While integral to the game, some sports traditions have very strange origin stories. One of these curious cases can be found at Detroit Red Wings home games. If you’re lucky enough to attend one, don’t be alarmed if you see an octopus or two land on the ice in the middle of play!
Sports Traditions: Red Wings Legend of The Octopus
Eight Arms, One Answer
Two brothers’ antics are behind the modern-day affection Red Wings fans have for cephalopod mollusks. It was April 15, 1952, and Jerry and Pete Cusimano turned an octopus into a rally cry.
Each of the eight arms represented one of the wins their team would need to sweep the playoffs (the two best of seven series) and hoist Lord Stanley’s trophy triumphantly into the air. The Red Wings went on to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens to win the NHL Championship that year, and the tradition was born.
There are some points of order when it comes to carrying out this tradition. Fans boil the octopus and give it a little lemon and white wine bath to mask its natural fragrance. During the 1995 playoffs, there were over 50 octopus launched onto the ice, according to Al Sobotka, build manager and Zamboni operator. He’s famous for, at times, twirling the eight-armed creatures above his head when cleaning them off the ice. This is also why their team mascot, an octopus, has earned the name Al.
This doesn’t take place just in Detroit either, Red Wings fans have been willing to share their tradition with the rest of the league in their houses.
While tossing octopus onto the ice may not be your thing, supporting your team most certainly is. Whether they’re the Detroit Red Wings, or another NHL team, pick up the best merchandise and apparel at Fanatics to cheer them off with pride!