Colton Sissons scored three goals for Nashville in the Predators’ Campbell Bowl-clinching 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks Monday, and as per tradition, the home fans at Bridgestone Arena celebrated the feat by flooding the ice with baseball caps — and one giant catfish. Sissions’ hat trick was the fourth of these Stanley Cup playoffs and the 63rd since the start of the NHL season, and considering that 37 of those hat tricks have come on the player’s home ice, there’s been plenty of clean-up for the league’s ice crews to do. But what happens to all the hats once they’re scooped up and removed from the ice? Every arena has its own method for handling those situations, but typically, these are the most popular solutions to one of hockey’s favorite problems.
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The player gets them
Traditionally, the skater who scored the hat trick gets first dibs on keeping the hats, if they so choose. It seems unlikely that most guys would choose to pack their car with dozens, if not hundreds, of hats, but it’s not unheard of to take a few home as a memento honoring the accomplishment. “(Alex Ovechkin) has asked before where the hats were, and he's grabbed a hat or two,” former Washington Capitals PR man Nate Ewell told Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog in 2009. “He even grabbed a red Caps hat at one point.”
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The fans can retrieve them
In many cases, teams actually give their fans an opportunity to get their hats back, acting as an unofficial lost and found in the days following a hat trick. The Ottawa Senators, for example, give fans two weeks to collect their caps, provided that the spectator in question can provide a “specific description” of the item they threw. And other teams enforce similar policies. However, teams also typically offer deals on new hats in the team store after a player records a hat trick — the Tampa Bay Lightning give season-ticket holders a 50 percent discount — so unless the hat you threw holds sentimental value, it might just be easier to buy a new one.
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One of the most common solutions to a sudden influx of spare hats, many teams take the donation route when looking for ways to get rid of unclaimed headgear. When Leon Draisaitl scored three goals in an Edmonton win over Anaheim earlier this postseason, the Oilers provided the nearly 1,000 hats tossed over the glass to three charities in the Edmonton area, a practice used by scores of teams around the league. “It's connecting the celebration of the playoffs to the people of the inner city who may not feel included in that,” Darren Brennan, a spokesman for the Bissell Centre, one of the charities helped by Draisaitl’s hat trick, told CBC. “It's a great symbol in how we are all the same.”
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They're put on display
Increasingly, teams are finding ways to celebrate their hat tricks permanently by turning them into art. In Columbus, hats collected following Blue Jackets home hat tricks are piled into a “Hat Trick Bin” in the concourse at Nationwide Arena. (Scott Hartnell’s hat trick in a December win over Pittsburgh was the team’s only one this season.) The Capitals have a similar display at Verizon Center, as do several other teams around the NHL.
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They're tossed out
Unfortunately, not all hats can be salvaged, and the caps in the worst condition are generally tossed out for cleanliness and hygiene reasons. It’s not ideal when teams have to dispose of them for that reason, but let’s be honest, it’s probably not a coincidence that the most beat-up hat in your collection is the one you threw on the ice in the first place. (And at least you didn’t throw it for a hat trick that was ultimately called back.)