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The Red Wings’ octopus issue clarified: It’s the NHL’s rule, and Chris Osgood’s angry about it

Updated 4x at 4:34 with the gent in question on WDFN and Puck Daddy/James Mirtle talking to NHL VP of media relations Frank Brown: I hit the usual wall when talking to the City of Detroit and attempting to contact the Red Wings regarding the fact that there’s a $500 fine for throwing an octopus at Joe Louis Arena and moved onto other stuff, assuming that the mainstream media would get down to business today, but On the Wings’ Matt Saler deserves a ridiculous amount of credit for sticking with the story and getting to the bottom of things via a call to the Detroit Police department:

Officer Bullock informed me that the enforcement of Municipal Code 38-5-4 is at the request of the NHL. Evidently, police supervisors were informed Wednesday night, either before or during the game, by League representatives that they don’t want anything thrown on the ice. An officer has to witness the throw and nab the thrower on the spot, but it’s something they can and will enforce. Apparently, distance from players is not an issue: any octopus on the ice is grounds for ejection and a fine. I asked if it applied to hats thrown down for a hat trick and Officer Bullock pointed out it’d be much harder to enforce on hundreds/thousands of hats versus a few octopi.

The interesting part is that the Wings are not the ones asking for it. According to Officer Bullock, they’re fine with the tradition, and even like it. And I gather the police aren’t big fans of enforcing it either. It’s up to the officer’s discretion, so it’s possible fans may still get away with it at times. But with NHL officials pushing for it, it’s less safe to throw than it ever has been. Previously, it may have been a bit of an empty threat. Now it has teeth.

Update:I don’t know what to say about this quip from the Sporting News’s Craig Custance:

The Red Wings issued this statement.

“The throwing of objects on the ice surface is prohibited by the National Hockey League and persons caught doing so may be subject to prosecution for violating local and state laws.”

There were at least four octopi thrown on the Joe Louis ice Wednesday, and goalie Jimmy Howard joked that he almost got hit by one during the national anthem. “It landed right in front of me,” he said.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said the octopus controversy was news to him. “I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “I like calamari as much as the next guy. I don’t like batter on it, I like it spicy… it’s part of tradition here.”

MLive’s Ansar Khan confirms, [edit at 3:15 PM: as does the Detroit News’s Rod Beard and the Free Press’s Helene St. James].

WXYT’s Jeff Riger got Chris Osgood to speak about the new rule

Update #2 also from Khan:

“I don’t know anything about it,’’ Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I like calamari as much as they next guy, I don’t like batter on it, but I like it spicy and cooked. It’s part of the tradition here. I just hope the guys that come on to scrape it off aren’t digging up the ice. I want it to be smooth.’‘

A couple of Phoenix players, including goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, said they’re not upset when an octopus lands onto the ice in their zone after the national anthem.

“It doesn’t bother me,’’ Bryzgalov said. “They’re not throwing the whole octopus on me. Otherwise I would stink.’‘

Update: Justin Rogers of MLive annotated the Osgood interview:

“It’s a little ridiculous they’re concerned about a tradition that goes on at our rink - or any other rink around the league for that matter,” Osgood said in an interview with 97.1-FM’s Jeff Riger. “Do they want everybody coming to the rink and sit up on their hands and not do anything? It’s gotten a little bit exaggerated. People are taking it a little bit too seriously.”

Trying to hammer home the point, Osgood wonders what restrictions the NHL will put on fans next.

“Other things that could change, maybe the consumption of just one beer game,” Osgood said. “To me, you come to a sporting event to have fun first and foremost. We can’t take this too far and start taking away what people are there to do.”

Osgood says he can’t recall a player on another team complaining about the tradition.

“I just remember one of their players taking it and firing it off the ice because he was mad that we scored,” he said. “I don’t think he had much of a gripe.”

With the league coming down hard on fan celebrations, Osgood wonders why there isn’t a greater focus to some of the game’s more pressing issues on the ice.

“Let’s worry about the ice conditions around the league first,” Osgood said, “fix that all around the league, and do the other things we need to take care of, and stop worrying about the fans.”

Update #2A: Here’s Tommy B on WDFN’s Sean, Terp and Killer show:

Download File.

