A student scratched his head when he started to tackle a physics problem recently. The homework calls for students to determine the velocity of two objects sliding on ice. That’s where it gets weird. The objects in question are a hockey puck … and an octopus that’s been thrown on the ice. Fortunately, it’s accompanied by a helpful illustration.
Where does the tradition of throwing octopi on the ice come from?
It all started in Detroit. In April 1952, two brothers, Jerry and Pete Cusimano, tossed a cephalopod onto the ice of a Red Wings playoff game. Legend has it that the eight legs represented the eight playoff wins needed at the time for a Stanley Cup victory. Back then, there were just two seven-game playoff rounds, so winning four games in each was all it took.
When the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that season, the octopus became a good luck charm. The tradition, like the octopi, stuck.
The tradition has escalated and expanded. Two co-workers at the 1995 playoffs heaved an octopus weighing 38 pounds onto the ice during the National Anthem at a Western Conference finals game at Joe Louis Arena. Not to be outdone, the duo hurled a 50-pound creature onto the playing surface before a conference finals game that same season. While the Red Wings won both series, their luck ran out when they lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup finals.
The league and others have begun to clamp down on the practice. An ice manager at Joe Louis Arena used to twirl octopi above his head to the delight of the crowd, but the process was banned in 2008, only to be loosened, allowing twirling to be done not on the ice but at the Zamboni entrance. The Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the Cup that year, but when playing in Pittsburgh, seafood wholesalers there required buyers to show IDs and refused to sell to Michigan residents.