In both field hockey and ice hockey, a hat trick occurs when a player scores three goals in a single game. A hat trick, as it is known in its current form, 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 hockey. According to the Henri Henri hat store in Montreal, before 1967 when there were only the Original Six teams in the National Hockey League, the store rewarded players who had scored three goals or more in one game at the Montreal Forum with a free hat, which brought the ‘Hat Trick’ expression into the world of hockey.
In another account, the origins of a hat being awarded for scoring three goals occurred in Toronto when a local businessman, Sammy Taft, was approached by the Chicago Black Hawks forward Alex Kaleta. According to legend, Kaleta entered Taft’s shop to purchase a new hat but did not have enough money. Taft arranged a deal with Kaleta stipulating that if Kaleta scored three goals as he played the Toronto Maple Leafs that night, he would give him a free hat. That night, on January 26, 1946, Kaleta scored four goals against the Maple Leafs and Taft made good on his offer.
While this account is credited by the Hockey Hall of Fame as the hat trick’s origin in the NHL, there exists yet another competing story in Guelph, Ontario. In the 1950s, the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters of the Ontario Hockey Association, who were then a farm team of the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, were sponsored by Guelph-based Biltmore Hats, a leading manufacturer of hats with North American dominance. The sponsor would award any Madhatters player who scored three goals in a game with a new fedora.