Baseball has ceremonial first pitches. Hockey has ceremonial puck drops. Historically, first pitches have been more elaborate and theatrical than puck drops, probably because baseball is a slow game and they’ve gotten really good at finding ways to make it more entertaining over the years. But hockey is starting to catch up. In recent years, ceremonial puck drops have gotten way more awesome, and chances are they just going to keep getting awesomer (real word).
As you may have guessed, we here at Total Pro Sports are all for this awesomeification (also a real word) process. So to encourage it, here’s a list of the greatest ceremonial puck drops we could find. If you know of any others you think worthy, hit us up in the comments section. More is always better.
We might as well start with the most obvious one, right? On Saturday night the Boston Bruins brought the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots out onto the ice at TD Gardens before their game against the Islanders. Rob Ninkovich dropped the puck, then Rob Gronkowski picked it up and Gronked it—which is to say, he spiked it.
It bounced off the ice, over the glass, and about five rows into the stands. Because Rob Gronkowski is a beast.
It was fantastic.
9. Gronking to Remember
At number eight we have a three-way tie. First up we have a Hershey bar dropping the ceremonial puck before a November 2013 game between the (who else?) Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals. It was "Hersheypark Pass Night" at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA, meaning kids in attendance got free admission to the chocolate maker's theme park in Derrytown, PA. Hershey brought out the big wigs to mark the occasion.
8a. Hershey Bar
At 8b we have Mr. Kit Kat dropping the ceremonial puck in December of 2013. Once again it was Hersheypark Pass Night at the Hershey Bears game. Once again Hershey pulled out all the stops.
Would you like to take a guess as to who's dropping the puck in 8c?
8b. Kit Kat Bar
Yep, it's Reese, the anthropomorphic package of eponymous chocolate covered peanut butter cups. And yep, it was a Hershey Bears game.
However, it was not Hersheypark Pass Night. It was Fan Appreciation Night. And it was April 2014.
8c. Reese’s Penut Butter Cups
On January 21, 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, an astronaut in residence at the International Space Station, dropped the ceremonial puck at the Toronto Maples Leafs game. It's unclear whether the Leafs planned the stunt with Hadfield before he was launched into orbit the month before, or whether Hadfield just happened to have a hockey puck with him because he's Canadian. Either way, it was one of the best ceremonial puck drops of all time.
7. The Spacepuck
In January of 2014, the Make-a-Wish Foundation gave a young Capitals fan named Branden Nienaber the best day of his life. It started with him practicing with the team and getting into his very first NHL hockey fight. It ended with Branden performing the ceremonial puck drop before the Caps game against the Sabres...and him throwing then-Sabres captain Steve Ott out of the faceoff circle.
Kid is a boss.
6. Kid Is All Business
In February 2014, Thor, a Belgian Malinois, dropped the puck at a Stockton Thunder (ECHL) game.
Of course, Thor was not just any well-trained dog. He was a heroic police dog. In 2010 Thor was shot while apprehending a burglary suspect but still held on to the perp until his bi-ped partner showed up to cuff him. In 2012 he got run over by a car when struggling with a suspect during a traffic stop. But none of that stopped Thor. Because Thor was a badass.
Thor retired from the police department in 2012, and he died in October 2014 at the age of 14. But he led a hell of a life, and he went out with a hell of a puck drop.
5. Thor the Police Dog
This ceremonial puck drop is from a Vancouver Canucks game on November 16, 1984, and it just so happens that Michael Jackson's tour was passing through Vancouver for three shows at BC Place on the 16th, 17th, and 18th.
Unfortunately, that's not really King of Pop. It's an impersonator. The real MJ was probably getting ready for that night's concert.
Still a pretty great ceremonial puck drop, though.
4. The King of Pop
I thought there would be dozens of cases of Star Wars characters dropping ceremonial pucks...and I was right. There are many. Lord Vader has done the honors a bunch of times, as have run-of-the-mill storm troopers and Chewbacca.
However, this is the only instance I could find of Darth Vader dropping the puck at an NHL game. Though I doubt it'll be the last.
3. Vader Time
Looking to put on a really awesome puck drop ceremony before your next hockey game? Find yourself an army commando and have him drop the thing after rappelling down from the rafters upside down.
The guy in this video is Sgt. First Class Richard Babineau. He dropped the puck at the Wild game in January 2014. But he's not the only one who can pull this off. Take a look at this guy from the Islanders game in 2011.
2. G.I. Joe Puck Drop
With all due respect to the army guys who rappelled upside down from the rafters, nothing can top this one when it comes to surrealism. That really is Queen Elizabeth II dropping the puck at a Canucks-Sharks game. She was on a tour of Canada to celebrate her Golden Jubilee back in 2002 when she stopped by General Motors Place to drop the puck with Canada's Crown Prince Wayne Gretzky I.
Bizarre, right? Maybe Pope Francis can drop the puck at a Devils game the next time he comes to the United States.