10 Weird Things Hockey Fans Have Thrown on the Ice
By Scott Allen
Whether they want to celebrate a game-winning goal or protest a bad call, hockey fans have come a long way from just throwing hats on the ice. Fans of the Nashville Predators, for example, have achieved a certain infamy for the practice of tossing catfish on the playing surface, a tradition that began in 2002 after the team hosted the Detroit Red Wings. Why catfish? Because Detroit apparently had good luck when fans tossed some marine life (octopi) over the screens beginning in the 1950s; for Detroit transplants who attended Predators games, heaving a Nashville seafood delicacy toward players sounded like a good idea at the time.
We can't convince you of the logic behind that. All we can do is highlight some of the stranger projectiles that have been tossed around hockey games over the years.
The Ottawa Senators made big strides in recent years thanks to the goaltending chops of Andrew Hammond, a.k.a. “The Hamburglar,” nicknamed for the way he “robs” opponents of goals. The 27-year-old Hammond was undrafted and had only played in a single NHL game before suiting up as a replacement for both injured starter Craig Anderson as well as backup Robin Lehner, when it seemed like the Sens had no chance of making the postseason.
When Hammond’s net-minding skills got red hot (he ended up finishing the 2014-15 regular season with a whopping 20-1-2 record), Ottawa fans saw fit to honor him by throwing burgers onto the ice. Hammond wasn’t brave enough to take a bite—he said the burgers were “kind of cold”—but in a later game, his teammate Curtis Lazar took a bite to celebrate a victory. Afterward, Lazar tweeted that the burger “could have used some ketchup.”
The 2016-17 NHL season broke the Detroit Red Wings' streak of making it to the playoffs for 25 consecutive years. One of their most well known celebrations began on April 15, 1952, when fans (and brothers) Pete and Jerry Cusimano threw an octopus onto the ice at Detroit's Olympia Stadium.
The creature’s eight tentacles were symbolic of the eight wins the Wings needed to win the Stanley Cup at the time, way back when the league consisted of six teams and the playoff format was two best-of-seven series. The Red Wings swept the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens to win the Cup, making the cephalopod an unofficial good luck charm for the Wings ever since.
On October 8, 1995, Florida Panthers winger Scott Mellanby was waiting in the dressing room at Miami Arena, ready to take the ice for the third-year franchise's home opener, when he spotted a rat moving across the floor. Mellanby then unleashed a slap shot that killed the intruder, which was memorialized in Magic Marker with the inscription “RIP, Rat 1, Oct. 8, 1995“ on the wall above where it died.
That night, Mellanby scored two goals in the Panthers' 4-3 win and Florida goalie John Vanbiesbrouck dubbed the feat a “rat trick” during the postgame press conference. A fan threw a plastic rat on the ice after a goal during one of the Panthers' next home games, and the custom eventually caught on. As the Panthers' wins continued to pile up, so too did the fake rodents.
During the Panthers' 1996 playoff run, a local supermarket baked rat-shaped cakes and Dan Marino's bar introduced a new drink, the Rat Shooter. Plastic rat reinforcements had to be shipped in to South Florida after the Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals against the Colorado Avalanche. Avs fans, who tossed rat traps on the ice during games in Denver, had the last laugh when Colorado swept the series. The NHL introduced a new rule during the offseason that called for referees to issue the home team a bench minor penalty if fans ignored the public address announcer's warning and continued to throw objects onto the ice after a goal.
A Toronto Maple Leafs blogger launched this mini-movement when he suggested, via Twitter, that Arizona Coyotes blogger Travis Hair throw a rattlesnake onto the ice during Game 1 of the Coyotes' first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings in 2010.
Before long, #ThrowTheSnake was the top trending topic in Twitter in Canada, causing Hair to reach out to the team's marketing department about organizing a non-disruptive way to capitalize on the excitement. Hair suggested that fans be permitted to throw rubber snakes after warm-ups and before the Zamboni cleared the ice, but team officials wanted none of it. Anyone who threw a snake, they said, would be ejected.
The decree didn’t matter: After then-Coyotes-defenseman Keith Yandle scored to tie the game during the first period of Game 1, a rubber snake hit the ice. At least it wasn’t a real snake …
5. ALBERTA BEEF
The first two slabs of Alberta beef landed on the ice at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena prior to the start of Game 2 of the 2006 first round Stanley Cup playoff series between the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers and the top-seeded Red Wings. "They threw the beef in Detroit, and we won," Oilers winger Georges Laraque told reporters after Edmonton won Game 2 to even the series.
