The good old days are so called because they were very good, indeed, and because they occurred a long time ago. The superstition of Hall of Famer Stan Mikita is from an era long gone and a time long past, yet it evokes that era and time so perfectly that we are thankful to have had such a superstition to chronicle.
Chicago players make their way down the stairs from the ice to the dressing room.
Mikita always enjoyed a final puff of his cigarette on the walk up to ice level.
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First, a bit of history is required. Mikita played every one of his 22 seasons and 1,394 regular-season games with Chicago, facts alone that attest to the good old days. He is also one of a small group of players to have skated in the NHL in four decades, having made his debut in 1959 and retired in 1980.
In his era, many players smoked socially, and many among that group enjoyed a mischievous puff in the toilet during intermissions. It was not uncommon to look into the bathroom of the dressing room and see the door closed, skates on the floor, and plumes of smoke rising from behind.
Now, another interesting feature of the era was the Chicago Stadium. It had a loud pipe organ to urge fans to clap and cheer on the hometown Black Hawks, and it also had a strange architectural feature in that stairs led players from the ice down to their dressing rooms. Almost as soon as they left the playing surface, they’d have to walk down a flight of stairs in skates.
These back stories explain Mikita’s superstition. He liked to have a cigarette in the corridor leading to the ice before every period, and just as he started to climb the stairs he’d toss the butt over his left shoulder. In this way did he feel relaxed and ready to play the next period of hockey.