What Is A Hat Trick In Hockey?

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A hat trick is when one player scores three goals during one game. It’s typically marked by increased tempo and excitement. Celebrations often continue on the ice by both teammates and the crowd. 

Hockey fans love it so much that it has become a tradition to throw hats on the ice after a player scores their third goal, even in games in which modern safety standards would not allow it. The term hat trick has also been used about winning three consecutive or three total games.

The official NHL definition of a hat trick is when one player scores three goals in one game. This does not mean that the team cannot score more goals; just that the player scoring three goals is getting celebrated. A hat trick is like a grand slam in baseball for a batter or a touchdown in football for a passing quarterback. 

Historical Perspective On The Hat Trick In Hockey

The word ‘Hat Trick’ finds its roots in a cricket match. This was where a hat trick occurred for the first time. 

In 1858, at Hyde Park Cricket Grounds in Sheffield, bowler H.H. Stephenson, playing for an all-England squad, took three successive wickets against a Hallam team. 

In three consecutive swings, he struck the wooden stakes behind the batter. To recognize Stephenson’s achievements, a hat was purchased with the proceeds from a collection and presented to him. 

As hockey fans know it, a player’s hat trick comes when he scores three goals in a game. If he is on the home team, fans will usually throw hats on ice as well.

So, now the question arises – how did hat trick become popular in hockey?

Well, the story goes something like this –

During the 1930s and early 1940s, a Toronto businessman named Sammy Taft offered hats to any Toronto player who scored three goals during an NHL game. 

The Chicago Black Hawk’s speedy forward Alex Kaleta (two words at the time) went into Taft’s shop on Jan. 26, 1946. The story says he liked a fedora but didn’t have enough money to buy it. Taft offered Kaleta the hat if Kaleta scored three goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs that night.

What happened next? Kaleta ended up scoring four goals in a 6-5 loss at Maple Leaf Gardens. He got the hat and a lot of media attention, which contributed to the term ‘hat trick’ to popularise.

What Is A Natural Hat Trick?

As you must’ve guessed, this is a slightly different event than the regular hat trick. 

Three consecutive goals is a natural hat trick. 

A player may have four goals in a game, but if they are scored two at a time, that does not count as a natural hat trick. A natural hat trick is the same as an actual hat trick — it is still only counted if the player scores three goals consecutively in one game.

What Is A Double Hat Trick In Hockey?

Just as the name suggests, a double hat trick essentially means a single player records two hat tricks in a single game. For example, a player could record three goals in the first and third periods, and it would count as a double hat trick.

Another way a double hat trick occurs is when two players on the same team score three goals in the same game. Each player would be credited with a hat trick, and the team would’ve scored a double hat trick.

What Do They Do With The Hats From A Hat Trick?

Fans throw hats onto the ice when a player scores his third goal and records a hat trick, making for one of the most beautiful sights. The game is paused while officials scramble to collect them all. This pause in action allows honoring the player who scored three goals in one game. 

What is going to happen with those hats?

Various things can happen to the hats, depending on the player and team. This usually only occurs when the home team scores a hat trick. But this does not mean that it won’t happen when the away team is scoring the hat trick.

After a hat trick, the players or the team might choose to return the hats to the fans.

Another possibility is that the team will keep the hats. Of course, if you have thousands of hats thrown onto the ice, you don’t want them all. But some NHL players like to keep a hat to remember their hat trick.

Teams can also choose to put some hats on their display as mementos. But the likeliest option is that the hats are thrown out. Although it may sound cold, it’s a sensible solution. There is no use of a thousand hats. So, giving them away or throwing them makes the most sense.

What Is A Gordie Howe Hat Trick?

Any hockey league has its own traditions, and you’re bound to run into specific circumstances that every fan knows about. 

Gordie Howe is a hockey player whose name has become a bit of a legend in the NHL. 

If a player scores a goal, gets an assist, and gets in a fight in the same game, that player is remembered as having pulled off a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick.” 

The reasoning is that fighting is almost an essential part of hockey, and Gordie’s character was such that he fought frequently. The term became more widely used after Howe passed away in 2016. 


Now, you know what a hat trick means in hockey. Traditional hockey games will usually feature a hat trick from one of the players. It’s not uncommon to see hats and other pieces of clothing thrown onto the ice in celebration. 

Hats have historically been given to players after scoring three goals, which is often done by fans throwing hats onto the ice. This has been done less and less due to safety concerns for other players on the rink in modern times. 

Cameron Wilson
Cameron Wilson
Cameron is from Ottawa and played college hockey for the Saskatchewan Huskies. He now coaches AA hockey. He is passionate about traveling, trekking, woodwork, and ethnic food. Cameron is also interested in sharing his knowledge about the beautiful game of hockey.