Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Secret Handshake Club

Jets players have special routines

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Ever wondered what's going on at the back of the line when the Winnipeg Jets come out for the start of home games?

Most fans are focused on the players as they step out onto the ice, but if you look up to the Jumbotron, you'll see a flurry of activity in the shadows. That's where many of the Jets conduct a last-second meeting of their Secret Handshake Club.

 

Luckily, the first rule of the Secret Handshake Club, isn't, "Don't talk about the Secret Handshake Club."

It's part of their pre-game routine and it's fair to say they're careful not to walk underneath any ladders or let any black cats cross their paths before a game.

Let's not even talk about breaking mirrors.

"Guys always go out behind certain guys and they have their certain routines and superstitions. It's pretty cool. If you stood here and watched us go out, it would be the same thing every time with the handshakes and the order," said defenceman Mark Flood, the undisputed president of the SHC.

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Flood has a half-dozen unique handshakes he performs with other players and trainers before game time. It can start off with something simple and then be added onto as the players see fit, he said.

"If something doesn't go right, or you don't have the proper chemistry, you can always switch it up. I always start with something small and build on it. I think it's cool when a guy hits a home run in baseball and comes back to the bench and has eight different handshakes with guys. I don't know how they remember them all," he said.

Flood and Al Pritchard, the Jets' massage therapist, for example, do the following before each game: two low-fives followed by a pair of short hair-fixing motions.

Goaltender Chris Mason is also a fan of baseball's post-home-run celebrations in the dugout. He said the Jets' "funny little handshakes" are fun and help get them going before they head out on the ice.

"You have to do more than the token high-five. You work with your buddies and come up with a new handshake. We have some pretty good ones right now," he said.

Mason said he's fine with the three handshakes he does and he has no desire to match Flood's total.

"They're high-quality. Three quality ones is good for me," he said.

Forward Tim Stapleton said handshakes aren't planned out in advance, either.

"You don't talk about it; it just happens," he said.

Stapleton admits his pre-game ritual with Flood is a little "cheesy."

"His favourite movie is Top Gun and he feels the need for speed. I'm Goose and he's Ice Man. I don't know how it started; it's his idea. I just go along with it. I'm just another hand he high-fives. I'm not even sure he realizes that it's me," he said.

"We just started doing it before the games as a joke. I just stand there and I wait for him to come by. He's from P.E.I., so he's kind of a weird guy."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2012 A2

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