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Hat trick

Question:

What do hats have to do with hockey? I’ve heard the expression hat trick when people are discussing hockey games, and I think I’ve read it in the business pages, too.

Answer:

This rather unusual expression is used often in hockey. When a player scores three goals in a row, or even three goals in one game, we call that a hat trick. Hat trick also refers to a team’s winning three games in a row. You will see hat tricks, either three goals or three consecutive wins, in other sports and games. In fact, if the feat of winning three horse races in a row didn’t already have the grander title of “winning the triple crown,” we’d probably call that a hat trick, too.

The expression hat trick began in the 1800s when a cricket bowler took three wickets in a row—an unusual feat—and was given a new hat by his teammates. In Canadian hockey, some sponsors awarded hats to players who achieved three goals in a game. When someone scores a hat trick in the NHL, hats are thrown onto the ice.

In other uses, anyone who accomplishes three significant actions in a row can be said to have made or scored a hat trick. For instance, if a business has three successful years in a row, or a filmmaker wins three major awards, that can be seen as a hat trick.