SPRINGTIME IS PLAYOFF TIME for both the NBA and NHL, when the games mean a little—okay, a lot—more and players have a chance to write their legacies.
It’s also a time of superstitions and traditions both in the locker room and the stands. Here’s a look at some of the best playoff traditions in sports:
1. Rally Monkey
Because who doesn’t love a cute little monkey?
Rally monkey began innocently enough back in 2002 when scoreboard operator in Anaheim played a monkey clip from Ace Venture with the word “Rally” super imposed over top. The Angels then rallied and won the game, so the monkey stayed. They eventually went on to win their only World Series in team history and so the monkey has never left. You have to wonder if he’s really that lucky since they haven’t won anything since, but again, who doesn’t love a cute little monkey?
Certainly cuter than a squirrel, am I right?
Sorry St. Louis.
2. The Terrible Towel
The Terrible Towel debuted during the 1975 NFL playoffs, and ever since it and the legions of freezing cold Steelers fans waving it have become iconic images in sport. And it is certainly one of the most hated sights in football for opposing players and fans, and the Terrible Towel and its throngs travel well.
Although the Pittsburgh Steelers were “not a gimmick team,” the Terrible Towel went on to become one of the greatest gimmicks in sports, imitated and rebranded as a “rally” towel by numerous other teams in every other major sport, making towel-waving fans the norm at playoff games. Plus if you’re lucky your lady might wear as a sexy short skirt.
3. The Playoff Beard
Itchy, natty, filthy and ratty, the beards abound come playoff time in the NHL, and shaving in spring has long been something hockey players hope to postpone.
Started by the Islanders during their dynasty in the early 1980s, hockey players have been sprouting stubble for the playoffs ever since. Some beards are better than others, to be sure, some are pitiful attempts and others downright lumberjack-ian, but no matter the quality the existence of the beard equals hope for the cup, so they’re always worn with pride and the envy to eliminated opponents.
Hockey fans even get in on the action and grow their own playoff beards, itching and scratching their way through spring while driving the ladies wild—or just driving them away.
4. The Nostalgia Train
Though a relatively new tradition, it’s a pretty neat one, and given it’s a Yankee tradition, it’s likely one to be repeated for years to come. Basically the tradition consists of the MTA rolling out an old timey four-car train—circa 1917—to carry strap-hangers from Grand Central up to Yankee Stadium for playoff games. Anyone who enjoys history, rail fanning, or nostalgia is sure to enjoy the trip, even if it’s to see the Damn Yankees!
It seems a bit unfair that the team with all the championships and big name stars also gets the coolest traditions and pomp and circumstances; but it’s the Yankees, so it wouldn’t be right to them if every other fan base didn’t feel slighted.
5. Octopus Tossing
Nothing says playoff hockey in Detroit like an octopus on the ice.
First started by a local fishmonger in 1952, Red Wings fans throw an octopus on the ice after the first Detroit goal of any playoff game—and increasingly ever Wings playoff goal.
Originally the eight tentacles represented the eight victories need to hoist the cup, and while you need to win sixteen games these days the tradition is as strong as ever. The secret is to boil them first to prevent them sticking to the ice, then you smuggle it in your pants or under your shirt, make sure you have an aisle seat, then when the wings leap up, grab your octopus mid-tentacle—grabbing by the head will make the head pop off—and toss that sucker like you’re lopping a grenade.
Oh, and bring some lemons for the smell, which, by the by, you’ll need a shower to scrub out properly.