Update #2b: Here’s the NHL via Puck Daddy:

The NHL, then, views this latest controversy as nothing new. NHL VP of Media Relations Frank Brown sees this controversy as a “rite of spring,” and something that comes up in the first-round of the playoffs every April. He said the NHL has not wavered from its stance that the tradition is against League policy for fan behavior.

“I don’t believe it’s anything new, but I’m waiting to hear back from our security. 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 Brown, in a phone interview this afternoon. “We have tremendous respect for the custom. We get that part. But not to the point of indulging improper behavior from spectators,” he said.

After our conversation, Brown sent over the following statement:

“NHL security did not direct that this person be arrested, or ejected. We do have a prohibition against throwing things to the ice surface since this may cause a delay in game or injury to players or others working on the ice surface.”

According to the NHL, the City of Detroit Legal Department has prosecuted fans for throwing an octopus on the ice surface, with the determining factor in whether it violated a local misdemeanor ordinance (section 39.1.1 and 39.1.2) being whether the object could have caused injury to the participants or damage to the playing surface.
Also, the League pointed out that Michigan State Law—specifically MCL 750.167, Disorderly Person (misdemeanor) section 167. (e) — states that a “disorderly person” is anyone intoxicated in a public place that is “endangering the safety of another person, or of property.” According to the League, Michigan State Police “have prosecuted a Detroit Red Wings fan” that threw an octopus while violating that statute.

Update #3: Per the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle:

UPDATE Asked if the NHL was behind the fines, league spokesman Frank Brown provided the following statement late this afternoon: “NHL security did not direct that this person be arrested or ejected. We do have a prohibition against throwing things to the ice surface since this may cause a delay in game or injury to players or others working on the ice surface.”

With no exceptions, apparently.

So here’s my question, Wings fans: Who’s passing the buck here? The Red Wings, who have sold you and me so many stuffed Al the Octopus toys and/or t-shirts and merchandise with Al the Octopus on them, and have a pre-game ceremony in which an inflatable octopus is raised to the rafters before all playoff games…or the NHL, to whom the Red Wings must pay a rights fee for using their own logo on said merchandise…or the City of Detroit, which is, well, the City of Detroit?

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SYF's avatar

I knew my bait wouldn’t be in the water long. cheese

Posted by calquake on 04/15/11 at 06:54 PM ET

Heard it was big and juicy.  cheese

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 04/15/11 at 09:05 PM ET


The rationale from the NHL was that they can’t crack down on hats. Too many perps.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 04/15/11 at 06:15 PM ET

For that to be legitimate, you have to accept the premise that the NHL would punish people for throwing hats if it could. As in, the NHL’s official position is that hat throwing is an unacceptable tradition that should be discouraged.

Somehow, I just don’t think that’s the case. I have NEVER heard ANYONE EVER even suggest that tossing your lid for the occasion of a hat trick was a bad idea, let alone a civil infraction.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/15/11 at 09:31 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

..while the same is in progress…

Has anyone ever thrown an octopus, or a hat, while the game is going on?  Doesn’t it always happen after the play has been stopped by a whistle?

(Thanks, Yooper for posting the rule).

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 04/15/11 at 09:51 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

I knew my bait wouldn’t be in the water long.

Posted by calquake on 04/15/11 at 06:54 PM ET

You know me too well, my friend.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 04/15/11 at 09:55 PM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

The NHL has used the octopus in many commercials promoting the playoffs. What will be the fine every time they show their promo of our tradition?

You can’t have it both ways.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 04/15/11 at 10:24 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

It’s a tradition ... and it is all ours!


Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 04/15/11 at 10:44 PM ET

miscotty's avatar

I’ve seen octopi fly during play at road games.  This past march, a fan threw one during a Detroit rush, no less (it was Florida).  Those incidents haven’t helped the matter.

I think the solution is simple.  Start a legal defense fund, be vocal, and throw octopus (at appropriate times) at will.  I think the movement will catch on and get a lot of support.

Posted by miscotty on 04/16/11 at 02:34 AM ET

calquake's avatar

I think the movement will catch on and get a lot of support.

If you’re talking about the octopi… that movement caught on 60 years ago.  If you’re talking about the legal defense fund… I need to talk to you about some… err… items that I… err… a friend wants to send Mr. Bettman’s way if he attends a game.  cheese

Posted by calquake from a.k.a. Uniquake, workin' on my manifesto on 04/16/11 at 03:03 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

so weird seeing Osgood as the grizzled veteran.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/16/11 at 03:14 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.