Last night Michael Nylander scored three goals as the N.Y. Rangers cruised to a 7-0 playoff win over the Atlanta Thrashers at Madison Square Garden. When Nylander scored his third goal the Garden fans showed their appreciation for his hat trick by throwing their hats on the ice. Two questions immediately arose in my mind.
One: Who wears hats in this day and age ? A: It’s still cold and many of the ‘hats’ actually were winter caps.
Two: What is the origin of the word ‘hat trick ? I consulted the Word Detective and found that the term originated with the English game of cricket. It means ” the feat of a bowler who takes three wickets with three successive balls, entitling him to be presented by his club with a new hat.” For sports fans more accustomed to baseball than cricket, this means dismissing three batters with three successive pitches. In hockey , it originally meant three successive goals scored by a player in one game; nowadays, they don’t have to be successive goals to be considered a hat trick. The same definition holds true for soccer.
Which of these is the most difficult? I would have to think that a soccer hat trick is by far the most difficult. Soccer has become such a defensive minded game that, at the top level, many games are decided by a single goal. It is difficult enough for the entire team to score three goals in a game; for one player to do so is well nigh impossible.Cricket would have to be the second most difficult game in which to score a hat trick. It’s true that it is comparatively easier for a bowler to dismiss three ‘tailenders'( who are in the team for their bowling rather than their batting) but all even one of them has to do is to survive one ball to deny the bowler his hat trick. In hockey,goals are easier to score than in soccer and a player has a whole game in which to score three goals. I would have to say that hockey is the easiest of the three ( though still very difficult) in which to score a hat trick.
There is no direct equivalent of a hat trick in baseball. The closest I would think is “hitting for the cycle” which means scoring a single, a double, a triple and a home run in the same game. ( They don’t have to be in any particular order.) It is a very difficult feat because a player has to be a very consistent hitter( to get four hits in one game) and he has to have a combination of speed ( to leg out the triple) and strength ( to hit the ball out of the park for the home run). I would have to rate it just below a soccer hat trick in terms of difficulty.
The word ” hat trick” is not just used in sports; it has become part of the general parlance and is used to mean three of anything in a row. A lawyer is said to score a hat trick if he wins three cases in a row and a movie director registers one when he has three hits in a row.
P.S In case you are wondering what happens to the hats that fans throw on the ice, they are collected and donated to charity.