Octopus Throwing Etiquette

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Octopus Lobbing * *(but were afraid to ask)

Sports fans are a suspicious lot; from playoff beards, to periods of celibacy, to items of clothing that can’t be washed (ever), there are traditions and unwritten rules in every sport and for every team. One of the most mysterious (and according to SOME, the most disgusting), is use of the lucky octopus by (my beloved) the NHL Detroit Red Wings. (It bears noting, that, for my part, I am neither from Michigan nor have I ever lived there. I chose my fandom as a child in the early 80s, when there was no local team with which to gift my loyalty. However, my hockey cred is sound. The first time I kicked my mother in utero was at a Houston Arrows game in 1974, while the Great Gordie Howe was on the ice. She swore I’d be a goalie. And I thought she loved me.)

If you have seen a Detroit hockey game, you may or may not have spotted, flying high over the crowd, a lone octopus. Having been launched by a furtive fan, the cephalopod arcs over the glass to fall slimy on the ice. “Why the hell did they do that,” you may ask. The legend goes thusly…

Al Sobotka Octopus Throwing Cleanup

Octopus Pickup – Photo by Rick Osentoski – USA Today

The Legend

Back in the early days of the NHL, there were far fewer teams. In the 1951-52 season, for example, there were only 6: Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, and of course the aforementioned Detroit Red Wings. These teams are referred to as “The Original 6”. Today, they are the venerable legacy teams, Detroit, alone has faithfully appeared at the playoffs for the last 25 consecutive seasons. During the grindhouse days of the early NHL, when helmets were for pansies and pads were non-existent unless you were a goalie, these teams were the only show in town. The standard season consisted of a mere 70 games, compared to today’s 82 per team. The playoff season hosted 2 best of 7 series, today there are 12 matchups before the final. And therein lies the legend.

Theoretically, in that spring of 1952, it would only take the Red Wings 8 games to win the coveted Cup of Lord Stanley. Two brothers, Detroit fishmongers Pete and Jerry Cusimano thought, “8 games, 8 legs…OCTOPUS!” On April 15, 1952, Game 1 of the playoffs, they flung the first octopus onto the ice at The Old Red Barn. The angels sang and the Red Wings went on to sweep the Leafs in 4, then do the same to the Canadiens. They didn’t just win The Cup, they were totally undefeated. Goalie Terry Sawchuck shut out every home game. The Wings scored 24 goals in that playoff series, compared to the Leafs and Canadiens combined total of 5. It was a slaughter. A beautiful, bloody, victorious slaughter, which lives on in our octopus flinging tradition.

For the sake of comparison, I will include at this point, some other traditions of flung goods at hockey games. The most heartwarming of these occurs on the occasion of a rookie player’s first hat trick. In a show of unflinching pride and solidarity, fans of both sides, cheering, remove their hats and litter the ice with their head gear. Returning to the gross, during the 2002-03 season, Nashville Predators fans began lobbing catfish onto the ice as a direct, albeit pathetic, response to the sainted octopus. The San Jose Sharks throw…sharks. (How creative of them.) For the 2006 playoffs, at the suggestion of a radio host, Edmonton Oilers fans flung Alberta Beef steaks, resulting in arrests at away games. In Jacksonville, the Jaguars fans throw rats. Fortunately, they have graduated to rubber versions.

It doesn’t happen every game, and it can happen at home in Detroit or on the road, but especially during playoffs, the air can be thick with flying octopi. In one game in 1995, there were a total of 36 sacrifices, one being the largest thrown to date, weighing in at 38lbs. Al is the moniker of the giant purple octopus, the Red Wings’ unofficial mascot. During playoffs, 2 of the beasts, inflatable versions, of course) hang in the rafters of the Joe Louis Arena, symbolizing the 16 wins now necessary for the attainment of The Grail of Hockey.

Octopus Throwing

There is a whole etiquette to a properly thrown octopus.

