November 20, 2008
"So I'm in the Penguins locker room, which is about the size of a port-a-potty, and get chastised for stepping on the logo in the carpet.
"Some equipment guy or PR flak comes up to me and says, 'Can you please not step on the Penguin?'
"Well, if it's alive I'll try not to step on the penguin. Or was some symbol representing something more important than a sports team.
"Are you kidding me? Wow."
He apparently didn't get the memo that the team logo on the floor of the locker room is absolutely sacred.
Frank from PensBurgh sums up the significance of such traditions:
"It's been said before but I'll say it again - hockey is a sport founded on tradition. Players and teams take it to heart. That's just how it goes and any writer should know that. Maybe there's a sign on the way to the concourse that all players tap on the way out to the ice. Something like, "It's a great day for hockey" or "Play like champions today." A glove tap on the way out, no matter the actual significance, flicks the switch from "game off" to "game on."
Even kids in junior hockey know the deal, like Lewiston Maineiacs' Erik Gelinas noted in his blog this week on TheHockeyNews.com:
"Our team president recently had the MAINEiacs logo installed in the middle of the dressing room floor. Everyone in hockey knows not to step on the dressing room logo. Last week, the team's public relations director came into the dressing room to talk to me. He didn't even see the logo had been installed. He walked right over it and the whole team flipped out. He offered to pay his $10 fine with some Canadian money that he had left over from a team road trip, but we let him slide."
Hell, even one of Shipley's colleagues, Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated, wrote an entire article on the subject a year ago. While, as Farber notes, teams like the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings may not have a rule like this in their locker room, it's a general tradition among teams throughout National Hockey League.
Though some writers like Farber and the Washington Post's Tarik El-Bashir may see it as a silly superstition among hockey players, it also boils down to respecting the sanctity of the locker room, which is the players' home while at the rink.
If someone writing about the sport of hockey cannot respect the traditions of those that they are covering, how can they ever really respect the game itself?