Every team has a post-game ritual or ceremony when it comes to singling out members of the team. When I was at Clarkson, we had a yellow hardhat that one of our teammates, Chris Brekelmans, whose family owned an excavation company, supplied and was given to the game’s hardest worker. I’ve been on teams where we had a beaten-up old lunch pail that was handed out to the player of the game as selected by the previous player of the game. No matter what it might be, the ritual of a prop that is passed around each game to a deserving recipient is a pretty common practice and helps to promote excellence and camaraderie.
When I played in Augusta, there was a truly creative and unique post-game ritual that had been passed down, year to year. After each game, the players would congregate in a large room, which was a spruced-up loading dock at the end of the arena, playfully called the “Lynx Den.” The Lynx Den was a place where fans could mingle with the players and share stories, food and drink, and get pictures and autographs. It was basically like an indoor post-game tailgate. Usually there was a microphone and the coach and/or some of the players might give some post-game speeches. This was also the place where jersey auctions would take place after specialty nights.
The post-game ritual for the Augusta Lynx each game was that the player who currently had the worst plus/minus on the team would have to wear a green jacket while spending time mingling with fans in the Lynx Den. Everyone knew the significance of the jacket, it was supposed to create a bit of playful embarrassment for the player so he would compete harder to raise his plus/minus. The jacket was old and dusty and would always be returned to a hanger in the corner of the dressing room after each booster club meeting.
Donning the green jacket was ironic because in Augusta, where the Masters is held each spring, the green jacket represents something magical and majestic. Winning the Masters and getting to sport the green jacket is the most difficult feat in professional golf, making Augusta one of the most significant cities in the entire world when it comes to a single golfing event. To win a green jacket as a golfer is to say that your name will be immortalized. For golfers around the world, the chance to put on the green jacket was a chance to become a legend.
For us, the green jacket was repugnant. We didn’t want that thing anywhere near us. In golf it is the objective to have a minus in front of your numbered score. It’s a sport in which a minus represents a positive. In hockey, it is the complete opposite. So we decided that playing in the city that brought greatness to the green jacket, we’d turn the tradition on its head and apply it to our sport. Thus began the legend of “The Dreaded Green Jacket” in Augusta.