Red Wings: Gary Bettman, Octopus Killer

Josh LipmanContributor IMay 23, 2008

NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman will now forever be known as the man who destroyed one of the greatest traditions in NHL history. Not all that well-liked to begin with, Bettman (and the NHL - to be fair) stepped down yet another rung of the popularity ladder after recently implementing a policy forever banning on-ice octopus twirling.

A long-time Red Wings tradition, any form of octopus "twirling" will now result in a $10,000 fine for Al Sobotka, the Red Wings' building manager and designated Octopus twirler since 1991. In support of his decision, Bettman cited safety issues, claiming:

"Actually, there's a very good reason for it. We haven't fined or given a delay of game penalty for the throwing of the octopus because we understand and respect the tradition. Having said that, when you swing the octopus around - and I don't know the exact term for it -- but octopus 'gunk' gets on the ice and occasionally has gotten on the players -- the goaltenders -- as it goes by. Occasionally, when it freezes on the ice, it creates a potentially hazardous situation for the players. It's not about interfering with a tradition; it's about making sure nobody gets it in their eyes, like a goaltender nearby, or that nobody blows out a knee getting caught on some frozen gunk."


Undoubtedly the worst explanation for any rule in professional sports history, there is little reason to expect anyone to ever take Bettman seriously again. In a league where players play with broken teeth and bones, bloody noses, and innumerable other cuts and bruises, I hardly see the harm in a little octopus "gunk." This kind of rule may have its place in the NBA, but certainly not on the ice.

If Bettman was really that concerned about the state of his players, maybe he should have them all wear roller blades and play on hardwood. In any situation this is a sad day for NHL and its fans: not only do they lose a venerable hockey tradition, but they lose a chance to capture the hearts and minds of the next generation of hockey fans.

Imagine a 10-year-old kid seeing Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Marc-Andre Fleury and Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Henrik Zetterberg and Chris Chelios battle their hearts out, then get hit with octopus "gunk," while thousands of fans roar in the background.

I'd be hooked for life.

Alas, this won't be the case, for America's toughest sports athletes can't be endangered by some octopus "gunk." However, this writer certainly expects the rabid "Hockeytown" fans to exact their revenge as soon as tomorrow night. Look for a sea of octopi - real or not - to find their way onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena (and perhaps a few more in Bettman's office)

-photo taken from - Barry always says it best