What is a hat trick in hockey? (history, stats and records)

One of the best things to view is a hat trick in hockey – when a player scores three goals in a game. Not only is it really hard to do, but when they do an unusual thing happens.

Sports leagues do not take well to fans throwing items onto the playing surface, but in hockey this is an exception when someone scores a hat trick. When a hat trick happens fans litter the ice with hats in celebration.

As we look at the hat trick more in-depth we will start out with a simple definition before going into all of the fun the it brings to the game!

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What is a hat trick in hockey? A hat trick is when a player in hockey scores three goals during the course of a single game. All three of the goals must come during regulation or overtime, whereas goals scored during the shootout do not count. When a player scores the third goal it is tradition that fans will throw their hats onto the ice. 

History of the hat trick

So how did this tradition of throwing your hat onto the ice after a player scored their third goal of the game start? 

In 1946, a young not so talented forward of the Chicago Blackhawks by the name of Alex Kaleta went shopping into a men’s clothing store in Toronto prior to a game against the leafs. Kaleta made a bet with the store owner, Sammy Taft, that if he scored three goals in the game Taft would give him a free hat.

Taft knew that Kaleta was not much of a scorer and, in addition, it was difficult to score three goals so he accepted the bet. 

However, Kaleta went onto score three goals in the game and collected the new hat from Taft as his prize. 

A few reporters picked up on the story and quoted Taft as saying, “Yeah, that was some trick he pulled to get that hat”. (source: Everything about hockey)

Taft took the opportunity for promotion that had come up and said he would give a hat to any Toronto Maple Leaf player who scored three goals.

From that day forward, anytime a player has scored three goals in a game it has been known as a hat trick. Taft retired from giving players hats, but the fans kept up the tradition of giving their ‘hat’ to a player that has scored three goals by throwing them onto the ice. 

Just to note, there has been some debate to the origins of the term hat trick, however the above story is the one that the Hockey Hall of Fame believes to be true. 

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How often does a hat trick happen?

A hat trick is a difficult feat to perform during an NHL game. It does not happen so infrequently that it would be called rare. However if you do see you, you know that you have witnessed something special. 

Let’s take a look at how often hat tricks happen by looking at a few past seasons.  

SeasonNumber of Hat Tricks% of Games that have hat tricks

So when looking at the stats you will see a hat trick on the highlight shows about 5-7% of the time or once every 7-10 days in the NHL. 

What is a natural hat trick?

A natural hat trick is when a player scores three successive goals in a game. This means that no other goals have been scored by either team during the three goals that the player has scored. 

Who scored the fastest hat trick?

The fastest hat trick of all time was accomplished by Chicago Blackhawks forward Bill Mosienko on March 23, 1952. In a game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Mosienko scored three goals in an unbelievable 21 seconds. 

For each of his three goals, Mosienko went around defenceman Hy Buller who was playing on a broken foot for the undermanned New York team.

Bill almost scored a 4th goal in 26 seconds but hit the post after beating the goalie on a deke.  

This record may never be broken. The second fastest hat trick was by Jean Bealiveau who scored 3 goals in 44 seconds. 

The most recent ‘fast’ hat trick was by Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018 accomplishing the feat in just 91 seconds. In the modern NHL that is simply amazing!

Who has the most hat tricks? 

Total career hat tricks

1.Wayne Gretzky1979-9950
2.Mario Lemieux1984-0640
3.Mike Bossy1977-8739
4.Brett Hull1986-0633
5.Phil Esposito1963-8132
6.Bobby Hull1957-8028
 Marcel Dionne1971-8928
8.Maurice Richard1942-6026
9.Cy Denneny1917-2925
10.Jari Kurri1980-9823


Most hat tricks in a single season

PlayerSeasonHat Tricks
Wayne Gretzky1983-8410
Mike Bossy1980-819
Mario Lemieux1988-899
Brett Hull1991-928

Leaders in Hat Tricks By Year

Year Player(s)# of Hat Tricks
2022-23Tage Thompson4
2021-22Auston Matthews4
2020-21Conner McDavid, Mika Zibanejad3
2019-20Alex Ovechkin, David Pastrnak4
2018-19Patrik Laine3
2017-18Alex DeBrincat, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid3
2016-17Patrik Laine3
2015-16Zach Parise3
2014-15Corey Perry3
2013-14Max Pacioretty, Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin3
2012-13Nazem Kadri, Chris Kunitz, Alex Ovechkin2
2011-12Evgeni Malkin3
2010-11Alexander Semin, Drew Stafford4
2009-10Sidney Crosby3

Related questions?

What is a Gordie Howe hat trick?

A Gordie Howe hat trick is when a player in one game scores a goal, gets an assist and gets into a fight. It was coined after Gordie Howe because it represents a player who is a complete player and can play a complete game. Gordie Howe is acknowledged as the best all-around player of all-time. 

Ironically, Gordie Howe did not actually get that many Gordie Howe hat tricks. Rick Tocchet is the all-time leader with 18. 

What is a Texas hat trick? 

A Texas hat trick refers to a player that scores 4 goals in one game.  

What happens to all of the hats after the hat trick? 

After a hat trick is scored the home team will literally collect hundreds of hats. There are three things that happen with those hats after the game.

  1. The hats will be presented to the player who got the hat trick to keep. The player is obviously not going to keep all of the hats, but they will often take one as keepsake to remember their accomplishment by.
  2. The next step in the process is the team will usually give a chance for fans to get their hats back. Similar to a lost and found the team will keep the hats for a few days, and anyone can call within that time to claim their hat.
  3. Finally, any hats that have gone unclaimed will be given to a local charity. Local charities will then either give them away or sell that at local thrift shops to raise money for their clients. 

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