Fourteen garbage bags full of hats were taken off the ice in Philadelphia last night after Wayne Simmonds completed his hat trick in a win over the Rangers. It’s a fabulous hockey tradition that got its start in 1946 when a hat salesman challenged an NHL player to score three goals.
The flood of hundreds of hats to the ice after Wayne Simmonds scored his third goal In Philadelphia’s 5-2 win over the New York Rangers Tuesday brought a flood of memories to the time I interviewed the man responsible for coming up with the hat trick. Sammy Taft was 79 and still running a haberdashery in Toronto when I visited him in 1992 for an article in The Hockey News. He told me some fascinating stories of the good old days when men dressed in high fashion and topped things off with a quality hat. Hundreds of framed photos adorned his walls, showing him posing with celebrity athletes, actors and politicians. He also had a fine collection of hats that sadly, were stuck in the past, no longer able to compete with the mesh and foam and a diminishing number of walking dandies. I wanted to hear about the hat trick and if it was true he coined the expression. I soon realized I was talking to a legend and it was tough leaving that store. Sammy Taft died a couple years later in 1994. One of his last public interviews, here’s the article that appeared in the Oct. 16, 1992 edition of The Hockey News.
Senators mascot Sammy Taft later put the hat in hat trick
The Ottawa Senators don’t have an official mascot for their first season back in the NHL. If they took any stock in the posterity, they may want to give 79-year-old Sammy Taft a call.
Taft was the Senators’ mascot when the old club won the Stanley Cup in 1927. But he didn’t have to dance around like the Minnesota North Stars’ cheerleaders or be wild and crazy like the San Diego chicken.
The extent of his duties as Senators’ mascot was simple.
“Back then a mascot was a good luck charm,” Taft said. “Whenever King Clancy or Alex Connell slipped me a dime, I had to go to the grocery store and pick up chewing tobacco and oranges for all the players. I guess it was better luck when I went for them.”
Taft was just 13 when the Senators won the Stanley Cup, but his greatest contribution to the game wouldn’t come until the 1940s when he had grown up to become a popular haberdasher in Toronto.
The Chicago Blackhawks were in Toronto to play the Maple Leafs one night in 1946 when Blackhawk winger Alex Kaleta stopped in at Sammy Taft: World Famous Hatter before the game to have a hat put aside for him,
“There was no rhyme or reason to it. I just, for some reason, said ‘you go out there and score three goals tonight and I’ll give you the hat’,” Taft said. “Sure enough, he went out there and knocked in three goals.”
That was the start of the hat trick tradition. From that moment on, every player scoring three goals in one game at Maple Leaf Gardens received a hat courtesy the World Famous Hatter. Taft stopped giving out hats for hat tricks in the mid-1950s, but the term has struck ever since.
Taft is recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame as coining the phrase ‘Hat trick.’
“All the players wore hats in those days so it was a big treat for them,” Taft said. “It was a big treat for me too.”
Taft’s most famous presentation came in 1952 when Bill Mosienko of Chicago scored a natural hat trick in 21 seconds. That’s still the record for the fastest hat trick in NHL history.
Nearing his 80th birthday, Taft still operates his hat store in Toronto and has no plans to retire. “I feel good and enjoy talking to people about the hat-trick business,” he said. “A lot of people just come in and want to look at old photos of the players and their hats. I love to have them.”
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN