Gophers team is very superstitious

Minnesota players have pregame rituals that are a staple to success.

Minnesota defenseman Rachel Ramsey prepares to pass the puck against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.

Lisa Persson

Minnesota defenseman Rachel Ramsey prepares to pass the puck against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.

Betsy Helfand

Hockey players are notoriously superstitious, and the Gophers women’s hockey team is no exception.

Senior forward Sarah Davis said the team is “borderline crazy” with its superstitions.

“If anyone from the outside saw what we had to do before every game, we’d all be in a mental institution,” Davis said. “I’m sure of it.”

She said she’s always been superstitious, but it went to a whole new level when she got to college with game-day superstitions that start even before she gets to the rink.

Davis and her roommates — the seniors on the team — have to have coffee at a certain time before every game, she said.

And once Davis is at the rink, everything — from how she ties her skates to when she puts up her hair to what song plays when she puts on her jersey — is always the same.

Unlike Davis, junior defenseman Rachel Ramsey’s superstitions wait until she gets to the rink.

Some rituals include playing football with sophomore Brook Garzone, eating yogurt with granola and raspberries and heating her back.

Ramsey also lays claim to one of the most unique superstitions in the locker room: Before the team warm-ups, she dances to a “Jock Jams” compilation.

The dance started during her freshman year.

“It just kind of turned, slowly but surely, into the same exact motion and dance for every part of the song,” Ramsey said.

She said defenseman Mira Jalosuo used to dance with her, but Jalosuo has since graduated.

“Most people just choose to ignore me, which is probably good because I’m a horrible dancer,” Ramsey said.

Garzone said sometimes players “get in a groove” and dance with Ramsey.

“It’s pretty intense,” Garzone said. “It gets us going.”

Garzone has several superstitions herself.

She doesn’t wash her hockey socks — and won’t — even after the team’s recent loss.

“You just don’t [smell them]. You just don’t,” she said. “You just hold your breath.”

She also has a water bottle that says “jiggle juice” on it.

“It’s just water, but I act like we get it from holy water,” Garzone said. “We drink that to get us going.”

Garzone said she and sophomore forward Hannah Brandt write the number “2” on their wrists for games this year in honor of teammate Lee Stecklein, who’s playing for the U.S. national team this season.

Senior defenseman Baylee Gillanders eats one red Skittle before every period.

Ramsey said a teammate gave Gillanders Christmas-edition Skittles for last year’s Secret Santa, so Gillanders only had to remove the green Skittles.

Junior goaltender Shyler Sletta said her one superstition is not high-fiving anyone before the game. She said it started in high school when her classmates wanted to give high-fives even when they were sick.

“Everybody goes through the line and gives high-fives, and I’m standing in the back with my arms crossed under my armpits like, ‘Don’t touch me,’” Sletta said.

For many players on the team, rituals are something they take seriously. Junior forward Rachael Bona is one of those people, Davis said.

“If something is not as she wants it, she will let you know in a harsh voice,” Davis said.

Ramsey said team captain senior forward Bethany Brausen uses her superstitions to get everyone “amped.”

“[She] makes a point of connecting with every player before the game, whether it’s as simple as a handshake or [sharing] a quote … [or] a look across the locker room,” Ramsey said.

On the other end, Garzone said senior forward Kelly Terry isn’t superstitious.

“Sometimes she’ll get in the way, and you’ll see people get their angry face on,” Garzone said.

She said she’s never had teammates this superstitious.

“I came here and I’m just like, ‘Oh my God. I hope I can just stay out of the way,’” she said.

Gophers head coach Brad Frost also stays out of the way and lets players indulge in their traditions.

But Frost has a couple superstitions of his own. He said he usually takes a pregame nap in the coaches’ room and has lucky outfits he uses during big games.

When he was a player, he said, he put his gear on from left to right. That became a habit, and he said he still puts his left skate on first.

“I think it’s probably in all athletics that every athlete finds a groove that they get in from an early age,” Frost said, “and they end up doing that for the rest of their life.”

Davis said occasionally a superstition is missed and “we go into a bit of a panic.”

“Hopefully we make [up for it] with all our other superstitions,” she said.

Whatever they’ve been doing, it seems to be
working.