The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 24, 2008

Inside hockey’s superstitions

PITTSBURGH — Prior to each NHL game they play, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Max Talbot boxes goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Arms flail. A few jabs land.

But no one gets hurt.

The playful ritual is just another in a long line of NHL superstitions adopted inside the Penguins locker room.

“We’ve been doing that a while now,” said Fleury, who occasionally can be seen on the jumbo scoreboard TV fending off Talbot’s jabs while the Penguins wait to enter the rink from the hallway just outside the Pittsburgh locker room. “We just keep it going. We do it just before we go on the ice. It started with one, then two.”

That’s how superstitions develop.

Do something out of the ordinary once, then follow that with a good game. Do the same thing the next night. And, the next. And, so on.

“It’s a little thing I got. I guess it worked,” Talbot said of his boxing skills, which he displayed wearing street clothes during games he missed because of an injury. “We kept on doing that. Fleury’s been playing well. I think that’s why he’s been playing well. A couple jabs. Nothing more to it. We just talk. We just act a little bit, nothing too crazy.”

The Stanley Cup playoffs provide a two-month stage for one “crazy” superstition after another.

“That’s kind of the fun part of the playoffs, you see guys get into their routines and stuff that you don’t typically see during the season,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. “Guys that aren’t typically that superstitious, you start to see the same things over and over again. They’ll tell you they’re not superstitious – that they like to get in their routine – but in a way, we all like to get used to doing the same things and we don’t want to change things up.”

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