10 Weird Things Hockey Fans Have Thrown on the Ice

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Whether they want to celebrate a game-winning goal or protest a bad call, hockey fans have come a long way from just throwing hats on the ice. Fans of the Nashville Predators, for example, have achieved a certain infamy for the practice of tossing catfish on the playing surface, a tradition that began in 2002 after the team hosted the Detroit Red Wings. Why catfish? Because Detroit apparently had good luck when fans tossed some marine life (octopi) over the screens beginning in the 1950s; for Detroit transplants who attended Predators games, heaving a Nashville seafood delicacy toward players sounded like a good idea at the time.

We can't convince you of the logic behind that. All we can do is highlight some of the stranger projectiles that have been tossed around hockey games over the years.

1. HAMBURGERS

The Ottawa Senators made big strides in recent years thanks to the goaltending chops of Andrew Hammond, a.k.a. “The Hamburglar,” nicknamed for the way he “robs” opponents of goals. The 27-year-old Hammond was undrafted and had only played in a single NHL game before suiting up as a replacement for both injured starter Craig Anderson as well as backup Robin Lehner, when it seemed like the Sens had no chance of making the postseason.

When Hammond’s net-minding skills got red hot (he ended up finishing the 2014-15 regular season with a whopping 20-1-2 record), Ottawa fans saw fit to honor him by throwing burgers onto the ice. Hammond wasn’t brave enough to take a bite—he said the burgers were “kind of cold”—but in a later game, his teammate Curtis Lazar took a bite to celebrate a victory. Afterward, Lazar tweeted that the burger “could have used some ketchup.”

2. OCTOPUSES

The 2016-17 NHL season broke the Detroit Red Wings' streak of making it to the playoffs for 25 consecutive years. One of their most well known celebrations began on April 15, 1952, when fans (and brothers) Pete and Jerry Cusimano threw an octopus onto the ice at Detroit's Olympia Stadium.

The creature’s eight tentacles were symbolic of the eight wins the Wings needed to win the Stanley Cup at the time, way back when the league consisted of six teams and the playoff format was two best-of-seven series. The Red Wings swept the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens to win the Cup, making the cephalopod an unofficial good luck charm for the Wings ever since.

3. RATS

On October 8, 1995, Florida Panthers winger Scott Mellanby was waiting in the dressing room at Miami Arena, ready to take the ice for the third-year franchise's home opener, when he spotted a rat moving across the floor. Mellanby then unleashed a slap shot that killed the intruder, which was memorialized in Magic Marker with the inscription “RIP, Rat 1, Oct. 8, 1995“ on the wall above where it died.

That night, Mellanby scored two goals in the Panthers' 4-3 win and Florida goalie John Vanbiesbrouck dubbed the feat a “rat trick” during the postgame press conference. A fan threw a plastic rat on the ice after a goal during one of the Panthers' next home games, and the custom eventually caught on. As the Panthers' wins continued to pile up, so too did the fake rodents.

During the Panthers' 1996 playoff run, a local supermarket baked rat-shaped cakes and Dan Marino's bar introduced a new drink, the Rat Shooter. Plastic rat reinforcements had to be shipped in to South Florida after the Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals against the Colorado Avalanche. Avs fans, who tossed rat traps on the ice during games in Denver, had the last laugh when Colorado swept the series. The NHL introduced a new rule during the offseason that called for referees to issue the home team a bench minor penalty if fans ignored the public address announcer's warning and continued to throw objects onto the ice after a goal.

4. SNAKES

A Toronto Maple Leafs blogger launched this mini-movement when he suggested, via Twitter, that Arizona Coyotes blogger Travis Hair throw a rattlesnake onto the ice during Game 1 of the Coyotes' first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings in 2010.

Before long, #ThrowTheSnake was the top trending topic in Twitter in Canada, causing Hair to reach out to the team's marketing department about organizing a non-disruptive way to capitalize on the excitement. Hair suggested that fans be permitted to throw rubber snakes after warm-ups and before the Zamboni cleared the ice, but team officials wanted none of it. Anyone who threw a snake, they said, would be ejected.

