Rats, Octopi and sharks! NHL needs pest control for playoffs
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Rats! And Octopi. Even a lifeless shark.
Real or rubber, NHL arenas in the postseason have a way of turning into an overflowing Animal House on the ice once fans get their arms warmed up.
Angry you missed out on zoological fun?
No worries, maybe some of the playoff stars will brighten the mood with the glow-in-the dark wristbands that disgruntled Philadelphia Flyers fans hurled on the ice during a game this week.
The Flyers condemned the fans for soiling the end of a blowout loss that was punctuated by the public address announcer urging them to ''show some class.''
Hey, at least the giveaway wasn't sponsored by PetSmart.
But Flyers fans aren't alone in pelting the ice with the nearest unbolted-turned-flying object.
According to the Red Wings, the octopus first made its appearance on April 15, 1952. Two Detroit brothers threw it on the ice at Olympia Stadium, the idea being that each tentacle was symbolic of a win in the playoffs.
Back in the day, the six-team NHL required only eight wins of its playoff champion, not the current 16.
The Red Wings swept the series that year, and the octopus toss has been a staple ever since. The tradition carried to Joe Louis Arena on opening night in 1979 when several found their way on to the ice.
The Red Wings even have a 20-foot tall, 800-pound purple octopus named Al on the roof of Joe Louis Arena for their current postseason run.
The mascot was named in honor of Red Wings building manager Al Sobotka - the zamboni driver and, yes, official scooper of any smuggled octopi thrown on the ice. He'll traditionally grab the octopi with his bare hands and twirl them around his head in the arena's tunnel.
''I don't know what the technical name is for stuff that comes off an octopus. I assume it's some sort of gunk,'' NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said during the 2008 playoffs. ''When it sticks on the ice it's a problem, and when it gets on things - it actually in one game got on a goaltender as it was being swung.
''It's really more about making sure that no player hits something on the ice and blows out his knee. ... I have no illusions,'' Bettman added. ''The octopi will fly, but they just can't be swung because we've got to limit the gunk.''
The octopi will fly!
Now that's a postseason slogan in Detroit with legs.
Neither Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick nor Corey Crawford could ever ride the kind of hot streak capable of stopping all the eclectic items tossed on the ice during an NHL game.
Here are some of the wildest. Please, don't call PETA.
RAINING RATS: The so-called Florida Panthers ''Rat Trick'' started when Scott Mellanby used his stick to exterminate a live rat in the Panthers' dressing room before an October 1995 games, then went out and scored two goals that night. By the end of the season, it was raining rats in the arena after every Panther goal and fast became part of Panthers' lore.
The Panthers approve of the tradition and call the stories of the day on their website the ''Rats Roundup.''
The Miami Herald published a rubber rats playoff etiquette guide before Florida's playoff series with the Islanders that answered some burning questions. Some excerpts:
- ''When can I throw my rat? Only after the game is complete.''
- ''Do I need to sneak my rats in? No.''
- ''What if I get excited and throw my rat after a goal? The Panthers don't like that.''
YOU'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT: Maybe the San Jose Sharks should have called on Quint to help them out when one fan threw a 3-foot leopard shark with an octopus sewn into its mouth after a goal in a 2010 Western Conference semifinal game. One of the perpetrators smuggled the shark into the game by duct taping it to his leg.
''It was done for fun, it was done to mock Detroit's throwing the octopus on the ice; mission successful,'' one of the men told KGO-TV news in the San Francisco Bay Area after completing his far flung stunt, hiding his identity because he didn't want to lose his Sharks season tickets. ''Sure, it smelled fishy, but only the freshest shark for this occasion.''
WHERE'S THE BEEF: Ottawa super-sized its record down the stretch and used a ''Hamburglar'' to order up a playoff berth in 2015. With a nickname swiped from the McDonald's mascot, rookie Andrew Hammond took the NHL by storm. Ottawa fans tossed hamburgers on the ice and the owner of six McDonald's locations in the Ottawa Valley arranged for Hammond to have a card that gave him free McDonald's food for life.
Edmonton fans have hit the rib, err, bullseye on ice and tossed Alberta beef at Oilers games. Yes, Kobe isn't the only one who connects from long range in the postseason.
TIP OF THE CAP: Oh yeah, hats!
It's always OK to throw hats when a player nets a hat trick, a long-standing NHL tradition.
The hats are gently swept off the ice and usually added to a display case.
So much easier than calling pest control.