What is a Hat Trick in Hockey?

Hockey is a fast-paced sport that a lot of fans watch for the fast, back and forth play, hitting, and skilled stick moves. Of course, the goal of each hockey game is to score more than your opponent. This puts a lot of emphasis on offensive players, and the different things that they’ve been able to achieve.

A hockey hat trick is a single-game offensive achievement that an individual player can make. It refers to when one player scores three goals in the same game and is considered to be a rare event.

So, in a sense, the answer to “What is a hat trick in hockey?” is a fairly simple one. What’s more interesting is the history of the hat trick, and how a player scored one in their individual game.

History of the hat trick

The term hat trick didn’t begin when the NHL did, instead, it became a common use term in the 1930s and 1940s. The origin of the term is disputed, though. In the 1950s the tradition of throwing hats on the ice by fans began. From there, a hat trick exploded as an offensive-minded player’s goal for a great game.

washington capitals ice hockey hat trick
Credit: clydeorama Flickr

When was the First Hat Trick in Hockey?

While it’s impossible to say that there wasn’t a hat trick scored, but not recorded before the first NHL hat trick, that first one in the NHL is a good place to start.

On December 18, 1917, the first NHL hat trick was scored by Harry Hyland. Interestingly, this was also the first NHL game ever played. Hyland was on the Montreal Wanderers, and his three goals helped lead them past the Toronto Arenas by a score of 10-9.

What is a natural hat trick?

Broadly speaking, to score a hat trick you only have to score three goals in a game. A natural hat trick is still a matter of scoring three goals in a game, but it’s much rarer. That’s because a natural hat trick occurs when you need to score three goals consecutively.

This obviously makes it much harder to score natural hat tricks, and it requires a bit of luck to have no one else score while you’re off the ice.

What is a Gordie Howe Hat Trick?

A Gordie Howe hat trick is unique in that it only requires you to score one goal in a game. However, there are still three pillars that you need to accomplish. The first is scoring that goal. The second is to earn an assist. Finally, that third pillar of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick is to be in a fight during the game.

This variation on the hat trick is named after Gordie Howe, a Hall of Fame player. Howe was a right-winger, who is best known for his time with the Detroit Red Wings. He also played from 1946-1971, and then came back in 1973 to play until 1980. Along with the Red Wings, Howe played for the Houston Aeros, New England Whalers, and the Hartford Whalers.

Today, Gordie Howe hat tricks are rare, as fighting becomes less common and players who typically fight are less likely to score.

Who scored the fastest hat trick in NHL history?

You never want to say a record will never be broken, but the record for fastest hockey hat trick is likely never going to be broken. That’s because Bill Mosienko holds the NHL record for fastest hat trick ever, in just twenty-one seconds.

Mosienko did this on March 23, 1952, for the Chicago Blackhawks. He did this against the New York Rangers, and it’s unlikely anyone can ever beat this record.

Who has the most hat tricks in NHL history? 

Wayne Gretzky holds the record for most hat tricks over the course of a career, with fifty. That’s ten more hat tricks in National Hockey League history than the second-place player, Mario Lemieux.

A Wayne Gretzky hat trick was a beautiful thing too, as he flew around the ice and played the game beautifully. Hockey fans did love to watch him play, and he earned his nickname “The Great One,” for a good reason.

What Happens When a Hat Trick Takes Place?

When hat tricks are scored by the home team, hockey fans throw their hats onto the ice. This is done as a way of celebrating the player, and the player scoring three goals in one game gets to pick out a free hat from the hats thrown onto the ice.

At some arenas, a free hat isn’t enough, and fans have their own ways of celebrating a hat trick. The Detroit Red Wings, for instance, throw more than a new hat, they also throw an octopus or squid onto the ice for playoff games.
The Florida Panthers also have the rat trick, which came after Scott Mellanby killed a locker room rat with his stick, then scored two goals. This led to Panthers fans throwing plastic rats on the ice for a time.

What are 4 goals in hockey called?

Just like how there is a special term for the Gordie Howe hat trick, there is a term for scoring four goals in a game. It’s called the Texas hat trick. Just like everything else in Texas, it’s just a bit bigger.

Why do we say hat trick?

A lot of terms have murky history, and the term hat trick is no different. For instance, there are newspaper records that show that the term hat trick was used in the 1930s and 1940s. However, the Hockey Hall of Fame disagrees. The Hockey Hall of Fame credits Sammy Taft for creating the term.

Taft was a Toronto businessman who gave away hats to national hockey league players who scored three goals in a game. This was a way of promoting his business, but it ended in the phrase hat trick becoming commonly known.


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