NHL fans cheer and they boo. They celebrate game-winning goals and they mock-chant opponents. They even have creative ways to suggest referees get glasses.
But for a select few, it’s not enough to vocalize their support or disdain. These visionaries bring their feelings to the forefront by covertly bringing odd objects into an arena and catapulting them on the ice. Though it often slows down the game, calling for cleaning crews to be deployed, there’s no denying it adds a smidgen more entertainment value for the rest of us.
With that said, let’s count down the top 15 craziest projectiles and oddities to ever hit the ice.
When teams aren’t reaching expectations, fans let them know – usually by booing. But in severe instances, fans part way with their team sweater as a method of self-excommunication from the franchise.
Before the Vancouver Canucks cleaned house in 2021, one fan threw their sweater onto the ice to symbolize being done with the team and their futility. There have been several instances of this in the past – this was just the most recent example.
Weird Rating: 2/10
We all know this one. If a player scores three goals, you throw your hat on the ice to celebrate a hat trick.
This isn’t terribly weird or crazy, but the origin story of the hat trick is. It didn’t even originate at a hockey game.
“In 1858, bowler H.H. Stephenson, playing for an all-England squad against a team from Hallam, South Yorkshire, took three consecutive wickets at Hyde Park Cricket Grounds in Sheffield — meaning that he hit the wooden stakes behind the batter three consecutive times. A collection was taken up and used to buy a hat that was presented to Stephenson in recognition of his accomplishment.”–John Kreiser, NHL.com
At some point, scoring three goals in a hockey game earned the “hat trick” designation, and soon after, hats began to rain down on the ice after such a feat took place.
Weird Rating: 2/10
Fans aren’t the only ones that can express their feelings. In 1991, Los Angeles Kings’ coach Tom Webster was so ticked off at referee Kerry Fraser that he threw a tantrum as well as his players’ sticks at the well-coiffed zebra, javelin-style. The handiwork earned Webster a 12-game suspension. The Kings were also fined $10,000.
“In handing down this decision, the league wishes to make it clear that there can be no excuse for taking physical actions against any official,” NHL Vice President Brian O’Neill said in a prepared statement.
Weird Rating: 2.5/10
12. A Hot Dog
You’d think Phil Kessel was involved here, but alas that was not the case. During a 2013 contest between the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, a fan tossed a hot dog on the ice as Tyler Seguin was taking his turn in the shootout.
Because the projectile disrupted the shootout attempt, referees provided Seguin with a mulligan. He scored the second time around and the Bruins ultimately won the game.
Weird Rating: 3/10
11. Hamburgers – Lots of Them
Former Ottawa Senators goalie Andrew Hammond earned the nickname ‘The Hamburglar’ when he went on an incredible 20-1-2 tear to push his team into the playoffs. With that moniker, fans honored their then 27-year-old winning goaltender by throwing a barrage of hamburgers onto the ice.
Weird Rating: 3/10
In Dec. 2010, a disgruntled Toronto Maple Leafs fan leggo of his Eggo, chucking it on the ice in the Air Canada Centre. Using the Twitter handle “EGGO_BOMBER”, the person who claimed responsibility for the golden pastry had a clear message to the team: Wake up and eat the most important meal of the day!
Leafs management was not amused, giving the fan a lifetime ban from the Air Canada Centre, who later complained, “People throw hats when they think they’re playing good. Why can’t we do something to show disapproval for what’s happened over the past 44 years?” (from ‘Leafs not amused by Eggo Bomber’s antics,’ Globe and Mail, 12/21/2010)
Weird Rating: 3.5/10
9. A Bench
Robbie Ftorek played in 334 NHL games, but one of his most well-known highlights came as a coach of the New Jersey Devils.
After Jay Pandolfo, a Devil, raced to nullify an icing call, he was plastered from behind, face-first into the boards. Gushing blood, the refs let the play continue as the Detroit Red Wings took possession and scored. Outraged, Ftorek blew a gasket and chucked a bench onto the ice. He was ejected from the game and suspended for another. Pandolfo needed 84 stitches.
Weird Rating: 5/10
8. A Streaker
Streakers often take the field—as in grass or turf—not ice. The NHL has seen a few streakers, though.
Most recently, a man in just his briefs leaped onto the ice during the second intermission of a San Jose Sharks-Calgary Flames contest. While his choice to streak was not smart, his timing was – the ice is usually chewed up and easier to run on after a period ends.
