A hat trick is the achievement of a goal or other positive feat three times in a sport or other game, such as car racing, marbles, poker, and scrabble. To score a hat trick of hat tricks means to score three goals in each of three consecutive games.
The term “hat trick” may have been influenced by or adopted from the image of a conjurer pulling objects from his hat (mentioned in Punch magazine in 1858). The trick is done by using a top hat with a false lid or by sleight of hand. It became popular in Victorian England and the term appears many times in newspapers throughout the rest of the 1800s.
The term also appeared in 1858 in cricket, to describe H. H. Stephenson’s taking three wickets with three consecutive deliveries. Fans held a collection for Stephenson, and presented him with a hat bought with the proceeds.
In ice hockey, a hat trick culminates with fans throwing hats onto the ice from the stands. The tradition is said to have begun among fans in the National Hockey League around the 1950s. There are several conflicting legends of how the “hat trick” was popularized in professional ice hockey, but they’re all too late to be true.
On 8 December 1933, the Winnipeg Free Press describes a hockey game in which “Romeo Rivers, rugged wingman” for the Monarchs scored three goals in the same game, describing how “Romeo completed his ‘hat trick’” when he scored his third goal of the night.
By 1944, the term “hat trick” was so well established in hockey that the Winnipeg Free Press of 29 November 1944, reports that “hockey’s traditional ‘hat-trick’ — the feat of scoring three goals in a single game — will receive official recognition from the Amateur Hockey Association” of the US by awarding a small silver derby hat to players to mark the accomplishment. Thus, by 1944, the term “hat trick” was common enough to be termed “traditional.”
Wayne Gretzky holds the NHL record for the most hat tricks in a career with 50. Harry Hyland scored the league’s first hat trick, in the league’s very first game on 19 December 1917, in which Hyland’s Montreal Wanderers defeated the Toronto Arenas 10–9.
A natural hat trick occurs when a player scores three consecutive goals, uninterrupted by any other player scoring for either team. The NHL record for the fastest natural hat trick is 21 seconds, set by Bill Mosienko in 1952 for the Chicago Blackhawks.
A Gordie Howe hat trick is a tongue-in-cheek play on the feat. It is achieved by scoring a goal, getting an assist, and getting in a fight, all in the same game. Namesake Gordie Howe himself only recorded two in his NHL career, as opposed to league leader Rick Tocchet, who accrued 18 Gordie Howe hat tricks.
Then there’s the rat trick, which didn’t last long. In December 1995, Florida Panthers captain Scott Mellanby, prior to the game, killed a rat in the Panthers’ locker room with his hockey stick, and proceeded to score a pair of goals later that night. When Mellanby scored a hat trick in a later game, some Florida fans threw plastic rats on the ice, a tradition that continued for all Panthers’ goals throughout the 1996 playoffs. Due to the game delays caused by the necessary clean-up of the plastic rats, the league eventually banned the activity and imposed a penalty against the home team for a violation. The more traditional practice of fans throwing hats on the ice following genuine hat tricks remains exempt from this penalty.
“Hattrick” is a classic football manager game for strategy lovers, and also the title for a 2007 movie about cricket.
As for me, a hat trick is some psychological ploy to get me to wear one.