Have you ever wondered how the Detroit tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice ever started?
The octopus first made its appearance on April 15, 1952, during the Red Wings' Stanley Cup playoff run.
Two Detroit brothers, Pete and Jerry Cusimano, threw the eight-legged creature on the ice at old Olympia Stadium. The thinking was each leg of the octopus was symbolic of the 8 playoff wins then-necessary to win the Stanley Cup. Back in the Original Six days there was two best-of-seven series to decide who would win the Stanley Cup. Since the Red Wings swept each series that year, winning 8 games, the Octopus has come to be the good luck charm ever since.
Although it was reportedly Jerry's suggestion, Pete Cusimano in particular became famous for the stunt, being dubbed "The Octopus Pitcher."
And he has stories to tell. Like the story of how referee Frank Udvari didn't know what to do about that first octopus.
"You should have seen how Udvari jumped when he saw our first octopus! He skated away scared before a guy with a shovel came and removed the overgrown squid," Cusimano told Dick Beddoes for the book Greatest Hockey Stories.
Beddoes asked Cusimano if he ever targeted a player or referee on the ice with the octopus.
"One time I got hot at Ted Kennedy of Toronto. He'd been having a big series against Detroit. Scoring a lot of goals. Scragging a lot of our guys. So during a beef, when they're all standing around yapping, I decide to let Kennedy have it. Only I hit another Toronto player. Vic Lynn was standing right beside Kennedy and he got the octopus. Splat in the kisser."
Of course the tradition has carried over to Joe Louis Arena on a near nightly basis, but the Octopus Pitching is somewhat else's duty nowadays.
Bob Dubisky and Larry Shotwell became somewhat famous in the 1995 playoffs when they chucked a 50-pound octopus in the Conference Finals. The octopus was proudly displayed on the hood of the Zamboni between periods.
By the way, do you ever wonder what they do with the Octopus once it is removed from the ice? I have no idea, but I found these Hockey Octopus Recipes including Make 'Em See Red Octopus Pasta, Hockey Puck Octopus Bites, and Stanley Cup Octopus Stew.
Rink manager Al Sobotka takes the octopi out the back door and dumps them into the Detroit River where the sewer carp have a nice feast.
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