Where did Red Wings octopus tradition come from? I grew up in the Detroit area, now I live in Utah. I know that at Detroit Red Wings games we had a tradition in the playoffs of throwing an octopus on the ice. But I can t for the life of me remember why! – Tawnia
It s truly a sight to see for any Hockey fan: when the Red Wings win a playoff game, you might see an octopus make an appearance center ice. In fact, some fans even smuggle the creatures into the arena inside their coats! But what s with the odd tradition? The Motor City s proud tradition of saluting the Detroit Red Wings with slimy creatures of the deep dates back over half a century. The first octopus landed on the ice during the 1952 Stanley Cup run, courtesy of brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano, who owned a fish market. If you know your cephalopods, you will know that an octopus has eight tentacles. In those days it took eight playoff wins to claim the Cup, hence the supposed symbolism of the gesture. The Red Wings were perfect in the 52 playoffs, sweeping the semifinal and the final in straight games. The octopus has been a good luck charm ever since. By 1995, the team had adopted the tradition by introducing a mascot, Al the Octopus.
Al is raised to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena before every home playoff game and used in team merchandising and promotion. A toss into the trivia books may have cost one of Windsor s biggest Red Wings fans more than he anticipated. Nick Horvath, 30, boasts of throwing the last octopus during the final Red Wings game at Joe Louis Arena in April and now the first during Thursday s home opener at the new Little Caesars Arena. But that claim to fame may have earned him a ban from the Wings new home. The devoted, life-long fan Horvath has been to hundreds of games and has kept all the ticket stubs was manhandled out of the arena after he lobbed an octopus onto the ice as the Star Spangled Banner was coming to a close. I made it about half way across the width of the ice, Horvath said Friday. It was massive with two great big eyeballs. Everyone started going nuts. Everyone s loving you, they re high-fiving you. You re going nuts, he said of the experience. But that joy was short-lived. Security guards grabbed him and whisked him away to be questioned by Detroit police who presented him with a court summons for a misdemeanour charge.
People were booing security and shouting, Let him go, he said, while another fan, who also threw an octopus on the ice, managed to get away. Nick Horvath threw the first octopus on the ice at the Red Wings home opener and was promptly escorted out of Little Caesars Arena and told not to ever return. He is pictured at his Windsor home on Oct. 6, 2017. Horvath snuck the dead creature into the arena under his clothing. He wrapped the octopus in plastic wrap, moulding it into the shape of a football. He placed it on his stomach and had a friend wind more plastic wrap around his body to hold the octopus in place. I put my shirt on and my jersey and you can t even tell you (can t) see anything, he said. This last one was pretty big so I looked like I had a beer belly. The tradition of throwing a dead octopus on the ice dates back to the 1952 playoffs. Legend has it that the eight arms symbolize the number of playoff wins needed for the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup. The ritual has continued over the years. Today, the team s unofficial mascot is a purple octopus named Al. During playoff runs, two of the mascots are hung from the rafters to symbolize the 16 wins now needed to take home the Cup.
Officials, over the years, have mostly looked the other way when fans tossed the soft-bodied molluscs. At the Joe, even back in the day they embraced it for a long time, Horvath said. All of sudden here, it was a big deal. I don t know if they re trying to make an example of me. I just want to keep the tradition going especially at the new arena, he said. I wasn t trying to disrupt anything, just keep it going. Horvath, who has Red Wing tattoos on his chest and arms, spoke of his allegiance to his team. I ve pretty much devoted my life to this team, he said. Any big games, playoffs don t even call me because I won t answer my phone. I watch every single game. Recently, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals pleaded with fans to consider ending the Detroit tradition, saying, Octopuses are intelligent, sensitive animals who use tools, communicate with one another, form romantic bonds, and deserve our respect. We hope the new stadium will usher in a new era of compassion for them. PETA representatives handed out soft toy octopuses before Thursday s opener against the Minnesota Wild.