Where Did Red Wings' Octopus Tradition Come From?

Red Wings and Octopus
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Where did Red Wings' octopus tradition come from?

I grew up in the Detroit area, now I live in Utah. I know that at Detroit Red Wings games we had a tradition in the playoffs of throwing an octopus on the ice. But I can't for the life of me remember why! - Tawnia

It's truly a sight to see for any Hockey fan: when the Red Wings win a playoff game, you might see an octopus make an appearance center ice. In fact, some fans even smuggle the creatures into the arena inside their coats! But what's with the odd tradition?

The Motor City's proud tradition of saluting the Detroit Red Wings with slimy creatures of the deep dates back over half a century.

The first octopus landed on the ice during the Red Wings' 1952 Stanley Cup run, courtesy of brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano, who owned a fish market. If you know your cephalopods, you will know that an octopus has eight tentacles. In those days it took eight playoff wins to claim the Cup, hence the supposed symbolism of the gesture.

The Red Wings were perfect in the '52 playoffs, sweeping the semifinal and the final in straight games. The octopus has been a good luck charm ever since.

By 1995, the team had adopted the tradition by introducing a mascot, Al the Octopus. Al is raised to the rafters of Joe Louis Arena before every home playoff game and used in team merchandising and promotion.