A hat trick in hockey is when an athlete scores three goals in one game. For a player to earn a hat trick, all three of their goals must be scored in regulation or overtime (a shootout goal does not count).
This tradition began in 1946 when Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex Kaleta made a bet with Sammy Taft, a local store owner in Toronto, that if he scored three goals in the game that evening, the owner would give him a free hat. That night, Kaleta ended up scoring three goals and earned his complimentary hat from Taft. From that game on, Taft began offering any Toronto Maple Leafs player a free hat if they could score three goals in a game.
A natural hat trick in hockey is when a player scores three goals in a row in a game without any other goals being scored in between. If a player scores three goals in a single game but the goals are not scored in succession, then it is a regular hat trick.
Wayne Gretzky is the NHL record holder for the most hat tricks. During his time in the NHL from 1979-1999, Gretzky recorded 50 hat tricks. He also holds the record for the most hat tricks in a single season with 10 hat tricks in the 1983-84 season. After Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy rank second and third with 40 and 39 hat tricks in their careers.
A hat trick in hockey is not necessarily rare but does not occur every game. If you attend a game with a hat trick, it can be seen as a special occasion. In the 2017-2018 season, there were 81 total recorded hat tricks which translates to about 6.37% of games with a hat trick. In the 2016-17 season, there were hat tricks in 4.60% of the games with a total of 59 hat tricks that season.
Scoring four goals in a hockey game is much less common than a hat trick. If a player scores four goals in a single game, it is sometimes referred to as a "Texas hat trick." This term is less commonly used than a regular hat trick and the origins of it are uncertain. Some consider the phrase to be because "everything's bigger in Texas" and four goals is greater than three.