July 07, 2011
One of the more frustrating aspects of the 2010-11 NHL season was the sudden crackdown on a decades-old tradition: The throwing of octopi on the ice during Detroit Red Wings games at Joe Louis Arena, which dates back to 1952.
Multiple Detroit fans received citations for throwing an octopus on the ice in violation of Municipal Code 38-5-4, which prohibits the throwing of objects on the playing area during sporting events. Along with those citations came $500 fines — most notably to a fan named Tom Blaish of Canton, whose tale on Deadspin sparked outrage over the police action.
The crackdown came with encouragement from the NHL, which has sought to curb the tradition in previous seasons. "It's a safety issue. You throw stuff on the ice, people get their skates caught in it, they fall down and hurt themselves. It's wrong. That's a problem," said NHL VP of media relations Frank Brown in April.
One of the fans that received a fine was Charles Graves, 24, a Farmington resident who tossed a mollusk on the ice during a March 24 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He appeared in court on April 26 — wearing a Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) jersey, no less — and pleaded not guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.
"I'm going to fight for this tradition. If I had the chance I'd do it again, of course," said Graves after court to ClickOnDetroit.com.
Graves appeared in court again on Thursday for a hearing on his fine, wearing a Red Wings hat and a red shirt into the building. He heard good news: The case was dismissed because the arresting officer didn't appear for the hearing, according to WDIV in Detroit (video report here).
"I had no idea what they were going to do," said Graves. "I couldn't see them actually charging me $500. I think that's ridiculous for a tradition that's lasted forever — almost.
"If I were a cop, I wouldn't want to show up either," he said. "[And] be the one to ruin everything for everybody."
Graves fought the law, and scored one for Red Wings fans, a decades-old tradition — and against the nonsensical attempt to quash a unique form of fan spectator expression and hockey lore.