Tossing Alberta beef—the perfect antidote to Detroit's octopus—onto the ice was Edmonton DJ Gary McLachlan's idea, and it didn't take long for the bizarre ritual to become associated with winning.
The Oilers dispatched the Red Wings in six games and, with the beef raining down, advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. But the luck of the beef seemed to run out after that; the Oilers lost the series in seven games.
6. LEOPARD SHARKS
San Jose Sharks fans and cousins Ken Conroy and Mike Gaboury hatched a plan to mimic Detroit's octopus-throwing tradition by throwing a shark onto the ice when San Jose played the Red Wings in the first round of the 1994 playoffs. While the idea didn't materialize into action during that series, the duo vowed to make it happen the next time San Jose and Detroit met in the playoffs.
Flash forward to 2006. Conroy purchased tickets and a pair of 4-foot leopard sharks, and then used an elaborate process to secure one of the sharks to Gaboury's back before heading to the game.
Gaboury, who wore a trench coat to help conceal the shark bulge, waited until the lights dimmed during pregame introductions to unwrap the shark and slide it under his seat. After the Sharks scored late in the first period, he handed the shark to Conroy, who moved to the aisle and prepared for the toss of his life. "I took about three steps and I just heaved it (with two hands) and it slides out to the blue line near the middle of the ice," said Conroy, who was then escorted out of the arena by security.
The duo was back at it in 2010. Annoyed by people not understanding the symbolism of the first toss, this time they threw a shark with an octopus in its mouth onto the ice.
In December 2006, winger Jeff Cowan was put on waivers by the Los Angeles Kings and scooped up by the Vancouver Canucks. Cowan joined the team as a enforcer, not as a goal-scorer, but when he started producing (culminating in a streak that saw him score six goals in four games), one anonymous woman in the stands let him know she enjoyed his efforts by throwing a bra on the ice, and the nickname “Cowan the Bra-barian” was born.
The Canucks embraced the celebratory bustiers, and eventually, the whole team autographed a bra that was auctioned off to raise money for breast cancer research. Cowan and the team would make it to the Western Conference semi-finals that year, but would lose to the Anaheim Ducks. It would seem the bras were the only “cups” they saw that year.
Sometimes fans throw things on the ice because they really, really aren’t happy with their team. The hapless Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the storied original six NHL teams, are currently in the middle of a 50-year Stanley Cup drought and counting—and disgruntled fans who have had enough sparked a controversy in 2015 that was dubbed “Jerseygate.”
The protest—which involved throwing Maple Leafs jerseys on the ice as a symbolic protest of the team’s less-than-stellar play—got three frustrated fans a fine of $65 and a yearlong ban from Toronto’s Air Canada Centre for their disruptive behavior.
9. TEDDY BEARS
Sometimes throwing things on the ice is a good thing! The Christmastime tradition of tossing teddy bears on the ice is usually reserved to minor league teams, and involves fans bringing them to the game and intentionally throwing as many of the plush dolls as they can on the ice after the home team scores its first goal. The bears are then scooped up and donated to kids’ charities.
A 2014 teddy bear toss for the minor league Calgary Hitmen alone netted over 25,000 teddies for needy children.
10. DIMES, PENNIES, QUARTERS, AND ALARM CLOCKS.
Not surprisingly, throwing objects on the ice isn’t a new tradition. Back in 1944, Earl "The Iceman" Davis, who supervised a cleanup crew for the Chicago Black Hawks (then spelled with two words), was featured in a national wire story on fan behavior at hockey games.
"Hockey fans are the craziest people, of that I'm sure,” Davis said. "They do not seem to know it's dangerous to throw things—that a player could break his leg on the junk they toss—and that we are breaking our backs picking it up. One night we scooped up 300 or 400 pennies, several dimes and nickels, and a couple of quarters."
The biggest source of trash, however, was "paper airplanes made with painstaking care from programs by guys in the far, smoke-bound reaches of the upper gallery." These fans were known for picking a spot on the ice and betting who could sail their paper planes closest to the mark. In the same article, Hawks president Bill Tobin recalled the time that a fan in Montreal threw an alarm clock on the ice, saying they "thought it was time we woke up, I guess."