The decree didn’t matter: After then-Coyotes-defenseman Keith Yandle scored to tie the game during the first period of Game 1, a rubber snake hit the ice. At least it wasn’t a real snake …

5. ALBERTA BEEF

The first two slabs of Alberta beef landed on the ice at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena prior to the start of Game 2 of the 2006 first round Stanley Cup playoff series between the eighth-seeded Edmonton Oilers and the top-seeded Red Wings. "They threw the beef in Detroit, and we won," Oilers winger Georges Laraque told reporters after Edmonton won Game 2 to even the series.

Tossing Alberta beef—the perfect antidote to Detroit's octopus—onto the ice was Edmonton DJ Gary McLachlan's idea, and it didn't take long for the bizarre ritual to become associated with winning.

The Oilers dispatched the Red Wings in six games and, with the beef raining down, advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup finals against the Carolina Hurricanes. But the luck of the beef seemed to run out after that; the Oilers lost the series in seven games.

6. LEOPARD SHARKS

San Jose Sharks fans and cousins Ken Conroy and Mike Gaboury hatched a plan to mimic Detroit's octopus-throwing tradition by throwing a shark onto the ice when San Jose played the Red Wings in the first round of the 1994 playoffs. While the idea didn't materialize into action during that series, the duo vowed to make it happen the next time San Jose and Detroit met in the playoffs.

Flash forward to 2006. Conroy purchased tickets and a pair of 4-foot leopard sharks, and then used an elaborate process to secure one of the sharks to Gaboury's back before heading to the game.

Gaboury, who wore a trench coat to help conceal the shark bulge, waited until the lights dimmed during pregame introductions to unwrap the shark and slide it under his seat. After the Sharks scored late in the first period, he handed the shark to Conroy, who moved to the aisle and prepared for the toss of his life. "I took about three steps and I just heaved it (with two hands) and it slides out to the blue line near the middle of the ice," said Conroy, who was then escorted out of the arena by security. 

The duo was back at it in 2010. Annoyed by people not understanding the symbolism of the first toss, this time they threw a shark with an octopus in its mouth onto the ice.

7. UNDERWEAR

In December 2006, winger Jeff Cowan was put on waivers by the Los Angeles Kings and scooped up by the Vancouver Canucks. Cowan joined the team as a enforcer, not as a goal-scorer, but when he started producing (culminating in a streak that saw him score six goals in four games), one anonymous woman in the stands let him know she enjoyed his efforts by throwing a bra on the ice, and the nickname “Cowan the Bra-barian” was born.

The Canucks embraced the celebratory bustiers, and eventually, the whole team autographed a bra that was auctioned off to raise money for breast cancer research. Cowan and the team would make it to the Western Conference semi-finals that year, but would lose to the Anaheim Ducks. It would seem the bras were the only “cups” they saw that year.

8. JERSEYS

Sometimes fans throw things on the ice because they really, really aren’t happy with their team. The hapless Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the storied original six NHL teams, are currently in the middle of a 50-year Stanley Cup drought and counting—and disgruntled fans who have had enough sparked a controversy in 2015 that was dubbed “Jerseygate.”

The protest—which involved throwing Maple Leafs jerseys on the ice as a symbolic protest of the team’s less-than-stellar play—got three frustrated fans a fine of $65 and a yearlong ban from Toronto’s Air Canada Centre for their disruptive behavior.

9. TEDDY BEARS

Sometimes throwing things on the ice is a good thing! The Christmastime tradition of tossing teddy bears on the ice is usually reserved to minor league teams, and involves fans bringing them to the game and intentionally throwing as many of the plush dolls as they can on the ice after the home team scores its first goal. The bears are then scooped up and donated to kids’ charities.

A 2014 teddy bear toss for the minor league Calgary Hitmen alone netted over 25,000 teddies for needy children.

10. DIMES, PENNIES, QUARTERS, AND ALARM CLOCKS.

Not surprisingly, throwing objects on the ice isn’t a new tradition. Back in 1944, Earl "The Iceman" Davis, who supervised a cleanup crew for the Chicago Black Hawks (then spelled with two words), was featured in a national wire story on fan behavior at hockey games.

"Hockey fans are the craziest people, of that I'm sure,” Davis said. "They do not seem to know it's dangerous to throw things—that a player could break his leg on the junk they toss—and that we are breaking our backs picking it up. One night we scooped up 300 or 400 pennies, several dimes and nickels, and a couple of quarters."

The biggest source of trash, however, was "paper airplanes made with painstaking care from programs by guys in the far, smoke-bound reaches of the upper gallery." These fans were known for picking a spot on the ice and betting who could sail their paper planes closest to the mark. In the same article, Hawks president Bill Tobin recalled the time that a fan in Montreal threw an alarm clock on the ice, saying they "thought it was time we woke up, I guess."

