Be Nice To Octopi! Pittsburgh Aquarium Frowns On Tradition
Penguins, Detroit Red Wings Meet In Stanley Cup Rematch
POSTED: 5:36 pm EDT June 1, 2009
UPDATED: 7:15 am EDT June 2, 2009
PITTSBURGH -- When a Detroit fish market owner tossed an octopus on the ice at a Red Wings game in the 1950s, he started a good-luck tradition that continues today.
On a Monday morning visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, WTAE Channel 4's Sally Wiggin learned that an aquarist -- probably like many Pittsburgh hockey fans -- finds the practice to be distasteful and disrespectful.
"Their intelligence level is up there with a cat or a dog. They figure out puzzles. We have toys and things in the tank," assistant curator Dwayne Biggs told Wiggin.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins and the Red Wings are locked in a hard-hitting, seven-game series.
But in the aquarium, Wiggin found a giant pacific octopus right around the corner from the penguins, living in peaceful proximity.
"She may grab hold of your arm. She is tasting you," Biggs said.
"This girl here is only about 10 or 12 pounds," Biggs said. "They can become 100 pounds and 18 feet long, and the record is around 600 pounds."
Even though seafood is harvested from the ocean, Biggs said that because of his attachment to the octopi, he can't wrap his brain around tossing a dead one on the ice.
"They know the difference between me and another keeper at the aquarium, so it is a hard thing for me to grasp," Biggs said.
Wings fans are known to put octopi in plastic zipper bags and tape them to their stomachs to get past arena security. Last year, a Detroit fan threw an octopus onto the ice during a Stanley Cup Final game at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
To avoid a repeat octopus incident this year, Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District said it will only sell octopus to customers with Pittsburgh identification during the Pens-Wings series.
Eight victories were needed to win a Stanley Cup when the tradition began. The octopus' eight legs represented each one of those eight wins.