April 19, 2008
Since 1991, Al Sobotka twirling an octopus over his head has been as synonymous with the Detroit Red Wings as the Winged Wheel. A longtime building operations manager at Joe Louis Arena, Sobotka would grab a Cephalopod tossed on the ice by a fan, and whip it around his head like a rally rag to the delight of the crowd. (And isn't it nice we aren't talking about empty seats at the Joe this postseason?) Yet according to Helene St. James in the Detroit Free Press, the NHL has decided to suction the fun out of this tradition:
The NHL has decided octopus twirling doesn't fit in with league image, or something to that effect. The Wings have been told by the league that if Al Sobotka (or anyone else) twirls the octopus that's thrown onto the ice before playoff games, it'll cost the team $10,000.
I know opposing general managers have complained of this tradition because stuff flies off the octopus and sticks to the ice, but this is such a recognizable Detroit tradition.
The Wayne Fontes Experience ranks this among the League's other egregious sins against Detroit hockey. I don't expect it to last very long: This decision seems like the kind of flimsy legislative appeasement that's quickly tossed in the trash after die-hard fans in an Original Six city and their newspaper columnists offer colorful rebuttals. Every facet of the octopus toss in Detroit contributes to one of hockey's most inspiring and distinctive fan traditions. The octopus twirl is exciting; not as exciting as octopus sex, but exciting nonetheless.