12 Intriguing Facts About the Intestines

When we talk about the belly, gut, or bowels, what we're really talking about are the intestines—long, hollow, coiled tubes that comprise a major part of the digestive tract, running from the stomach to the anus. The intestines begin with the small intestine, divided into three parts whimsically named the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum, which absorb most of the nutrients from what we eat and drink. Food then moves into the large intestine, or colon, which absorbs water from the digested food and expels it into the rectum. That's when sensitive nerves in your rectum create the sensation of needing to poop.

These organs can be the source of intestinal pain, such as in irritable bowel syndrome, but they can also support microbes that are beneficial to your overall health. Here are some more facts about your intestines.

1. The intestines were named by medieval anatomists.

Medieval anatomists had a pretty good understanding of the physiology of the gut, and are the ones who gave the intestinal sections their names, which are still used today in modern anatomy. When they weren't moralizing about the organs, they got metaphorical about them. In 1535, the Spanish doctor Andrés Laguna noted that because the intestines "carry the chyle and all the excrement through the entire region of the stomach as if through the Ocean Sea," they could be likened to "those tall ships which as soon as they have crossed the ocean come to Rouen with their cargoes on their way to Paris but transfer their cargoes at Rouen into small boats for the last stage of the journey up the Seine."

2. Leonardo da Vinci believed the intestines helped you breathe.

Leonardo mistakenly believed the digestive system aided respiratory function. In 1490, he wrote in his unpublished notebooks, "The compressed intestines with the condensed air which is generated in them, thrust the diaphragm upwards; the diaphragm compresses the lungs and expresses the air." While that isn't anatomically accurate, it is true that the opening of the lungs is helped by the relaxation of stomach muscles, which does draw down the diaphragm.

3. Your intestines could cover two tennis courts ...

Your intestines take up a whole lot of square footage inside you. "The surface area of the intestines, if laid out flat, would cover two tennis courts," Colby Zaph, a professor of immunology in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Melbourne's Monash University, tells Mental Floss. The small intestine alone is about 20 feet long, and the large intestine about 5 feet long.

4. ... and they're pretty athletic.

The process of moving food through your intestines requires a wave-like pattern of muscular action, known as peristalsis, which you can see in action during surgery in this YouTube video.

5. Your intestines can fold like a telescope—but that's not something you want to happen.

Intussusception is the name of a condition where a part of your intestine folds in on itself, usually between the lower part of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. It often presents as severe intestinal pain and requires immediate medical attention. It's very rare, and in children may be related to a viral infection. In adults, it's more commonly a symptom of an abnormal growth or polyp.

6. Intestines are very discriminating.

"The intestines have to discriminate between good things—food, water, vitamins, good bacteria—and bad things, such as infectious organisms like viruses, parasites and bad bacteria," Zaph says. Researchers don't entirely know how the intestines do this. Zaph says that while your intestines are designed to keep dangerous bacteria contained, infectious microbes can sometimes penetrate your immune system through your intestines.

7. The small intestine is covered in "fingers" ...

The lining of the small intestine is blanketed in tiny finger-like protrusions known as villi. These villi are then covered in even tinier protrusions called microvilli, which help capture food particles to absorb nutrients, and move food on to the large intestine.

8. ... And you can't live without it.

Your small intestine "is the sole point of food and water absorption," Zaph says. Without it, "you'd have to be fed through the blood."

9. The intestines house your microbiome. 

The microbiome is made up of all kinds of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoans, "and probably used to include worm parasites too," says Zaph. So in a way, he adds, "we are constantly infected with something, but it [can be] helpful, not harmful."

10. Intestines are sensitive to change.

Zaph says that many factors change the composition of the microbiome, including antibiotics, foods we eat, stress, and infections. But in general, most people's microbiomes return to a stable state after these events. "The microbiome composition is different between people and affected by diseases. But we still don't know whether the different microbiomes cause disease, or are a result in the development of disease," he says.

11. Transferring bacteria from one gut to another can transfer disease—or maybe cure it.

"Studies in mice show that transplanting microbes from obese mice can transfer obesity to thin mice," Zaph says. But transplanting microbes from healthy people into sick people can be a powerful treatment for some intestinal infections, like that of the bacteria Clostridium difficile, he adds. Research is pouring out on how the microbiome affects various diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and even autism.

