If you ask any longtime Guelph hockey fan about where the hat trick came from, they'll tell you the term originated within the boards of a Guelph arena.

But, while the Royal City has a major stake in the evolution of the hat trick, there are others who lay claim to bringing the term to hockey.

It was 1947 when the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters were revived after a hiatus during the Second World War. The Ontario Hockey Association team (a precursor to the Ontario Hockey League), which played in the Junior A ranks, was sponsored by Guelph-based hat company Biltmore Hats.

Biltmore Hats began in 1917 in Niagara Falls, moved to Toronto, and then settled on Suffolk Street in Guelph in 1919. The company was called the Fried Hat Co. until 1921, when it was renamed after the company's new owners enjoyed their time at a buying expedition at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City.

Since then, the name Biltmore has become synonymous with quality hats for men and women, and in the 1950s Biltmore took advantage of its hockey team sponsorship to market its fedoras.

Rose Gombas, who lives just a block away from the current Biltmore factory on Morris Street, said it was Norm McMillian, a general manager and later president of Biltmore Hats, who started giving the fedoras away to league players who scored a hat trick.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's where it started -- Biltmore Hats," Gombas said.

Gombas used to work in a café called Victoria Sweets, across the street from the Guelph Memorial Gardens, which was located where the new city hall now stands.

"All I know is Biltmore Hats gave them a hat," Gombas said. "If you wanted a good hat, they were known for their hats."

Guelph has competition, however, from another hatter who's also laid claim to originating the term.

The late Sammy Taft, who sold hats from his shop in Toronto, rewarded National Hockey League players at Maple Leaf Gardens who netted three in a game.

The story goes that Chicago Blackhawks winger Alex Kaleta, born in Canmore, Alta., walked into Taft's shop, but couldn't afford a hat.

Taft told him if he scored three goals in that night's game against the Maple Leafs, he would give him a hat.

Kaleta delivered and then some.

He scored not just a hat trick, but four goals in the Jan. 26, 1946 game.

Kaleta's performance in that particular game is noted on the Chicago Blackhawks' team website, as well as in Hockey's Book of Firsts by James Duplacey, as "the first hat trick with a hat."

Some published accounts say Taft began the hat trick tradition in the 1930s with Kaleta, but a check of Kaleta's stats with the team's website shows he played for the Blackhawks in 1941-42, and from 1945-48.

The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto also credits Taft with bringing the term to hockey in the 1930s, although Kelly Masse, spokesperson for the Hall of Fame, said it's hard to say when the term started being used in hockey.

"It was good promotion of his hats," Masse said of Taft's efforts.

Over time, the hat trick has evolved, Masse said, and in the 1970s NHL fans started throwing their ball hats on the ice when a player scored three goals in a game, a tradition that continues in hockey arenas today.

No matter when the term was adopted for hockey, however, the hat trick actually originated in the sport of cricket.

The popular British team sport has existed for centuries, but the first formal rules were written in 1744.

The first use of the term hat trick in cricket was in 1858, and its use is recorded in the Extended Oxford Dictionary.

The story goes that HH Stephenson, of the All-England Eleven, was awarded a hat after taking three wickets in three balls, or in other words, he hit the wicket behind the batter three times in three consecutive bowls.

But don't tell Guelphites that.

Joe Holody, of Holody Electro-Plating on Victoria Road -- whose Guelph Platers OHL team won the Memorial Cup in 1986 -- said there's no question the hat trick started in Guelph.

"It certainly did. That is certainly the truth. And that was to support their fedoras," he said of Biltmore's habit of giving out the hats to players who scored hat tricks.

Holody said the whole team sported Biltmore's creations.

"They went out of town with their nice fedoras," he said.

Monte Cirotto, a Guelph real-estate agent and longtime hockey fan, has a collection of Guelph Biltmore news clippings and photos, and even has a team photo with all the players wearing matching Biltmore fedoras.

"I get the feeling it actually happened in Guelph," Cirotto said of the hat trick's beginnings.

Cirotto's photos even include one of himself driving a car in the 1952 parade celebrating the Mad Hatters' Memorial Cup win.

Even when presented with evidence to the contrary, the Guelph hat trick legend still takes precedence in the mind of at least one former Biltmore.

Chuck Henderson, who played for the Biltmores during the 1951-52 Memorial Cup season, said he still thinks the hat trick was a Guelph creation even after reading about Alex Kaleta's 1946 hat grab from Sammy Taft in his copy of Hockey's Book of Firsts.

All the better for the Biltmore Hats though, which brought back the hat trick tradition in Guelph for the 2006-07 season with the Guelph Storm, awarding a hat to players who scored three in a game. For every subsequent hat trick by the same player that year, the company promised to donate a hat to a charity of the player's choice.

Biltmore Hats owner Eric Lynes, who purchased the hat manufacturer in 2005, said his company might revive the fedora-giving tradition again in the future.

"I'm not too steeped in the tradition of hockey, being from the U.S. and the South," said Lynes, who moved to Guelph from Kentucky. "I didn't really appreciate hockey until I went to the Storm game and they dropped that puck."

And even though he's new to hockey, Lynes is proud his company has a connection to hockey history.

"It's an honour to be part of an established institution in Guelph such as Biltmore Hats," Lynes said.