several other Metropolitan Division teams such as the Capitals and Blue Jackets have displays in their home barns as well. 


Another popular option that several teams participate in is donating the hats. For every hat trick that happens at Ball Arena, the Colorado Avalanche donates every hat that hits the ice along with 500 brand new ones to Denver Rescue Mission, an organization that aims to help individuals experiencing homelessness and addiction. The Montreal Canadiens save a few hats for memorabilia purposes, but donate the rest to organizations such as the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation among others. And the Minnesota Wild donates new team caps to local cancer wards to equal the number of hats that made it to the ice but can’t be donated as they are.

Courtesy of AFP

This season alone, there have been 108 hat tricks and counting which means almost every team has had the chance to see the caps rain down on the ice during a game and then follow through with their own unique protocol for the fan thrown hats. The incredible tradition that comes with a hat trick will never fade and it doesn’t matter what team you support, knowing the story behind where those many hats go is always interesting.

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