A New NHL Octopus Tossing Rule

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - April 30, 2008
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The NFL has Pacman Jones, Major League Baseball Ugueth Urbina, the NBA Ron Artest and the NHL Al “The Big Tako” Sobotka.

But whereas Sobotka’s fellow scofflaws have received more acclaim for their infamous work, there may be no one associated with professional sports who can top his decade-plus acts of decadence.

Unconcerned with league rules and decent behavior, Sobotka continually dared to taunt opposing teams, fans and mollusks by hoisting his ill-gotten gain in an arrogant display of violence, all to the sickening, bloodthirsty cheers of the home crowd. That an untold number of lives have been lost and their memory mocked in the name of entertainment doesn’t seem to bother him in the least.

Finally, after far too long, the league has said enough is enough and has banned Sobotka’s sickening behavior. Beginning immediately, any Zamboni driver found to be twirling octopi above their heads faces a $10,000 fine by the NHL.

Sobotka, the building manager for the Joe Lewis Arena in Detroit, has become a folk hero of sorts. Over the years he’s removed literally hundreds of the eight-legged cephalopods from the ice after they have been tossed over the glass by zealous fans. His tradition of spinning the sometime sticky, yet still tasty, future breaded appetizers over his head as he exits the ice has served as a rallying point for fans and has produced innumerable talking points for broadcasters.

Now all of that is gone in the name of protecting the ice from ick. That’s right. The league that has spilled more teeth and blood on the playing surface than any other is worried about octo-juices contaminating the ice as Sobotka spins the pods in joyous celebration.

Colin Campbell, the NHL’s director of hockey operations, sent out the notice that such future shenanigans will not be tolerated and that this delightful job will now be handled by the linesmen. That is, the removing of octopi following goals and not the celebratory rotating thereof.

The NHL, in its latest effort to copy the NFL’s policies of draining every bit of emotion from the game, preceded the Sobotka rule by instituting a two-minute delay of game penalty on the home team if the game is held up because of an item thrown onto the ice. Interestingly enough, the punishment is levied only during a stoppage of play. An item tossed on the ice during play results in just a face off at the spot where play was suspended.

The rule dates back to 1996 when idiotic Panthers’ fans littered the ice with hundreds of plastic rats a few days after Scott Mellanby scored two goals in a game after killing a rat in the locker room with his stick. This led to an attempt to end the practice in Detroit, which was, of course, completely ignored by Red Wings fans, who weren’t going to let the league ruin a beloved tradition that began in 1952.

All of which has made the folks at the Superior Fish Company in Royal Oak giddy with delight as nothing has been better for business than hockey night at the Joe. What is usually a three-sales per day item grows to about 25 during the playoffs and as much as 100 during Stanley Cup Finals. Now if only Sobotka were so lucky.

After 17 years of creative labor, The Big Tako must now be content with his player-favorite barbecues and finding joy in riding the world’s biggest shave ice machine. It didn’t have to be this way. Had fans only followed the rules of octoquette earlier, the rule may never have been instituted. It’s actually quite simple.

The following are guidelines for the proper decorum if one chooses to propel a cephalopod. Courtesy of The O-FISH-AL OCTOPI Supply. 1) Boil the octopus: Boiling the octopus for a half hour will remove any natural moisture (slime) and will not leave any excessive residue that may inhibit the game. 2) When to throw: The appropriate time to hurl your octopi is only immediately after a Red Wing goal. No other time is sanctioned by or recommended by our board of governors. If one does feel the need to throw it during our national anthem, we must demand that it be done only after its completion. 3) Placement: After meeting the criteria as mentioned in guidelines one and two, you must throw your octopus only in a direction away from any players, officials and personnel. You must be confident that you can easily and safely make it to your desired target area. If you have any doubt in your ability, please refrain from propelling your octopi.

I, the undersigned, hereby acknowledge that I have read and will adhere to all the guidelines as written. Failure to do so will be dealt with to the full measure that this board can call upon.

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