Al the Octopus.jpg

Al the Octopus is the octopus mascot of the Detroit Red Wings. It is also the only mascot that is not costumed. In 1952, when east side fish merchants Pete and Jerry Cusimano threw a real octopus onto the Olympia arena ice, the eight legs represented the eight victories needed to secure a Stanley Cup in those six-team days. Since then, fans throw an octopus onto the ice for good luck. In the 1995 Playoffs, fans threw fifty-four octopi onto the ice.[1] Arena Manager and Zamboni driver Al Sobotka ceremoniously scoops them up and whirls them over his head, and play continues. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman forbade Sobotka from doing so during the 2008 playoffs, claiming that debris flew off the octopuses and onto the ice. Sobotka and the Red Wings have denied that this occurs, but even so Sobotka acquiesced and now twirls the octopuses once he departs the ice. In 2011, the NHL forbade fans from throwing any octopuses on the ice, penalizing all violators with a $500 fine.[2] This has led to local outcry at the seemingly intentional destruction of a classic tradition. Red Wings' forward Johan Franzen has pledged to pay any and all fines as an attempt to continue the tradition.[3]Two identical large purple prop octopuses (Al), named after ice manager Al Sobotka, used to be positioned in or on top of Joe Louis Arena for the duration of the playoffs. After closing down the arena after the 2016–2017 season, one was sold for $7,700.[4]

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