The Octopus Legend


A couple of nights ago, I wrote about the Detroit Red Wings in my Team History Series.  Now, I would like to visit them again, but this time we will  explore… The Octopus Legend.

You may be asking why did Joe decide to write about this?

Well, the Red Wings are getting set to come back to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on November 24th at 7pm.  Everyone remembers what happened during the game on February 17, 2011 with Octopi being flung onto our ice.  This is not the Joe Louis Arena, and was very disrespectful to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, and its’ fan base.

There was even an uproar over a member of the ice crew swinging an octopus after the Red Wings scored during the 3rd period of that game.  The game ended 6-2.  The ice crew member was just doing what they do in Detroit, but he realized it was very  disrespectful to fans and the organization.  This matter was handled internally, but details were not publicly disclosed.

The tradition started during Red Wing playoff games back in 1952, in which an octopus would be flung every time the team scored, during the playoffs.  Joe Louis Arena is generally adorned with a giant octopus with red eyes.  You can see from the picture that it is a very big deal, and Detroit is very loud and proud of it.  It’s nickname is “Al” which is after Head Ice Manager, Al Sabotka, who is known for swinging it above his head when walking off the ice.  The owner of a local fish market, Peter Cusimano, threw one from the stands during a game onto the ice.

The 8 legs of the Octopus is meant to be symbolic of the 8 wins it took to win the Stanley Cup back then.  The Red Wings swept both opponents en route to win the Cup.

The NHL has tried their best to eliminate the tradition, but it continues to this day.  On April19, 2008, Director of Hockey Operations, Colin Campbell sent a memo to the organization that forbids them from allowing Zamboni drivers from removing the Octopi from the ice.  It must be the linesmen that do this.  The ban was loosened to allow the twirling to be done at where the zamboni enters and exists from.  Frank Brown, NHL Spokesman stated “matter flies off it, and gets onto the ice”.

The tradition is meant to be done, primarily during the last 1-2 minutes, of games the Red Wings are winning… especially towards the end of the season, and most certainly during playoff games.