New Avs, New Rules: No Flinging the Fish?

by | Apr 24, 2008 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

“Tonight should be fun,” says the octopus.

You bet, I say. Colorado’s back.


Colorado? The Avalanche? The return of the rivalry? Another playoff series between two great hockey traditions – ours, which is based on heroes Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Steve Yzerman, and theirs, which is based on Dr. Evil, Claude Lemieux.

“Oh,” says the octopus. “Well, you don’t see much hockey from where I hang out.”

Then what’s so big about tonight?

“No more swinging me.”

No more swinging you?

“Over the head. Read the rules, pal.”

I read the rules. Mr. Squishy is right. According to a new NHL mandate, there will be no more swinging of the octopus by Mr. Al Sobotka, the Joe Louis Arena rink master.

Never mind that, for years, Al has gone onto the ice after an octopus is thrown during the national anthem or after a goal. And for years, he has had to pick the octopus up. And for years, he has walked off the ice, octopus in hand, and before disappearing, he has swung the thing over his head as fans cheered. Hey, it’s a greasy job.

“It’s over,” says the octopus.

It’s over?

It’s like the NFL – No Fun League

It’s over. If Al tries it tonight, it’s a $10,000 fine. That’s a lot of Zamboni rides. And whose bright idea was this? What NHL official actually sat at a desk and decided that a tentacle twirl is bad for business? When asked for an explanation, the NHL sent this e-mail to the Free Press last week: “Because matter flies off the octopus and gets on the ice when he does it.”

This from a sport on a TV network known for cattle rustling.

“Well, I, for one, am glad,” says the octopus. “You have no idea what it’s like.”

What what is like?

“My journey. Think about it. I start in the ocean. I’m happy, I’m content. I have eight of everything. Next thing I know, I’m in a net, then a boat, then a glass window in a fish shop, next to a cod. And the next thing I know I’m in a plastic bag, then in a car, and then – then I get stuffed down someone’s pants.”

Someone’s pants?

“How do you think I get past security?”

Hmm. Good point.

“And then, I fly through the air, go splat on the ice and lay naked in front of 20,000 people.”

At least they cheer you.

“True,” he says, “but then I get scooped up by some guy named Al, and he flings me around over his head like some wrestling move. I’m a mollusk, man. How much more can I take?”

Who are all these new guys?

Come on, I tell the octopus. It’s tradition. Like Red Wings fans booing Avs players. Like our goalies beating each other up.

That tradition renews tonight. No more Nashville. Nashville is nice for guitars and barbecue, but it’s not a hockey rivalry. Colorado is a hockey rivalry. You can’t even say the word “Avalanche” in Detroit without someone spitting.

Of course, it’s not the same old faces. The Avs still have Joe Sakic. And a few months back, they traded for old faces Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote. But they also have guys named Wojtek, Ruslan, Jose and Ian.


Which means we need all the tradition we can get. You, Mr. Octopus, are part of tradition. Damn the rules. Do your part. Swing, swing, swing.

“Not gonna do it,” the octopus says. “Read the rule book. It’s a whole new world, mister.”

Maybe he’s right. It is a new world. You have to beat Nashville. You get fined for swinging fish. Next thing you know, we’ll have that Anaheim coach, Mike Babcock, behind the bench.

“Gotta go,” the octopus says.

What’s the hurry?

“I gotta slim down. The guy tossing me tonight is wearing leather pants.”


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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