Weird Rating: 5.5/10
7. Thousands of Teddy Bears
You won’t get thrown out of the arena for this one. Several minor league and junior teams share the Christmas holiday season tradition of having fans toss plush teddy bears on the ice, usually after the home team scores its first goal.
Once gathered up, they’re donated to needy kids. The Calgary Hitmen have “raised” over 25,000 teddy bears. The Kamloops Blazers may have been the first to start the tradition during their 1993-94 season.
Weird Rating: 6/10
6. A Catfish
As a newcomer to the league in 1998, Nashville didn’t have a history to draw upon. So fans took inspiration from the Red Wings’ use of octopi, and began chucking catfish onto the ice at Bridgestone Arena. The tradition dates back to 2002 as locals have visited their favorite seafood stores to acquire the ray-finned fish with whisker-like barbels.
Though not tightly associated with Nashville, catfish is popular in the south and if Predator fans like to hurl them, more power to them. Especially when they’ve gone through the trouble of wrapping it up, strapped it to their leg or back and getting through security.
Weird Rating: 6.5/10
5. Hundreds of Plastic Rats
Most people see a rat and get grossed out. Not Scott Mellanby. Before the Florida Panthers home opener in 1995-96, Mellanby killed a rat that was found in the Florida locker room by shooting it across the floor. He then scored two goals that night in a 4-3 win, leading teammate John Vanbiesbrouck to call it the “rat trick” during a post-game interview.
At the next Panther game, after a Florida goal, a fan tossed a plastic rat onto the ice. The rat brought good luck as the Panthers made it to the Stanley Cup Final that season, ultimately losing to the Colorado Avalanche.
It’s since been banned because it was delaying the game so much. In fact, the NHL changed the rules to allow for a team to be given a delay of game penalty if fans throw things on the ice, outlined in section 9, statute 63.4 of the regulation book. Goalies would even take cover inside their nets to avoid getting hit by rat rain.
Weird Rating: 7/10
4. Magic The Gathering Cards
From rally caps to various superstitions, fans will try anything to turn around a losing team. Casting a spell is a new one, though.
During a Buffalo Sabres game, a fan threw Magic The Gathering cards on the ice – apparently to spark the hometown team. Full disclosure, he threw his phone and wallet, which resulted in the cards in his wallet being strewn across the ice near the Sabres’ bench. The spell didn’t work – Buffalo still lost the game.
Weird Rating: 7.5/10
3. A Live Chicken
That’s correct – a live chicken was once hurled onto the ice during a Los Angeles Kings game. Fortunately, the man responsible for the incident was arrested.
″The chicken was the victim of fowl play,″ police lieutenant Robert Westlake noted after the game. “Apparently he wasn’t happy with how the Kings were playing, which is understandable.”
Just a few months later, the Kings acquired Wayne Gretzky to revitalize their franchise. It remains to be seen if the chicken influenced the greatest trade in NHL history.
Weird Rating: 8/10
2. A Shark
In 2007, a San Jose Sharks fan managed to smuggle a four-foot leopard shark into HP Pavilion (now the SAP Center) during Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals with the Detroit Red Wings. It was then chucked onto the ice during play.
That’s not exactly something you’d expect to see, even if you’re a fan of the Sharks. But more importantly, how did someone smuggle in a four-foot shark?
Weird Rating: 8/10
1. An Octopus
Back in the Original Six days, it took eight wins to bring home the Stanley Cup. And during the 1952 playoffs, it was looking like the powerhouse Red Wings were only going to need the minimum amount of games to bring home another Stanley Cup.
As a tribute to their favorite team, Detroit seafood store owners Pete and Jerry Cusimano chucked an octopus on the ice – each tentacle representing a win needed to capture the Stanley Cup. And after the Red Wings swept both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens to win the 1952 Stanley Cup, perhaps the NHL’s greatest tradition was born.
Since then, hundreds of octopi have hit the ice in Hockeytown thanks to the Cusimano Brothers’ brilliant idea. Most are tossed during a stoppage, and away from players. It’s also best practice to boil the octopi first, as to not leave residue on the ice.
But if you think back to the days of Gordie Howe and the Production Line, it must have been a shock to see an octopus hit the ice in the middle of a Red Wings game. Little did the fans in attendance know that they had witnessed the birth of a tradition in Detroit.
Weird Rating: 10/10
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.