May 28, 2009
Last night the Red Wings managed to beat the Blackhawks 2-1 in an overtime thriller and return to the Stanley Cup. For those unfamiliar with the traditions of Hockeytown, I give you The Legend of the Octopus:
The Legend of the Octopus is a sports tradition during Detroit Red Wings home playoff games in which an octopus is thrown onto the ice surface for good luck. The origins of the activity go back to the 1952 playoffs, when a National Hockey League team played two best-of-seven series to capture the Stanley Cup. The octopus, having eight arms, symbolized the number of playoff wins necessary for the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup. The tradition was first started on April 15, 1952 by Pete and Jerry Cusimano, brothers and storeowners in Detroit’s Eastern Market. The team swept the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens en route to winning the championship, as well as winning two of the next three championships.
Since 1952, because the tossing of octopuses is generally viewed as a successful symbol of good luck, the practice has persisted each year; in one 1995 game, fans threw 36 octopuses, including a 30-pounder. The Red Wings’ unofficial mascot is a purple octopus named Al, and during playoff runs two of these mascots are also hung from the rafters of the Joe Louis Arena, symbolizing the 16 wins now needed to win the Stanley Cup. It has become such an accepted part of the team’s lore, that fans have developed what is considered proper etiquette and technique for throwing an octopus onto the ice.
Those octopi also flew a few weeks ago at the Grand Haven Kite Festival (click that link for a slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool).
See this photo bigger in GH Patriot’s Other slideshow.