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No Bucket List

By John King, 12/14/17, 11:15AM CST


Eric Staal and a select few make the list

No Bucket List

Taylor Hall’s gruesome injury in warmups a few years ago almost ruined the No Bucket List for everyone.

A lot of people have a bucket list. But of the more than 700 players on NHL rosters, very few will ever make it onto the No Bucket List.

What is the No Bucket List? It’s the select group of players on each NHL team who choose to warm up without wearing a helmet. Next time your favorite NHL team is warming up, take a look to see who isn’t wearing a helmet. It’s these free-spirited, wind-in-the-hair, Easy Riders whose names adorn the No Bucket List.

There’s just something about that wind-through-hair-feeling when you go no helmet.

The No Bucket List is something I’ve been quietly monitoring for years. Hockey is famous for “the code,” a seemingly endless list of unwritten rules that govern the game. I’ve long wondered how a player decided to warm up without a helmet. Every opposing team that would come to Xcel, I’d make a note who went no bucket in warm-ups. At times the answer would surprise me. Claude Giroux . . .no bucket. Young Jack Eichel . . .no bucket. What did it all mean? How did one get to warm up sans helmet? Was the No Bucket List something players had to earn, like becoming a Man of Mayhem in Sons of Anarchy? Did it require a certain amount of tenure or gravitas to earn the privilege of warming up without a helmet? Or was it something a player could just decide to do on his own?   

Over the years I’ve also kept a close eye on No Bucket List members on the Wild, from Cal Clutterbuck’s Clark Gable wet look, to present-day No Bucket List members Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, and Nick Foligno. In an effort to finally better understand the culture behind warming up without a helmet, I spoke with Staal and Stewart about their decision to be on the No Bucket List.

Like the patches on a Sons of Anarchy vest, spots on the NHL’s No Bucket List are earned, never given.

For both Staal and Stewart, warming up without a helmet was something they wanted to do for a long time and eventually graduated to. Staal remembered growing up watching NHLers warming up without helmets: “I thought it was really cool that the guys were out there skating around with no helmets and getting ready for the game. I thought that if I ever made it, it would be something that I would do, and that’s kinda the way it went.” But neither player embraced the look right away as rookies in the league; it took a few years to reach No Bucket List status for both Stewart and Staal. “Once I finally realized I’d made it, that’s when the helmet came off” said Stewart. Staal agreed: “I think it was my third or fourth year in the league before I donned the no bucket look. I wanted to make sure I established myself first as a guy who had been in the league for a little while, paid my dues so to speak, and once I did, I haven’t gone back.”

Both Staal and Stewart admitted there is something special about not wearing a helmet for warm-ups. “You feel a little bit more like a kid on an outdoor rink just skating around enjoying being on the ice. It’s just one of those things. I think it’s cool,” said Staal. “I think it just kinda gets you in the zone, preparing for the game” added Stewart.

No half shields or chin straps here.

While the No Bucket List has a healthy membership today, it came under fire in 2012 when star left winger Taylor Hall was cut by a skate warming up without his helmet for the Oilers. “You got to be careful out there, you gotta run a couple routes there so you don’t get hit in the head with any pucks flying by the net. You got to keep your head up,” said Stewart.

Both Staal and Stewart acknowledged the No Bucket List is earned, not given. Staal explained that No Bucket List member are “usually guys that have been around a while. And older guys with a lot of games under their belt.” Stewart agreed, saying the No Bucket List was mostly comprised of guys with “a certain status in the league, a certain eligibility.”

Staal and Stewart both agreed the No Bucket List was an individual choice, and a personal preference for each player. That said, Stewart did take issue with one flip-flopping Wild forward, “[Marcus] Foligno. He goes no bucket at home and then helmet on the road. I think you got to pick one side of the fence and stay on it,” said Stewart.

Stewie says warming up without a bucket helps get him in the zone

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