A Detroit Red Wing fan licks the octopus before throwing it on the ice during Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
Lost in all the media hullabaloo surrounding the re-birth of the Flyers; Malkin and Crosby’s Coming Out Party (not that kind of coming out, mind you...); the lack of any noticeable and customary annual implosion by the Red Wings and the return to prominence of the Stars, is the real story of this year’s NHL playoffs: OctopusGate.
In the off-chance you’re new to the sport or just hopelessly stupid, the story goes like this: The Detroit Red Wings hockey club has this “tradition” that sees their fans toss an octopus or, octopi (like an apple pie but distinctly more pungent) onto to the ice to celebrate a goal or to just motivate their brethren into a hypnotic frenzy. (Assuming this strange endeavor is actually adequate motivation for the general northern-Michiganian populace, it’s not hard to see why General Motors is faltering so badly.)
Apparently this thing dates back to the early ‘50s and has roughly something to do with:
(a) the number of wins required to win the Cup in that era, represented by the creature’s eight tentacles (crabs just didn’t cut it).
(b) the abundance of sea mollusks in the greater Detroit area.
(c) the uncontrollable human urge to throw food around.
For the most part, this tradition has survived the passage of time with little controversy or fanfare (except for the octopi themselves, who still aren’t big on the practice). But recently the NHL brass decided to try and put an end to it, once and for all.
Swinging or using the creatures in any way to inspire the crowd will no longer be tolerated on the ice surface and will result in a $10,000 fine for the Red Wings and a dirty look from Gary Bettman at the next directors meeting/golf function.
The league’s argument is, as the sea urchins are whipped around, tiny pieces of the creatures break off, causing less-than-perfect ice conditions. Strange that a constant supply of human blood, teeth and spit doesn’t harm the ice, but three octopi (literally) spread over 60-odd minutes does.
Then again, maybe man’s noxious global fingerprint on the oceans of the world has made the new-and-improved octopus that much more toxic and ice-unfriendly. It is, after all, only fair to give the sage team of zoologists currently employed at NHL HQ the benefit of the doubt.
What this means for the future success of the Red Wings is anyone’s guess. Perhaps stinky, rotting seafood is more motivational than first thought. Add to that the “tossing” aspect, and you have one big, gooey mass of a Tony Robbins-esque crustacean inspiration.
All in all, you would have to think it’s really good news for some, and not-so-good news for others.
One would imagine that octopi are loving this - although they are technically “dead” when the act occurs and their lives aren’t exactly thrilling in the first place. Of course, maybe being hurled around in front of 20,000 people is the octopal equivalent to burying a Pope (“hey look, there’s Bob. Man, look at those aerodynamics!”).
For most, though, this is not something to be celebrated.
Fans won’t be happy. They are denied their great and slimy tradition.
Seafood operators will see a noticeable decline is sales.
And, what about the dwarves? While executives in New York City have promptly moved to end the cruel practice of flinging eight-legged mollusks at hockey games, the “grand” tradition of dwarf-tossing continues, with no end in sight.
Oh, the injustice.
The preceding was purely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. By entertainment, we mean we hope you laughed while reading it, framing it, or burning it. Any similarities between this and actual events is strictly coincidental and frankly, dumb luck. Remember to remind your lawyer about the made-up part, OK?
Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.
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