The Washington Capitals’ first game in the 2019 playoffs is tonight. I’m fine. I’m totally fine. Everything is FiNe. I’m in bed, wearing a Nashville Predators shirsey, with a cup of tea (in a Colorado Avalanche mug), with a Washington Capitals fleece blanket on my bed. I’m watching ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, if that makes me seem any more normal.
I’ve followed (and played) sports for a long old time but I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a sport associated with as many superstitions as hockey (though I do recall that Goran Ivanisevic had some very specific routines during successful tournaments). Alex Prewitt’s article about Jack Eichel’s game day routine is a must-read, when it comes to the, ah, eccentricities of hockey players.
It’s not just the players, of course. It’s also the fans. I’m not saying I’m superstitious but I am saying that I slept through the two games that the Washington Capitals lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets last year, and when I did my best to stay awake for the subsequent games, the Capitals vastly improved. (Yes, you’re welcome, Caps fans.) To that end, I asked some hockey fans on Twitter if they’d fill out a questionnaire about their playoff habits.
Nearly sixty people responded, including twenty-six Capitals fans, ten Avalanche fans, and then a spread of Penguins, Stars, Golden Knights, Jets, Leafs and Hurricanes fans, with a few lonely Bolts and Isles fans in there for good measure.
First up, was the confirmation bias. Over 60% of fans felt their teams approached the playoffs with relative comfort, while 36% were made to feel the heat. Largely looking at the Avs fans in the room, but at least you guys didn’t have to wait till game 82 this time, huh?
I then asked people how far they honestly thought that their team could go this year, from a first round exit (just happy to be here) to the Stanley Cup itself (brb, looking for a fountain). A twitter user pointed out that the question was, potentially, a jinx so I added in a sixth option: I can neither confirm nor deny my feelings on the matter because this question is, itself, a jinx. Surprising precisely no one, 53% of respondents chose this answer. I am, however, pretty impressed at the number of Caps fans who believe the team can defend their championship. Look how far we’ve come, you guys!!
The lone Lightning fan also believes that their team can go all the way and, honestly, I don’t blame any Bolts fan. That’s a solid team, down in Tampa Bay, even if I sincerely hope the Caps repeat.
Moving into the realm of routine and habit, I asked everyone if they’d be watching their team’s games, and three quarters of respondents are going to be watching every game, even though one person will not be watching, for fear of jinxing their team. The remaining quarter are willing to change up their viewing habits, depending on how their team performs.
It’s interesting, too, to see who people would root for, if their primary team is eliminated. The San Jose Sharks, the Nashville Predators, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes are all pretty popular ‘second’ teams, as are the Colorado Avalanche.
Finally, I asked respondents whether they had any particular superstitions, when it came to watching their teams in the playoffs. A very confident twelve people said that they had no routines for playoffs (one person said that to have a routine was a jinx and I am not going to argue with that solid logic).
The most common superstitions revolve around clothing. Over twenty respondents had items of clothing they would definitely wear, although a few people are ready and willing to change it up in the case of consecutive losses. Speaking for myself, my Burakovsky jersey achieved great things last year so I can relate to this.
My favourite superstitions are the ones relating to specific game routine. One person has to watch the game alone downstairs, while their son watches upstairs and their husband goes to bed after the first period. Honestly, I admire this family’s commitment. Another person replied to say that their father does the dishes specifically from the last half of the first period right through for most of the second period. I can only imagine that every dish in the place is sparkling, which sounds like a win-win situation for me.
For some people, it’s what they drink (Mountain Dew, or specific beer), what they drink from ,or what they don’t drink (no alcohol when Lehner is in goal, for example).
For other people, it’s what they listen to: I’d love to hear more about people’s specific playoff playlists. I have recently resurrected my #ALLCAPS playlist from last season. If nothing else, it reminds me of the good times.
One of my personal favourites is the #CapsCuties hashtag on Twitter. Created by (I believe) Elyse Bailey last year, it’s a dastardly plot to distract opposing teams from their task by demonstrating how hecking adorable and gorgeous Caps fans are. Real talk, for a moment, it’s the kind of habit I can get behind because it’s positive and it’s fun and, ultimately, that’s when playoffs are the most enjoyable.
It can be so difficult to enjoy the post-season when rivalries get too mean, or too personal. I’ve learned well enough that I can’t really talk hockey with my Penguins-supporting friends, especially if they’re playing against the Capitals, because it is nigh on impossible to be measured about even the most innocuous on-ice encounters (and they are seldom innocuous during playoffs).
Everything is suddenly very personal during playoffs. I definitely recommend finding your people, enjoying your routines and looking for the positives (and hopefully those positives will come in the form of a large silver cup and celebratory fountains).