Detroit Red Wings Fans Keep Throwing Octopuses on the Ice — Here’s Why

Animal rights activists are urging the NHL to “toss this cruel tradition and enforce stricter regulations.” Why do fans have the bizarre tradition?


Feb. 19 2024, Published 10:14 p.m. ET

Hockey spectators saw another octopus hit the ice in a game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Calgary Flames on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. So, what’s up with this bizarre habit? Why do fans throw octopus on the ice during hockey games?

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At the game, fans threw a real octopus — which needed to be shoveled off the rink — and a stuffed animal version — which a referee scooped up by hand. And as it turns out, the octopus-tossing is a tradition Red Wings fans have been following for more than 70 years.

Fans throw octopus on the ice during Red Wings games as part of a decades-old superstition.

The Detroit Free Press explained the octopus-throwing tradition in 2018 as the local seafood shop Superior Fish — where Red Wings fans stocked up on octopus before hockey games — prepared to close its doors.

After coming through its archives, the Free Press found a 1984 article that offered the origin story. That article says that the eight tentacles of the octopus represent the eight playoff victories that were once needed to win the Stanley Cup.

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“The origin of the world-famous Detroit octopus throw is traced to 1952 when, during the third game of the final series against the Montreal Canadiens, Pete Cusimano, an east side fish market owner, celebrated the first Red Wing goal by throwing an octopus onto the ice,” the 1984 article read.

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The article went on, “The Wings won the game and the series, and Cusimano reportedly claimed that his sacrificial octopus had influenced the outcome. Since then, Cusimano has showed up at every Wings home playoff game with an octopus, firing it iceward at the first Red Wing goal.”

Nearly three dozen octopus hit the ice during a Red Wings game in 2017.

At an April 2017 game between the Red Wings and the New Jersey Devils, spectators threw 35 octopuses on the rink, according to reporter Dana Wakiji. Why? Because that was the last game held in the now-demolished Joe Louis Arena before the team’s move to Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, per Yahoo Sports.

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As for the game on Feb. 17, photos posted on Twitter by the Winged Wheel Podcast show that the fan who tossed the real octopus smuggled that cephalopod carcass into the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary by taping it to his torso. He got a ticket for his actions, and when other fans offered to help pay the fine, he asked for all donations to go to the Jamie Daniels Foundation instead, as the Winged Wheel Podcast said in a follow-up Twitter post.

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Thousands of people supported a petition calling for an end to the “disrespectful and brutal tradition.”

On the In Defense of Animals website, more than 17,000 people threw their support behind a petition calling for an end to the octopus-throwing at NHL games.

“This disrespectful and brutal tradition must finally end!” the petition author wrote. “Animals should not suffer for the sake of a ridiculous sports tradition. Humans have endless entertainment options, and if sports teams wish to use animals as their mascots, they should ensure those animals are honored and treated with respect.”

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