The Fascinating Origins of the Toronto Maple Leafs ‘Hat Trick’

Toronto Maple Leafs Hat Trick (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs Hat Trick (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs were dazzled by Jason Spezza’s hat trick performance. It is the latest in a fascinating history of the “hat trick”.

Jason Spezza was the unlike hero in the Toronto Maple Leafs win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. With the Buds already up 5 -2 in the third period, the Toronto native scored his eighth career hat trick. Each of which was scored against a different club. It was his first one since April of 2016.

The words “hat trick” are well known by hockey fans and even casual observers to mean a player scored three goals in a single contest. While the term is most often used in North America when describing the feat on ice, it actually comes from a different sport.

The term hat trick dates back as far as England 1858. In an important cricket match, bowler H.H. Stephenson blew away his competition by taking three consecutive wickets. Impressed by his difficult accomplishment, a collection was taken to purchase a hat for Stephenson.

The transition of the term going from cricket to hockey has sparked debate from historians. A Guelph, Ontario publication has laid claim to the coinage coming from that city. The story is that Biltmore Hats, a Guelph-based hat company would give away Fedoras to players on the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters of the Ontario Hockey Association. To earn their fedora, a player needed only to pot three goals in a game.

A store in Montreal has also attempted to be remembered as the first. Henri Henri, which is still in operation has an origin story on their website. They say that they brought the expression to the world of hockey because their founder, Honorius Henri, would award a free hat to any NHL player who had at least three goals in a game played at the Montreal Forum.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has weighed in on the controversy. They have shared that a hat trick in hockey originally comes from the efforts of a Toronto businessman. Sammy Taft, who owned and operated a haberdashery in the city, is known as the man behind the term in the sport. In 1992 Taft sat for an interview with the Hockey News. That interview explained how his actions became popular words around the rink. Taft’s involvement in the game was unique. His biggest early role was as the mascot for the Ottawa Senators.

“Back then a mascot was a good luck charm,” Taft explained. “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 held the role when the Senators won the 1927 Stanley Cup. He was just 13 years old at the time. What he didn’t know then was that his mark on the sport would be much greater in the years to come.

Taft opened a store on Spadina Ave when he was in his early 20s. It transitioned into a hattery when a customer convinced him to begin selling hats. When Chicago Black Hawks’ player Alex Kaleta visited the hattery in 1946, he was made an offer that sparked history. When Kaleta couldn’t afford the fedora he was coveting, Taft let him know that so long as he scored three goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs in their upcoming game, he could have the hat for free.

On January 26, 1946 the Leafs beat Chicago 6-5, however, the memorable part of the game was that Kaleta put four past Toronto goaltender Frank McCool. True to his word, Taft gave up the hat. Then, seeing a marketing opportunity, he began giving a free hat to any player who put in at least three goals in a single game at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Next. More Toronto Maple Leafs Trivia. dark

With the Toronto Maple Leafs rich history of goal scoring, they have had many players earn free hats over the years. The next thing they hope to acquire is Lord Stanley’s Mug.