The Sombrero Guy & Lady

The Sombrero Guy & Lady

Nine years ago, Dick Hoos was browsing a Gibraltar Center in Mt. Clemens, Mich., when he saw a vendor closing up shop for the day. “They had a golden-brown sombrero at the booth there for two bucks,” the Londoner recalled, “so I bought it.” Hoos' wife Sharon asked him what on earth he was going to do with that thing. “I told her, 'I think I'm going to throw it on the ice for the next Knights hat trick',” the retired GM employee said, “and she thought that was a pretty goofy idea.”

Sure enough, Hoos religiously carried the wide-brimmed Mexican hat with him to the then-John Labatt Centre until Trevor Kell, the hard-working forward from Thunder Bay, scored three goals in a home game against Sarnia. “So I threw it out and of course, Rob Schremp grabbed it and he's chasing Kell around the ice trying to jam it on his head with his helmet on,” Hoos said. “It was pretty hilarious.”

The next day, Hoos was at a team booster club lunch and Kell brought the hat with him. The Knight said a few of his teammates bet him five bucks apiece he wouldn't wear it on the ice when he was announced as first star, so he did it. “It's a pretty awesome tradition,” London head coach Dale Hunter said. “It's unique. It's great for the fans and the kids really look forward to it.”

Every game has potential these days – especially with Mitch Marner racking up back-to-back hat tricks last week. Hoos, a long-time season-ticket holder who sits in Section 104 at Budweiser Gardens, has gained a sliver of fame for his innocent idea. He is the Sombrero Guy in the stands, while Sharon is the Sombrero Lady.

“The guys on the ice took it to the next level,” he said. “I thought if it got swept up, that would be the end of it and I would just do it the one time. But after it went over so well, I thought I'd find another one. I've been able to find them at thrift stores and fans give them to me. “I make sure I carry one every time I'm at the game.”

There's really only one unwritten rule. The first hat trick, the player gets to keep the sombrero. After that, they have to recycle it. “They're too hard to find if you're going to get five or six of them,” Hoos said, “and we've had a really good offensive team here (over the years).” During Pat Kane's lone OHL season in 2006-07, Hoos figured he threw 11 hats on the ice. “They kept them all that year,” he quipped.

Hoos doesn't miss many games but he had to skip the opener of the 2011-12 season. He was at the lake (Rice Lake near Peterborough) on the night Max Domi scored a hat trick in his first OHL game. “My wife was actually there but she had forgotten the sombrero,” he said. “That's why he didn't get one that game.” The Hoos will be going on holidays for a spell during this season, but fear not. The tradition should continue. “Friends of ours are going to take one,” Dick said. It's up to players – as always – to fuel the fiesta.