By Nancy Henderson
Halloween approaches and what better time than the spooky season to ask the Vancouver Canucks about their hockey superstitions?
Unfortunately, getting the players to open up about this subject is as difficult as bringing Dr. Frankenstein's monster to life during an L.A. brown-out. They will reluctantly talk about following specific, repeated practices that are "just part of the game." Just don't call them superstitions.
"I don't have any" proclaims Trevor Linden as he dresses post-practice, pulling on a sock. "I used to have them but I don't anymore." Trevor and Markus Naslund - locker room neighbours - then attempt to tease the truth from one another.
Naslund quietly jokes that Linden likes to hole-up in his room the night before the game. "That's not a superstition, it's just a habit" retorted the NHL veteran, who then tries to get the captain to come clean - "Markus, tell what you do in your stall". But Markus reveals nothing further about himself or his teammates. "Maybe," Linden summarizes, "it's a superstition for players not to talk about their superstitions."
"I think it's a burden to have something and always feeling like you have to do whatever it is," says Naslund.
Second-year Canuck, Josh Green agrees.
"I just have a routine, like a game routine, that I go through and it's something I've done ever since I was playing in junior. I just put my left stuff on first - left skate, left glove, set my stick in the same area before the game."
"I think if you get into too many of them (routines) you're more liable to miss something. Then when you're out on the bench you think about it and it bothers you".
Green confesses that his most superstitious team-mate was current Phoenix Coyote, Georges Laraque.
"He had something going with every player - a special handshake with one guy or a high five with another guy and he had to do it or I don't even think he could play."
What about Georges' routine with Green?
"We would just do a handshake and he would tap me on my shin pads before we went out. He used to whisper in guy's ears (including Mike Comrie). I don't even know what he was saying. Everyone was fine with it - it was their routine too, to do something with Georges."
Newly acquired goalie Dany Sabourin agrees that netminders are often among the most superstitious players, but only admits to needing the same water bottle on the same place on the net, and to getting up to go out onto the ice at the same time on the clock.
He's never broken it, so he's not quite sure what tragedy might befall the team.
Rory Fitzpatrick claims to "never intertwine my superstitions with anyone else's," but that's apparently not the case for Manitoba Moose graduates Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa, who share a routine before hitting the ice.
"We do a little low high-five and I always go out before him" explains Kesler. "I don't know how to explain it. We've got something going there."
Bieksa succeeded in tallying his first NHL goal and enjoyed a three point night against the San Jose Sharks on unlucky Friday the 13th, so perhaps the routine is working.
Kesler's eager to dish the dirt on team-mate Alex Burrows, who's towelling his hair from a few feet away.
"I know Burr likes to wear pink panties," says a chuckling Kesler. Burrows rolls his eyes.
Sadly, Burrows only admits to a much more mundane game-day routine. "I come to practice, then have lunch - pasta and chicken normally, and a little bit of ice cream. Then I have a nap."
Not exactly the stuff of Halloween nightmares.
Though Willie Mitchell, grinning mischievously, does jump right in to mentioning unmentionables.
"I have these garters I wear underneath my gear - and you should see Markus' nylons he wears."
Unlike his team-mates, newly returned B.C. boy Mitchell is willing to open up about his superstitions.
"I've got a few once I'm on the ice but not really before the game. I'm a guy who likes to be loose and have a good time in the locker room and not over think the game."
Mitchell does have a routine getting dressed: "I put my skates on first - not a lot of guys do that. It's my first piece of equipment I put on."
Once on the ice, the routine kicks into a frenetic high gear.
"I don't know, it's weird but I always give the crossbar a tap, then the left post, then I go into the left corner and tap the line, circle around and come back, tap the crossbar, right post, then the right corner, skate off to the bench and then I usually give the boards a couple of taps over there. It's kind of like my thing, o.k. game on, let's go! It turns the switch on."
Mitchell, an avid angler, is even more willing to share fishing superstitions. Of course he has lucky lures - "I have this thing called a Super Dodger Release and the thing looks like a Harley fender. It's my go-to." It doesn't end there. "I've got lucky shoes. I've had the things for 12 or 15 years - yellow lucky fishing shoes. I didn't have them when me and Brendan fished in Vernon at training camp and we didn't do that well and I know it was because I didn't have my shoes."
Traditionally it's thought to be bad luck to wish actors good luck inside a theatre dressing room. If fact, 'break-a-leg' is the established send-off. Not so in the locker room where fractured limbs are more likely.
"We don't like the 'break-a-legs,' that's for sure", says Mitchell. "No, 'good luck' is fine, absolutely."
So without placing any other-worldly hexes on them, we can safely wish the team good luck in their October 31st tilt against what seems like an appropriate Halloween opponent, the Nashville Predators.
Good luck, absolutely.