12. The microbes in your intestines might influence how you respond to medical treatments.

Some people don't respond to cancer drugs as effectively as others, Zaph says. "One reason is that different microbiomes can metabolize the drugs differently." This has huge ramifications for chemotherapy and new cancer treatments called checkpoint inhibitors. As scientists learn more about how different bacteria metabolize drugs, they could possibly improve how effective existing cancer treatments are.

15 Unique Illnesses You Can Only Come Down With in German

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iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

The German language is so perfectly suited for these syndromes, coming down with them in any other language just won’t do.

1. Kevinismus

At some point in the last couple of decades, parents in Germany started coming down with Kevinismus—a strange propensity to give their kids wholly un-German, American-sounding names like Justin, Mandy, Dennis, Cindy, and Kevin. Kids with these names reportedly tend to be less successful in school and in life, although some researchers have suggested this could be due to a combination of teachers’ prejudices toward the names and the lower social status of parents who choose names like Kevin.

2. Föhnkrankheit

Föhn is the name for a specific wind that cools air as it draws up one side of a mountain, and then warms it as it compresses coming down the other side. These winds are believed to cause headaches and other feelings of illness. Many a 19th century German lady took to her fainting couch with a cold compress, suffering from Föhnkrankheit.

3. Kreislaufzusammenbruch

Kreislaufzusammenbruch, or “circulatory collapse,” sounds deathly serious, but it’s used quite commonly in Germany to mean something like “feeling woozy” or “I don’t think I can come into work today.”

4. Hörsturz

Hörsturz refers to a sudden loss of hearing, which in Germany is apparently frequently caused by stress. Strangely, while every German knows at least five people who have had a bout of Hörsturz, it is practically unheard of anywhere else.

5. Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

Frühjahrsmüdigkeit or “early year tiredness” can be translated as “spring fatigue.” Is it from the change in the weather? Changing sunlight patterns? Hormone imbalance? Allergies? As afflictions go, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is much less fun than our “spring fever,” which is instead associated with increased vim, vigor, pep, and randiness.

6. Fernweh

Fernweh is the opposite of homesickness. It is the longing for travel, or getting out there beyond the horizon, or what you might call wanderlust.

7. Putzfimmel

Putzen means “to clean” and Fimmel is a mania or obsession. Putzfimmel is an obsession with cleaning. It is not unheard of outside of Germany, but elsewhere it is less culturally embedded and less fun to say.

8. Werthersfieber

An old-fashioned type of miserable lovesickness that was named “Werther’s fever” for the hero of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. Poor young Werther suffers for the love of a peasant girl who is already married. Death is his only way out. A generation of sensitive young men brought made Werthersfieber quite fashionable in the late 18th century.

9. Ostalgie

Ostalgie is nostalgia for the old way of life in East Germany (ost means East). If you miss your old Trabant and those weekly visits from the secret police, you may have Ostalgie.

10. Zeitkrankheit

Zeitkrankheit is “time sickness” or “illness of the times.” It’s a general term for whatever the damaging mindset or preoccupations of a certain era are.

11. Weltschmerz

Weltschmerz or “world pain,” is a sadness brought on by a realization that the world cannot be the way you wish it would be. It’s more emotional than pessimism, and more painful than ennui.

12. Ichschmerz

Ichschmerz is like Weltschmerz, but it is dissatisfaction with the self rather than the world. Which is probably what Weltschmerz really boils down to most of the time.

13. Lebensmüdigkeit

Lebensmüdigkeit translates as despair or world-weariness, but it also more literally means “life tiredness.” When someone does something stupidly dangerous, you might sarcastically ask, “What are you doing? Are you lebensmüde?!”

14. Zivilisationskrankheit

Zivilisationskrankheit, or “civilization sickness” is a problem caused by living in the modern world. Stress, obesity, eating disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome, and diseases like type 2 diabetes are all examples.

15. Torschlusspanik

Torschlusspanik or “gate closing panic” is the anxiety-inducing awareness that as time goes on, life’s opportunities just keep getting fewer and fewer and there’s no way to know which ones you should be taking before they close forever. It’s a Zivilisationskrankheit that may result in Weltschmerz, Ichschmerz, or Lebensmüdigkeit.

This list first ran in 2015.

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