Wayne Gretzky’s NHL Routine Included Multiple Changes of Underwear Each Game
NHL players can be a superstitious bunch. Given the sheer randomness of the game — the perfect pass can hit a rut in the ice or deflect off a skate and turn into an odd-man rush for the other team — that reality is understandable. Even Wayne Gretzky, who possessed incredible offensive ability, was known to follow a regular routine.
And what did that entail? From a wardrobe perspective, No. 99 cycled through multiple pairs of underwear each game. Yes, you read that correctly. The Great One would change his underpants at least twice per evening.
Sound unbelievable? Let’s get into the (thankfully limited) details.
Wayne Gretzky kept comfortable by changing underwear in between periods
If you play sports at any level, getting sweaty is an inescapable reality. Everyone has different ways of that — there’s a variety of hydration options and ways to catch a quick breather — but Wayne Gretzky apparently had a different sort of ace up his sleeve. Or, more accurately, under his hockey pants.
“I will tell you this,” the Great One explained on a TNT broadcast during the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes quadruple-overtime game. “I would change my underwear after every period, though, because it gets so wet. It’s nice to put on dry underwear when you go back out there.
While that raises some questions — Did Gretzky have extra pairs of underwear in reserve in case the game went into overtime? Was it a fresh pair each period, or was the first-period pair dried while he was on the ice? Would he change anything else? — the underlying urge is largely understandable. Wearing anything wet, whether it’s socks or anything large, can be uncomfortable. Playing NHL hockey is tough enough when you’re feeling great; there’s no need to handicap yourself.
No. 99 summed that reality up with a simple end to his quote.
“It feels good,” he added.
Gretzky’s eating habits around games were a bit unconventional
If you thought taking the ice with fresh underwear was the end of Wayne Gretzky’s routine, you’d be sorely mistaken. Over the years, we’ve learned more about how the Great One dressed for the game and, perhaps more jarringly, how he’d fuel his famous career.
“Well, listen, my dad was a big believer that part of being a good athlete was not just practice, and not just physically preparing, but to be mentally prepared, whether it be the proper rest the day before, the day of, proper nutrition, proper diet,” the NHL legend told Graham Bensinger. “He really was a big believer that if you didn’t have a proper meal the night before, that physically you couldn’t be at your best. And so, I never changed my routine my entire career, my entire life. … I got dressed the same way all the time. I always got dressed on the right side, my right sock, my right shin pad, my right elbow pad, my right skate. Just, you know, you can say it’s superstition, but it’s partly routine, also.”
That sounds a bit quirky, but it’s well within the bounds of a normal pregame ritual. Gretzky’s culinary habits, however, feel a bit more jarring.
Before going any further, imagine an athlete’s pregame meal. What do you see? Some chicken breast and rice? A plate of pasta? No. 99 took things a bit further.
“So, depending on what city we were in, if it was Chicago, there’d be pizza in the building. If it was Quebec City, there’d be hot dogs. Some cities, it was sandwiches,” Gretzky explained, noting that he got used to eating right before taking the ice in his youth. “And, in those days, we didn’t have power bars, and we didn’t have Gatorade or Powerade, you know, the energy drinks. And, for me, I drank Diet Coke. I found that to be the same sort of stimulation as an energy drink. And we had chocolate bars. We didn’t have power bars. So, if I had a Snickers or any kind of chocolate bar, I found that gave me energy.”
But Gretz wasn’t done there. Sometimes, he’d need to have another snack during the game; unsurprisingly, a simple orange wouldn’t cut it.
“And sometimes, it lasted throughout the game, and other times I’d be hungry after the first period or second period, and I’d have a half a sandwich or just something to give me that little bit of energy,” he added.
That all combines to paint a rather unconventional image of Wayne Gretzky and his game-day routine. When you tally 2,857 NHL points, though, you’re more than entitled to the benefit of the doubt.