He Threw The First Octopus

Posted: June 16, 1995

Pete Cusimano was the first guy to throw an octopus on the ice at a Detroit Red Wings hockey game. Had he known how the tradition would grow, he'd have cornered the market.

Cusimano, who ran a fish and poultry market, did the ugly deed first on April 13, 1952. Now, as the Red Wings prepare for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals against the New Jersey Devils tomorrow night, throwing octopuses is a tradition.

"I wish I had known 40 years ago," said Cusimano, 68. "I could have locked up this thing and retired. But who could know?"

Cusimano and his brother, Jerry, were avid Red Wings fans when the great Gordie Howe was in his prime and Detroit ruled the six-team NHL.

That season, the Red Wings had already swept the Toronto Maple Leafs and were up, 2-0, on the Montreal Canadiens in the finals. It only took eight wins to capture the Stanley Cup in those days, but no team had ever done it in the minimum eight games.

"We were putting out a display of fish," Cusimano recalled. "Jerry picked up an octopus and said, 'Pete, here's this thing with eight legs. Why don't we throw it on the ice and maybe the Red Wings'll win in eight straight?' "

That night, Cusimano hid one under his jacket, then slipped it under his seat at the old Olympia Stadium. Just after Howe scored Detroit's first goal, Cusimano hurled the octopus into history.

"The players didn't know what to make of it," Cusimano said. "(The linesman) saw what it was, then just drew right back. Marcel Pronovost began to beat it with his stick."

Detroit swept the Canadiens for the title. A year later, a writer for the old Detroit Times wondered if the octopus would reappear.

"That's where we got the idea to do it again," Cusimano said. "Now, it's gotten to where I think it's done to excess."

In other news:

MCNALL: AUCTIONS OFF FILMS

Former Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall, now bankrupt and awaiting sentencing for defrauding five banks out of more than $236 million, auctioned off "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and a dozen other films he controlled for $14.1 million.

PROBERT: SET FOR RETURN

Bob Probert, of the Chicago Blackhawks, has accepted a deferred sentence and two-year probation over charges of resisting arrest and assault in Texas, clearing his return next season.

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