SAN JOSE, CALIF.—The first rule about having superstitions is to not to refer to them as being superstitions.
They’re called routines, in case you were curious.
“Superstition has this stigma about it,” San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane said. “Superstitions are fine. Everybody has them, whether they admit it or not.”
The Sharks had won six games in a row going into Tuesday’s home date against the Edmonton Oilers, going from a team that was at the bottom of the Western Conference standings to one that had rejoined the pack in the bunched-up Pacific Division.
There are a few reasons why: tighter defence, increased scoring, good special teams, timely saves. But believing in superstition to switch up the mojo isn’t one of them, they insist. Their routines are ingrained.
“I think everybody has their routine already. Maybe they switched something up, but I don’t notice it too much,” winger Patrick Marleau said. “I just try to keep doing the same thing, be consistent all year long.
“But I’m sure there’s guys that, once a win streak starts, they went to a certain place after, or pre-game, (and) they just keep going back. I think that stuff does happen.”
Doing something out of the ordinary to spark a turnaround hasn’t been out of the question in the past for the Sharks.
Former Sharks forward T.J. Galiardi told the podcast Spittin’ Chiclets that, when the team was on a losing streak during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, he jokingly taped prewrap around his head before a game. He later went into the trainer’s room and saw Joe Thornton, who noticed some loose strands of Galiardi’s hair sticking out. Thornton snipped off a good chunk of the protruding locks.
The Sharks won that night, and kept winning. Suddenly, a new tradition of cutting off a little bit of hair from an unfortunate player’s head — usually Galiardi’s — was born. It reached a point that after a playoff win over the Los Angeles Kings in 2013, Thornton, according to Galiardi, snipped off a bit of hair from owner Hasso Plattner’s head.
“So it started off with one guy and he would pick the player of the game,” Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “Then that player would get to cut Galiardi’s hair.
“If you win, you get to clip it. I guess it was the incentive just to cut the guy’s hair. It was always T.J.’s hair, and he had a lot of it.”
During the 2003-04 season, general manager Doug Wilson would share a pizza with two beat writers assigned to cover the team before games, including one from The Mercury News. He would then sit between them in the press box during games.
The routine started early in the season when the team was struggling. That season ended with the Sharks advancing to their first Western Conference final.
“I didn’t know that about Doug, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. “I know what our coaching staff goes through just in regards to some of that stuff.”
DeBoer said when the Sharks go on the road, he and his staff will remember “what desk we sat the last time we were at if we’re on a win streak Or, if we lost last time in, we’ll shuffle the deck.
“It’s ridiculous, but I think everybody does it.”
When he’s at home and has a free night during the season, Sharks centre Tomas Hertl said he’ll usually walk to a bakery after dinner for a cupcake. It’s a habit he began last season, and he went on to have a career year. There was simply no need to change things this year.
“It started last year and it worked all season,” Hertl said, “so it kind of got into (my routine).”
Kane said he’s worn the same watch to every home game this season. Entering Tuesday, he had 10 points in 10 games at SAP Center.
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“I have two new sticks before every game as well,” Kane said. “Routines, superstitions. That’s more a superstition than anything. I like to have a fresh stick, so I know everything is brand new, ready to go.”
Bottom line, if a player thinks he’s playing well because of whatever quirky off-ice or pre-game habits they might have, then so be it. Right now, the Sharks are on a pretty good roll.
“It’s definitely a mental thing,” DeBoer said. “Whether it’s a reset because you’ve lost and you change things, or you want to keep things going the right way, so you want to make sure you keep that routine.”