It’s quite an unflattering piece of black material with a bow strapped to the side—yet that fedora is highly desired hat and is certainly a distinctive staple of the locker room belonging only to the New York Rangers.
It goes by the name of the “Broadway Hat” and is a tradition that was started by center Brad Richards during the 2011-’12 season following their first win, beating the Vancouver Canucks 4-0. It is awarded solely by its previous wearer to acknowledge the teammate who they feel deserves to wear the post-win honor. However it’s only awarded after wins, because who wants to wear a horrible fedora after a horrible loss?
“Obviously, people think it’s funny, because it’s a funny-looking hat, but the point is, you want to be awarded that hat,” center Brian Boyle told the New York Times. “I think it’s a cool thing we have. Another quirk. Just goes to show you that our team’s a pretty tight group.”
Some players pull it off better than others, but the hat must be worn, as the rules of the hat dictate that the winner must wear it during the post-game interview.
But this funny-looking fedora is just a mark of the closeness of the Rangers in the locker room, as it forces the players to recognize each other’s assets on the ice and serve as a constant reminder that that there is no “I” in team— although there can be a black fedora.
“We really came together as a group and we know we have to do this together,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist said during his Broadway Hat speech, after New York defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 to win the series in game 7. “We can’t be out there one-on-one. It was an unbelievable feeling as a goalie to feel that we’re just on the same page.”
The beauty of the ugly hat is that it’s not necessarily presented to the player with the most goals that game or one of the three stars. Instead, the players like to give it those whose game marked a significant achievement like a first NHL goal, first point on the team or the player that showed the most heart as a Ranger.
The hat has taken on a personality of its own as fans have developed its own Twitter page. With 15.8 K followers, “The Broadway Hat” Twitter brings together blueshirt fans from all over with retweets, conversations and general fan commentary demonstrating the anxiety of hardcore fans watching their team’s playoff games. It brings together fans on social media just as the hat itself brings together the team in the locker room.
This picture has given me anxiety this entire playoffs. It’s… so close. So close… SO CLOSE pic.twitter.com/96pFCrjAy3
— The Broadway Hat (@TheBroadwayHat) May 17, 2014
The previous wearer of the hat will give a speech about the next recipient and why he deserves to wear the hat. The new recipient will sometimes address the team themselves, but during playoffs it’s an even greater award as the Broadway Hat winner puts the newest piece of the Stanley cup poster on the wall, reminding the players that they have to go above and beyond to complete the journey in earning the cup.
However, the Broadway Hat award ceremony isn’t just the passing of a hat with touching speeches. It has a bit more flavor as it is accompanied by the season song— this year’s being the 1976 tune of Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From.”
“We’ve heard that song all year after wins,” defenseman Marc Staal told NHL.com. “Every year you kind of get a different song for wins. When you hear that song again, it gives you a good feeling of winning. It’s a lot better than silence.”
But there is never silence in the Ranger’s locker room, as the tight knit group clearly likes to do things in unique ways.
In January of 2012, defenseman Dan Girardi announced the team’s Winter Classic starting lineup with a clever personality— full of inside jokes and laughs. This 38 seconds simply showcases the undeniable closeness of the Rangers as they are not just teammates, but also friends— a characteristic developed throughout the wearing of hockey’s most famous fedora.
I’m a journalism major at The College of New Jersey where I’m pursuing a career in sports journalism. I’ve currently been interning as the beat writer for the Philadelphia Wings for the National Lacrosse League and working as the sports editor for The Signal.