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Sid Sets the Tone for Superstitions

The Penguins as a whole have a reputation for being a team that sticks tight to routines - and No. 87 admits that probably stems from him

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

How would Sidney Crosby characterize himself when it comes to being superstitious?

"I'm up there, I think," he grinned.

That may be a bit of an understatement, as the captain has become hilariously notorious around both the locker room and the league for his superstitious tendencies, which was evidenced by a story that former Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet told during a pregame broadcast on TNT earlier this season.

"I bought a brand-new $1,800 blue suit for the playoffs when we won the Cup," Tocchet said. "Halfway through, Sid pulls me off the bus. He goes 'Tocc, you know that blue suit you've been wearing? You're 0-2 with it. Please put it in the closet.' Never wore it again."

Tweet from @NHLPA: Consistent with his pregame rituals as well as his play, the notoriously superstitious Sidney Crosby led the pack as the @penguins captain was voted ahead of more than 100 other players who seem to have their own gameday superstitions. #NHLPAPlayerPoll

That's certainly the definition of a superstition, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief." We'd be here all day if we listed all of Crosby's, but he isn't the only player - or coach! - on the Penguins who has one or two (or more) of those.

Mike Sullivan said if the team is winning games, especially at home, he'll keep listening to the same Spotify playlist every time he heads to the arena.

"It's not always the same playlist, but if we have some success, I stay with it," the Penguins bench boss said with a chuckle. "I try to ride it for as long as I can to see if we can keep it going. So, I guess that might be a small superstition."

That superstition depends on the situation, but one that Evgeni Malkin has been doing consistently for the past 10 years is softly shooting a puck off head athletic trainer Chris Stewart's foot right before he is the last player to leave the ice following warmups.

"All I can remember is I happened to be on the ice after warmups one day and he happened to hit me in the foot with a puck, and it hurt," Stewart recalled with a laugh. "That night, he had a good game, and from then on, I was on the ice after warmups until he shot a puck off my foot."

Before that happens, Jake Guentzel does something that the fans get a kick out of. He gets checked (again, softly) by a teammate into the boards and spins once in one direction, then spins three times back the other way. It started during the forward's rookie season, and he's done it ever since.

"(Former teammate) Scott Wilson hit me one time, and I just kind of did it," Guentzel said. "We ended up winning the game. I just kind of stuck with it. Bryan Rust took (the hitting part) over. I'm sure I get a lot of weird looks when new fans come. It's just a good laugh and to see some of the faces who think it's kind of weird and kind of cool."

Meanwhile, Rust always has to have a bag of peanut M&M's before a game. Tristan Jarry likes to have a Bubly sparkling water on his way to the rink. Zach Aston-Reese has to walk around all of the handicap spots. And Jason Zucker's superstition comes in the form of a watch that his grandfather gave him back when he was still a teenager. The Las Vegas native always makes sure to put it on before coming to the rink.

"He says it helps me score goals," Zucker said with a smile. "I had to adjust it a little bit over the years, add some links, but I've worn it to every game since I was 14."

The Penguins forward is very particular, which he said mostly stems from his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Zucker explained that a lot of his tendencies tend to be taken as superstition, when really, it's just that he needs to have things a certain way. 

"I was actually talking about that with Chad Ruhwedel. He noticed a couple things like the way I tie my skates, and I was like, that has nothing to do with superstition, but looking at that, it has to be perfect," Zucker said. "It's not like if I tie it wrong, I'm not going to score - it's that I need to fix it because I don't like looking at it that way. That's more how I am myself."

While Mike Matheson may not have OCD, when he was younger, the defenseman would get so caught up in his superstitions that it was almost crippling.

"I used to have so many but found that they almost started getting in the way, so I've tried to move away from them," Matheson said. "I do tape my stick, and once I tape my stick, the blade can't touch the ground until I'm on the ice. That's my one straight-up superstition (laughs). 

"But for the most part, I just have little routine-type things that I end up doing the same thing leading up to a game, but it's not necessarily because I feel like it's a superstition. It's just I know that that works to get warmed up and ready for the game."

And one of the things Crosby enjoys the most about each new season is seeing how the players figure out how to make their own individual routines work within the structure of everything that goes on during a practice or a game day.

"You got a pretty big group, and everybody likes to do certain things," said Crosby, who kneels down to tie his skates during warmups - a routine his teammates joined during his 1,000th game last season - and stickhandling through the McDonald's Golden Arches. "I think when you play on a team long enough, you find a way to do your own stuff within the structure of the team stuff. So it's always fun when guys are feeling that out."

Tweet from @penguins: D��j�� vu.

Though maybe not so much for the newbies. During John Marino's first NHL season back in 2019-20, he and fellow rookie, former Penguin Sam Lafferty, adopted a mantra that helped them navigate through it all: just go to the front of wherever they were and sit. 

"You don't want to step on anybody's toes," Marino said with a laugh. 

From the outside, it may look like chaos, but for the players, it's controlled chaos. "Everybody knows where everybody is at a certain point in time if it's a game day," defenseman Marcus Pettersson said.

Overall, it's really no surprise that the Penguins as a whole have a reputation for being a pretty superstitious team that sticks tight to routines - and No. 87 admits that may stem from him.

"I might bring it out in guys, you know?" Crosby said with a laugh. "They start spending time around me, they might pick up a few themselves. Or they might stay away from it depending on how they look at it. But it's one of those things that it's fun to see those things develop, especially when you have new guys come to the team. You don't talk about it. It doesn't need to be discussed. It just kind of develops and happens."

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