  1. It is advisable to get a very fresh specimen, as decomposition can be problematic.
  2. Lightly sauté the ‘pus in lemon juice and garlic. This helps with the smell and the texture, affording the flinger a better grip.
  3. If you want the octo to “sit pretty” when he reaches his destination, stuff a lemon or lime into his head cavity.
  4. It is VERY important to AT LEAST double bag the octopus in ziplock. This will keep the lingering scent of octopus juice to a minimum, as you are now faced with where to hide the thing.
  5. That’s right, hide it. If security at the arena gets wind of your little flying friend, they won’t let you in. Time was, the team even faced fines for stoppage of game when the rare flying octopus took to the air. So hide that sucker in the depths of your parka, they’ll find it under your hat.

Once seated, chose your moment of chucking with care. And, please, do NOT make the rookie mistake of twirling it by the tentacles. Those things break off and you don’t want to hit the child behind you in the face with a slightly sautéed octopus. Or maybe you do. Regardless, heave that sucker high, achieving maximum altitude to make it over the glass but be aware of your range and trajectory. If you hit an official, leave the area immediately.

If you are at a home game in Detroit, you will then see Al Sobotka, the head ice manager retrieve the ‘pus. He used to do scoop it up in a snow shovel, but apparently he’s decided that shovels are for amateurs and now he just picks up the slimy thing and swings it around his head and he trots off the ice like a conquering hero. Back in 2008, the NHL tried to squash his enthusiasm with a $10,000 fine. They failed. Al remains defiant, like all good Red Wings fans.


BP MS Ride 2016: Riding With Purpose

My first MS Ride is in the books. BP MS Ride 2016 was a short one because before we even left Austin, day 2 was canceled due to incoming weather.

Embed from Getty Images

Houston to Austin MS Ride

Houston to Austin MS Ride

A lot of people were not happy, but safety does come first and while I was amongst the unhappy, I was also understanding. Now that I have ridden my first MS Ride I can say without a doubt that my feelings about the ride are mixed.

NOTE: These are my negatives and personal feelings and have nothing to do with the charitable organization. The sole reason for the ride is to raise money to fight this awful disease.

MS Ride Cons

Fund Raising

It’s for a great cause, this is probably the most known charity in the world next to cancer. I personally, however, hate asking people for money no matter how worthy the cause. It makes me feel uncomfortable for reasons I cannot explain. I was stressing over reaching the minimum, but I did and then some. It felt great to hit the mark.


Most people who know me would think this would be a given, I would like to say that the whole shyness thing kinda melted away, but it didn’t. It wasn’t always easy to figure out what to do or when, but somehow between me and my riding buddy we managed to ask questions of complete strangers and get to where we needed to be when we needed to be.


I don’t have MS, but I do know a couple people who do have MS.The clapping and cheering along the way made me uncomfortable because I was not the one with MS. I was the one doing what I love to do — a lot — ride my bike. I don’t see myself as a hero or doing anything spectacular. All I did was ask others to donate to MS in my name so that I could ride my bike from Houston to Austin. The cheering and clapping as we rode by was uncomfortable.


The outbound logistics was well organized, but the return logistics failed miserably. Even if they didn’t cancel Day 2, the organizers should have had a contingency plan for cancellations. It was apparent that if there was contingency plan for cancellations that they were either not prepared or they needed a contingency plan to their contingency plan. We waited more than 2 hours for a bus to return us Austin and in the process got soaked just standing there. We didn’t get that wet riding 100 miles. It was the first time during the ride that I was less than thrilled.

MS Ride Pros


This tops my list of awesomeness. I got to ride 100 miles on FOFL flat ground and small hills. I got the best of both riding worlds, riding in groups and riding alone. With the ebb and flow of the 10,000 riders it was easy to fall between groups and hook up with others. I smiled the entire 100 miles. I loved every minute of being on the bike, even in the 2 light drizzles. It was such a great feeling I’m already trying to figure out how to do another long ride.


A lot of money was raised for this worthy cause and I am very proud to be a part of it. It was a great accomplishment.

Despite the stresses of raising money, figuring out the logistics, and missing out on riding into Austin, I had a great time riding and hanging out with riders. If I decide to do this again, I know better what to do and what not to do. I think the next ride will be an even better and happier experience.

MS has announced that next year the 2017 BP MS 150 will roll on April 29-30, 2017. So come join a ride.