Hard hats, shovels, fedoras mark signs of respect

Friday, 10.21.2011 / 2:45 PM NHL.com
What do a jacket, a hat, a belt and a shovel have in common? No, they aren't what you need to be fashionable while doing some digging. They are actually symbols of respect bestowed upon hockey players following an excellent performance.

The Boston Bruins had their famous vintage Starter jacket that was given out to a worthy player following victories during their run to the Stanley Cup last season. After Nathan Horton was knocked out of the Final by a hit from Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome during Game 3, the Bruins went on to win. The jacket hung in Horton's locker following the game.

It culminated during the team's home opener this season, when Mark Recchi, who retired during the offseason, wore the jacket on the ice during the celebration. It would be the last time the jacket would be used by the Bruins.

During last year's installment of "24/7," a hard hat was in the spotlight in the Washington Capitals' locker room. The tradition of giving it to the player who worked the hardest was started by former captain Chris Clark during the 2008-09 season. The hat doesn't necessarily go to the player who had a big offensive game, something that makes receiving it a little more special for the pluggers and grinders on a team.

Also during "24/7," it was revealed the Pittsburgh Penguins have a nearly identical prize -- a shovel. Just like with the Caps' hard hat, the shovel went to the player that worked the hardest in that game and was bestowed upon him by the player who had won the award most recently.

Following Thursday night's 5-2 win against the Flyers, Alex Ovechkin received the hat thanks to his two-goal performance.

The New York Rangers started their own tradition while in Europe to open this season. Brad Richards purchased a fedora -- not exactly as rugged as a hard hat -- and it's been circulating throughout the locker room in the early part of the season. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist wore it during television interviews following his 40-save shutout against the Canucks on Tuesday.

The Chicago Blackhawks had a championship boxing belt that was passed around during their run to the Stanley Cup. While Richards was the catalyst for the fedora, defenseman Brent Seabrook purchased the belt while in Phoenix that year to get things started.

But perhaps what the Nashville Predators are doing with this tradition this season is the most heartfelt and special way to do it.

Wade Belak spent three seasons with the Predators before announcing his retirement at the end of last season. He was set to become an analyst on the Predators TV broadcasts this season, but Belak died during the summer.

To honor his memory, the team is using the helmet Belak wore as a volunteer firefighter as a member of the Williamson County Fire and Rescue Squad as its postgame trophy.

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