By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Mark Derlago saw it when he recorded his first professional hat trick back on Feb. 5, 2008.
In fact, it was briefly within his grasp on the bench, but the coveted item found its way back to its owner in the stands.
It was a sombrero, a nicely-adorned felt one from Mexico, tossed onto the ice by Condors fan Bill Vanderwark.
After the game, Derlago told the media he wished he could get that hat back. Three nights later he did, when he recorded another hat trick.
“I tossed it back on the ice and he got it this time,” Vanderwark said. “It went right to the bench and he took it to the locker room.”
“I was kind of confused but it was pretty funny to see a sombrero out there when you get a hat trick so it was pretty cool,” Derlago said of his introduction to the sombrero toss.
Vanderwark started the sombrero tossing tradition a few years ago when he saved a ragged straw sombrero from a trip to the trash bin and took it to a Condors game.
That hat came back to him a few times and now the nicely decorated sombreros he tosses are a much sought after item by Condors players, who keep them on their locker in the dressing room.
Four have found their way to the dressing room this year as Derlago, Mike Wirll, Tylor Michel and Andrew Ianiero have all recorded hat tricks. Derlago has two hat tricks again this year but his other sombrero has gone to Michel, who saw his first Mexican Hat Dance late last year when he joined the team after finishing college play.
“I got here last year and Dale Reinhardt scored a hat trick and I saw the sombrero,” Michel said. “I thought it was a pretty neat concept. I never thought I’d get a hat trick but it was just one of those things.”
Michel, known more for tenacious play than scoring, didn’t even think of getting a sombrero when he recorded his hat trick on Mar. 4.
“I was just kind of in awe that I just scored a hat trick,” he said.
But now that the hat is in his possession, he said he will likely keep it.
Wirll, who scores lots of goals (he has 20 for the Condors this year), also plans on keeping his.
“I’m going to get Derlago to sign it and keep it,” he said. “It’s kind of a cool thing. Derlago gets one a week or something. It’s unreal.”
Ianiero was the latest to grab a sombrero, netting a hat trick on Mar. 13.
He traded his helmet for the black sombrero when he returned to the ice after being named the No. 1 star of the game. The Condors booster club has since made picture pins which they sell with a shot of Ianiero skating on the ice with the sombrero.
“I just did it for fun and I think the fans enjoyed it and had a lot of fun,” he said. “It was good for everyone.”
The Condors dressing room is likely the only one in North America adorned with the distinctive sombreros and it has become such a tradition the players wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We have them piled up on the top of the locker and we’ve picked up quite a few this year,” Ianiero said. “It’s all in good fun. We joke about them and wear them. I think I have the nicest one, too, so I consider myself pretty lucky.”
Condors coach Marty Raymond quipped that Derlago, a native of Brandon, Manitoba, has more sombreros than the rest of Canada combined.
Vanderwack said the sombreros retail for anywhere from $60 to $160 in the U.S.
“I’ve never paid more than $60,” he said. “I wouldn’t pay $100 for something I’m going to throw on the ice, that’s a lot of beer.”
In fact, Vanderwack is a bit of a sombrero bargain hunter. He found out somebody was going to Mexico last year and had them pick up four at 25 bucks each.
But now he’s down to one last sombrero and the Condors have two regular season games left as well as upcoming playoff games.
“I’ve never seen this many hat tricks in a season,” he said, noting he will toss his final sombrero if another Condor scores three goals. “I started with five sombreros this year and I may have to start hitting the thrift stores. I’m trying to find some people who are going to Mexico so I can restock.”