NHL Teams

Why Do Detroit Red Wings Throw Octopus On Ice?

By Dipak BK / 29 October 2023 06:58 AM

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Detroit Red Wings throw an octopus on ice to symbolize the number of playoff wins required for the Wings to clinch the Stanley Cup.

The Red Wings octopus story actually began in 1952 when brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano threw the octopus into the Olympia Stadium rink.

The act of throwing the octopus on the ice has continued since then. In one instance in 1995, a total of 36 Octopi were thrown on the ice, one of which was a 38-pounder.

They won the 1952 Stanley Cup sweeping the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens when the tradition began. The practice has persisted throughout the years as a symbol of good luck for the Wings.

The rite of throwing the octopus on ice was also the impulse behind their current mascot "Al the Octopus" a purple octopus unveiled in 1995. 

The legend of the Octopus has inspired several events that involved fans of various NHL teams throwing different types of aquatic creatures, non-aquatic creatures, and other items into the Ice. 

The Detroit Red Wings, are one of the original six teams founded in the NHL and have won 11 Stanley Cups since the franchise's inception.

The octopus-throwing tradition began at the Olympia Stadium which was the Wings home for 52 years before their move to Joe Louis Arena in 1979 and then to their current home of Little Caesars Arena in 2017. 

Octopus Detroit Red Wings Tradition

The Red Wings' tradition of throwing the Octopus into the Ice began in 1952 when teams needed to nab 8 playoff wins to win the Stanley Cup.

During the 1952 playoffs, the Red Wings were playing the Montreal Canadiens. During the 3rd game of the series, brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano threw an Octopus into the rink of the Olympia Stadium.

The Wings actually went on to sweep the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs to win the 1952 Stanley Cup and the tradition has stuck since then. 

At the time it began, teams needed to win 8 playoff games before they could hold the Holy Grail of Hockey coveted by many in their hands.

The octopus with its 8 limbs was the perfect way to symbolize that fact. It is still continued on to this date despite numerous attempts from the NHL to put a stop to it. 

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The number of playoff games needed to win the Stanley Cup is now 16 games. But that matter can be addressed just by throwing 2 octopuses and what matters more is the tradition and the symbolism behind the octopus for the fans.

The mascot of the Red Wings "Al the Octopus" is based on the legend of the octopus. The mascot was in fact named after Al Sobotka, the man responsible for picking up the Octopus thrown by fans and he twirled the octopus above his head after picking it up. 

National Hockey League tried to ban the twirling completely in 2008 but loosened regulations after the backlash from fans for the regulation dubbed as "Octopus-gate" by the press. 

The legend of the Octopus has been the inspiration for many events that occurred in NHL history some of which are as follows. 

- New Jersey Devils fans threw lobsters, dead fish, and other objects onto the ice in the third game of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals.

- Nashville Predators fans threw catfish on 26 January 1999 in the game against the Wings and that tradition has continued since then.

- San Jose Sharks fans threw a 3-foot leopard shark onto the ice during their 4th game of the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals against the Red Wings. 

- The Pittsburgh seafood wholesalers refused to sell individuals from Michigan during the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals between the Penguins and the Wings. 

- The San Jose Sharks fans threw a small shark again in 2010 in the playoffs against the Wings. 

- A Nashville Predator fan threw a skinned duck on the ice at the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs between the Predators and the Anaheim Ducks.

Detriot Red Wings Stanley Cup History

The Red Wings have won 11 Stanley Cup titles since their inception in 1926 as one of the original six teams in the National Hockey League. 

Their first Stanley Cup win was in 1936 in their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance. They won the series 3-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs with the winning goal scored by Pete Kelly in the third period of the 4th game.

The next season after the team coached by Jack Adam won their first Stanley Cup, they defeated the NY Rangers 3-2 in the 1937 Finals to win their second championship

This was the first back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in franchise history and the series-winning goal was scored by Matt Barry in the first period. 

In the 1943 Stanley Cup Finals, the Red Wings swept the Boston Bruins 4-0 to win their third Stanley Cup which included a Johnny Mowers shutout of the Bruins for the last two games.

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The 1950 Stanley Cup Finals was played between the Red Wings and the Rangers with the Wings winning 4-3 against the Rangers in the Finals that came down to the seventh game. The Series-winning goal for the Wings was scored by Pete Babando in the second OT. 

In the 1952 Stanley Cup Finals played between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit swept the series 4-0 which included 2 shutouts by Terry Sawchuk in his finals debut and 2 goals scored by Gordie Howe in his Finals debut. 

The Wings only allowed one goal each in the first two games becoming the first team to go perfect in the playoffs, a feat that has been replicated only once (1960, Canadiens went 8-0 against the Blackhawks and then the Maple Leafs) since then.

The Red Wings got their second consecutive Stanley Cup championship in franchise history with their wins in the 1954 and 1955 Cup Finals.

They won the 1954 and the 1955 finals 4-3 against the Montreal Canadiens with Tony Leswick scoring the series-winner in 1954 in OT and Gordie Howe in 1955 in the second period.

1955 was the last time the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup until they won it back-to-back in 1997 and 1998 for the third time in franchise history.

The Wings swept the Flyers 4-0 to win the 1997 Finals and in 1998 they swept the Washington Capitals 4-0 to win the ninth Stanley Cup in franchise history.

The Red Wings got their 10th Stanley Cup in the 2002 Finals which was their twenty-second Finals appearance. The team captained by the now GM Steve Yzerman won 4-1 against the Carolina Hurricanes which was making their first finals appearance in franchise history. 

The team got their 11th Stanley Cup in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals when they won 4-2 against the Penguins with the series-winning goal scored by Henrik Zetterberg in the third period of game 6.

 Zetterberg got the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP. The Detroit NHL franchise is currently on a trophy drought of 15 seasons since 2008. 

Detroit Red Wings Mascot History

Al the Octopus is the mascot of the Detroit Red Wings. The franchise had Red Winger as the mascot for a short stint between 1982 and 1987. 

Their current Mascot Al the Octopus is a purple octopus based on the Detroit tradition of throwing the octopus which dates back to 1952.

The mascot was unveiled in the 1995 playoffs and eventually named Al in honor of Al Sobotka, the former building manager of the Little Ceasers and the Joe Louis Arena who twirled the octopus after picking it up. 

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Al has been raised to the rafters for every playoff of the Detroit Red Wings since his unveiling in 1995. Since then, the Wings added blinking lights for his eyes, added a red shirt, and removed a tooth to transform him into the Al fans know and love today.

Al dons jersey number 8 and appears frequently in the Red Wings promotional campaigns. However, the sad fact is that there is no costumed version of Al the Octopus as of yet.

Before the Al fans know and love today there was another mascot known as "the Winger" rallying fans in the Detroit Red Wings history, albeit it was a short-lived one.

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