clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The First Big Octopus Scare of the Chris Ilitch Era

Everything is new and crazy and that’s dangerous!

Tampa Bay Lightning v Detroit Red Wings - Game Four Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

With the first week gone of the official Little Caesars Arena era and long after last Wednesday’s season-opening victory over the Minnesota Wild, we’ve got our first big scare of the new era the Wings find themselves in: is management finally cozying up to the evil tradition-killing vision of Gary “arrest those cephalopod-chuckers!” Bettman? Well, if you’re reading into this story from Dan Taekama from CBC News, the answer is a spookily-implied “maybe.” From Taekma’s post about a Red Wings fan hoping to get a lifetime ban from the LCA overturned after he threw an octopus on the ice:

"The two supervisors of security told me I'm done," he said. "I think it's very stiff. If they want to fine me I understand, if they wanted to ban me for a year ... I can deal with that, but to get banned forever? That can't happen."

Fans have been throwing octopuses on the ice at Red Wings' games for 65 years. The Legend of the Octopus began during the 1952 playoffs, when the creature's eight wriggling appendages symbolized the number of wins necessary to capture the Stanley Cup.

The story goes on to explain how Horvath selected the octopus, how he snuck it in, and even stuff about the PETA protest in front of the arena where they were handing out little plush octopodes in hopes of stopping a tradition they obviously hate. It ends with a direct plea to Don Cherry himself to help out a fan.

Naturally, fan reaction to this news is very much “uh oh.” Are the Wings looking to end the old tradition by cracking down on the fans who have, as Taekma mentions, been throwing these things on the ice for 65 years to organizational responses which generally range from casual acceptance to outright promotion?

I mean, probably not. I’m not going to say that it’s impossible because the Red Wings aren’t talking about this and have always been super tight-lipped about this thing because it’s a complex legal mess of crap they don’t want to wade through (just imagine having to deal with a lawsuit by a fan getting octopus goo in their eyes after a team official says “yeah, the more octopus the better!”) The stock boring answer is that the City of Detroit has a statute against it and the NHL says they don’t like it, but we all know that what they officially say and how they actually enforce these things are miles apart: do you know the last time a fan got tossed for throwing a hat on the ice?

The other big portion of this is that Horvath’s octopus wasn’t the only one thrown that night. Are they looking to send a message by busting only the guy who threw the biggest one or something? Are they looking to VERY slowly weed out all octopus throwers until the only thing left are the tentacle-averse and their friends the empty seats?

I don’t know. I guess it’s possible that this is a nefarious and underhanded plan to weed out a tradition that the new owner of the team has absolutely zero reason to end. It’s also possible that Horvath was overzealous in his act and kind of brought additional punishment on himself. After all, this story didn’t come out just today. WXYZ Detroit ran a story on this fan on Sunday before CBC got a hold of it and has a more-telling quote in their writeup from Horvath:

"He tried to stop me from throwing it and I powered through him," he said. "I powered through him, I got it right over top of him but he had me right away."

Without video of the specific incident, it’s hard to tell exactly what “I powered through him” means, but it sure sounds like a guy physically shoved his way past a security guard to throw the octopus. Depending on all sorts of variables, it’s more-believable to me that a guy powering through security (endangering people in the process) is the biggest part of this story and, to me, the biggest part of why he was punished when so many others haven’t been.

In terms of a lifetime ban? Yeah, I personally think that’s extremely harsh for a lifelong die-hard veteran of octopus-tossing and I’d like to see the Red Wings soften that stance. Heck, if it takes Don Cherry to do it then fine by me. I just don’t want to pretend that there’s no wrong way to toss an octopus. It wasn’t true at the Joe Louis Arena and it’s not true now.

Just like with the rest of hockey culture though, good luck muddling through all the unwritten rules to figure out how to make it work.

UPDATE (10/11/17 5:25pm ET):
We’ve learned that the report of a life-ban for this man are false. He was arrested by Detroit Police, ticketed, and released.