Late in the third period of the Vancouver Canucks' 6-2 home win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, someone threw a salmon onto the ice.
For most, it seemed like a random act. (I mean, what's more random than tossing a salmon?) But for Joey Smith, the perpetrator, it was a very meaningful gesture, both the continuance of a budding tradition and a tribute to a friend that died before being able to fulfill his plans of doing the same thing.
Here's video of the incident:
Don't listen to anything Craig Simpson says. Not only is it not a tuna, but the remark that he's never seen this before is crazy talk. It was actually the third time in the last 12 months that a salmon has hit the playing surface during a Canucks game, and the second time it had happened on "Hockey Night in Canada."
The original salmon throw took place on March 12, 2011, at the tail end of a Canucks 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames. It was perpetrated by a man named Roger Paquette.
Saturday's salmon throw was the work of Nanaimo hockey fan Smith, but the two incidents were connected by more than the same sea creature-turned-projectile. Smith was a friend of Paquette's 30-year-old son, Roger, who had planned to follow in his father's footsteps the next time the Leafs came to town. Sadly, he perished in a crash last November.
Paquette, an avid hockey fan and owner of Hub City Fisheries, had seen the traditional NHL toss happen in Detroit and San Jose for years and decided in 2011 it was time the Vancouver Canucks have its own west-coast symbol on ice. He hoped the team would "get inspired" by a B.C. salmon, the symbol of strength and speed. He kept the fish underneath his jersey for nearly three periods before the big throw. He was caught by security and escorted out as the Canucks secured a 4-3 victory over their rivals.
His son, Garrett, watched the whole thing from home and was "so pumped" his dad was able to launch the tradition that he vowed to do the same when the Canucks played a home game against his favourite team, the Leafs. He died on Nov. 11 in a late-night ATV crash in Lantzville before he could go through with his plan.
Smith and two friends were determined to honor Paquette's memory, which meant smuggling in backup fish in case someone got caught.
All three entered the arena with salmons bathed in perfume, vacuum-sealed and taped to their chests, to increase the odds of getting past the security pat-down. When each got through (a damning indictment of the Rogers Arena security, if you ask me), they dumped two of the three fish in the bathroom and prepared to pay tribute to their fallen friend.
Then, in the third period, when they were comfortable being thrown out of the game if caught because it was mostly over, Smith waited for a faceoff at the far end of the ice and tossed the fish.
And while the NHL frowned in disapproval, somewhere Garrett looked down on them and smiled.
Here's the original salmon toss from last March:
And here's the second, from a game versus the Minnesota Wild on April 7, 2011:
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