Ask any hockey fan who has been present in the arena when a hat trick is achieved, and they’ll tell you the magic and energy that’s produced. Hundreds of hats are thrown down on the rink to celebrate the achievement – which is when one player scores three goals in a single game.
While that’s a moment to remember, for both players and fans, what happens to the hats thrown on the ice after a hat trick? Do they get swept away and thrown out? Do the original owners go to some sort of lost and found to pick it up again?
What happens to the hats thrown on the ice after a hat trick in hockey?
In hockey, a hat trick is one of the rare achievements that athletes hope to add to their list of accomplishments. Similar to basketball’s triple-double achievement or a baseball no-hitter or grand slam, the hat trick is hard to attain. And it’s heavily celebrated when it is.
One of the greatest players of the game, Wayne Gretzky, is seen one of the greatest partly because he’s got an impressive hat trick record. In his professional hockey career, he’s had 50 hat tricks, which includes 37 three-goal games, nine four-goal games, and four five-goal games.
The moment is special for players and their organizations. And it’s a wildly fun moment for fans in attendance, too. When a player scores two goals, everyone waits in anticipation hoping that that third goal will happen.
When the player does score that third goal and officially hit the hat trick mark, the decades-long tradition sets off. Suddenly hats start raining onto the rink from fans watching in the arena. The hats are quickly swept up before the players take the ice again.
It seems to be all over in an instant and if you’ve ever wondered what happens to those hats that are tossed, you’re not alone. But there’s not one answer that fits for every hockey team.
Some arenas give the hats that were tossed to the player who scored the three goals. Sometimes the player will choose one of the hats to keep as a memento of their accomplishment. Other times the team collects the hats, chooses the ones that aren’t too damaged and get them cleaned to go to charity.
There are a few hockey teams, like the Columbus Blue Jackets, a professional team from Columbus, Ohio, that collect all the hats and display them. Their home arena has all the hats tossed from the team’s first official hat trick which happened in 2001.
The origin of the tradition to throw hats on the rink when a hat trick is achieved isn’t clear.
Like many traditions, there are a few different theories on where the hats thrown onto the rink originated from. It’s said to stem from local businessmen handing out fedoras to players nearly 100 years ago.
Yahoo! Sports says the tradition of throwing hats on the rink originated in the 1970s. It became such a big part of celebrations during hat tricks that the National Hockey League (NHL) amended its rulebook to remove penalty to the home team.
The amendment now says that “articles thrown onto the ice following a special occasions (like a hat trick) will not result in a bench minor penalty being assessed” which would typically be given to the home team because of the delay of the game.