Why Do They Throw Catfish on the Ice at Nashville Predators Games?

Melissa Willets - Author

Mar. 16 2023, Published 12:20 p.m. ET

It's a tradition that dates back to 2003. Or maybe 1999 — or perhaps even earlier, to the 1950s. Depending on who you ask, sports fans have been throwing catfish on the ice at Nashville Predators games for years.

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Why do they throw catfish on the ice? And what do Predators players and the powers that be think about this odd and slightly gross practice? With ice hockey season well underway, here's what you need to know before witnessing dead fish careening across the ice.

So, why do fans throw catfish on the ice at Nashville Predators games?

According to The Tennessean, Nashville Predators fans first began throwing catfish onto the ice in response to Detroit Red Wings fans tossing octopi on the ice.

Why octopi? In 1952, eight postseason games were needed to win the Stanley Cup — now, 16 postseason wins are required. But of course, an octopus has eight legs, so, well, you get it.

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Former Predators owner Craig Leipold reportedly said (about the first instance of a catfish being thrown on the ice), "I was pleasantly surprised when I realized it was a catfish. I figured it had to be one of our fans mocking the Red Wings. I was not disappointed."

The tradition has continued until today, with Predators fans tossing the dead fish on the ice before the action gets underway, so as not to disrupt the game. Not that fans always adhere to that unofficial rule, as you can see in a video posted to YouTube.

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The Predators officially look down on the catfish practice, but unofficially are all in.

Although the Predators reportedly do not endorse fans tossing catfish on the ice before games, it sure seems like the team embraces the tradition. Consider the social media posts shared by the team's official account, which boast about the fan-loved tradition involving dead fish.

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Fans clearly love the catfish tradition as well, and have gone to great lengths to sneak the stinky fish into Bridgestone Arena. Per The Tennessean, mega-fan Wes Collins once secured a 20-pound catfish to his body using plastic wrap, then donned a too-big jersey so as to not raise suspicion at security.

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Of course, not everyone is a fan of the practice, most notably animal cruelty advocates. According to the Nashville Scene, PETA offered Predators fans free, squeezable toy catfish to throw on the ice during the 2019 season to spare the lives of real fish.

In a letter to fans, the organization wrote in part, "Fish are smart, social animals, and just like dogs, cats, and humans they feel pain. They have distinct personalities, and they communicate with each other, form bonds, and can even recognize individual fish and remember past social interactions with them."

Consider too that someone has to clean up the catfish. ''They are so gross," a stadium worker told The New York Times in 2003. "They're huge, they're heavy, they stink and they leave this slimy trail on the ice. But, hey, if it's good for the team, I guess we can deal with it.''

Ultimately, throwing catfish on the ice at Predators games is a tradition that does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

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