Just before the start of Thursday night’s Game One between Detroit and Colorado, the NHL’s on-ice officials were called on to take an octopus off the ice.
For the past 17 years, Red Wings zamboni driver Al Sobotka would have done that, twirling the eight-legged creature over his head and working the crowd into a frenzy. That was not to be on Thursday, though, the result of the NHL’s new edict banning Sobotka from clearing the cephalopod from the ice surface.
The league claims that Sobotka’s twirling spreads hazardous debris across the ice surface, endangering the players skating upon it.
Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong. As the Detroit Free Press’ anonymous blogger points out, there is no hazardous material released by twirling an octopus. In fact, no “matter” is released at all.
So with the NHL’s reasoning debunked, why is Sobotka – for whom Detroit’s octopus playoff mascot is named – banned from keeping up this tradition?
And that’s what has me so incredibly angry about this. The tradition of throwing octopi lives but the tradition of twirling them dies for nothing.
This is not something done to create an advantage for the Red Wings or a hazard on the ice. It’s something for the fans. Specifically, it’s something for Red Wing fans.
Unless the NHL takes the train whistles away from fans in Nashville and the girls in tight-fitting jerseys off the ice in Chicago, this is a move aimed at one market’s fans and them alone.
In a league that struggles to attract new customers, they are pointing at one of their strongest fan bases and saying, “No, you will not have fun here. We’re taking your toys away.”
That is why I’m upset about this. The NHL is directly going against it’s own fans. It’s the kind of idiocy you can only expect from this league.
Wings fans need to speak out.
The crowd at the Joe needs to boo every time an official gets near an octopus. Boo so loud the NHL-paid Versus and NBC announcers will have to explain it on air.
Hold up signs that get on TV.
Send octopi to the NHL offices in New York. Real or stuffed, it doesn’t matter.
Let the league know that they’ve taken something we love away from us. Come out in such numbers that they have to respond. Make them look like fools spouting debunked reasoning or give us our tradition back.