What’s Your Bruins Game Day Ritual?
As the Boston Bruins look to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, some people seem to think that the fate of the hometown team is in their hands.
From beard growing to wearing the same shirt every single game, fans participate in somewhat-obsessive rituals in order to bring good luck to the team of their choice. But experts say it’s all in good fun. “There is a number of reasons people might commit [to certain rituals], the most common being that they are likely a little bit superstitious,” says Dr. Michael Jenike, medical director at The Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Institute at McLean Hospital and psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If you wear something to a game and they win, you will feel like you might have had something to do with it. The athletes themselves have all sorts of rituals. They do the same thing over and over again. But for fans, they are mostly trying to make a positive atmosphere in their head. They do these rituals so they feel more positive about the game, and that they may have an influence over the game.”
While in reality it won’t, he says, since rival fans probably have the same mentality and the actions would cancel each other out, it allows spectators to participate in the game even though they aren’t actually playing.
For Candee Stuchlik, wearing the same shirt and eating the same chips helps her feel as though she has done her part in binging the Bruins victory. “I guess it’s just a feeling of comfort for the game as I watch,” she says. “In watching sports, I have no control over the situation, but having a ritual helps me feel I do. It’s like a routine, or a pregame warm up.”
As an avid sports fan, Stuchlik says she has subscribed to game rituals all her life, dating back to when she was a kid. Her ritual for the Bruins started the night they won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Stuchlik had just landed back in Boston with her husband that night, and realized she didn’t have her usual game-day attire when they decided to head to a bar straight from the airport. So, to rectify the situation, because she felt “nervous” about changing her routine, she bought a Tyler Senguin shirt from the gift shop at the Prudential Center. “They won the Cup. So, the Seguin shirt became my game-day shirt. [It means] lots of laundry, but [it’s] worth it. I also have a Bruins hat, the same hat I have to wear that day,” she says. Stuchlik also eats the same chips. “I usually didn’t eat during a game, but I was needing a snack [one time], so then I had them—they won.”
Jason Skinner has his own routine that helps him get through games feeling as though he made a difference. His ritual, as he describes it, started two years ago, also when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. “They lost the first two games of the series against Montreal [in 2011]. I was all worked up going into Game 3, fearing the Bruins would get swept by the Canadiens. I decided to calm my nerves with a shot of Jameson right before the puck dropped. I had also been wearing my Game On Bruins coozie glove. When they lost the first two games I took it off and put it next to me on the couch. They won Game 3, and a ritual was born,” he says.
Although he admittedly paid the price for the ritual by taking so many shots at certain times, the outcome was the first Stanley Cup in Boston since 1972, he says.
This season, the glove has remained next to Skinner on the couch for each game, but it has a Stanley Cup towel from the last year’s parade stuffed in it. He also has been wearing the same shorts for every game, and of course, sitting in the same seat. The shot of Jameson ritual “has become popular,” he says, and his neighbor has even joined in. “Fifteen minutes before the puck drops he runs over, we salute the Bruins, and down the hatch it goes. He then runs back to his house for the game,” says Skinner. “The key to a good ritual is to stay on it. Do not be swayed by a loss or two.”
According to Jenike, these fan behaviors are completely “normal,” and don’t fall in line with typical OCD behaviors, which usually manifest over anxiety and self-involved worries. “OCD patients are usually caught up in their own heads and are not worried about what a sports team does,” he says. “[For fans], they can’t go play in the game, so if they feel like they are a bit of a participant by doing these rituals, they think they are helping out.”
Maybe it’s working: