SOURCE: USA Today
Fan traditions are getting revved into the high gear this week with the start of the NHL and NBA postseasons. All around the country you’ll see playoff beards, white-outs and sea creatures tossed onto the ice. To celebrate, FTW looks at nine of the weirdest fan traditions in sports.
1. University of New Hampshire hockey – Fish throwing
As this list will show, there are few things hockey fans love more than throwing a limp, cold-blooded vertebrae over the boards. Whenever the University of New Hampshire hockey team scores its first goal of the game, a fish is thrown onto the ice, either to celebrate or to deliver a Sicilian message that Luca Brasi is dead.
2. Wake Forest sports – TPing the quad
After big wins by Wake Forest sports team (so, like every three or four years), students raid the dorm bathrooms and roll the October Glory red maple trees lining the main quad. (“October glory” is a perfect summation of Wake Forest sports, FWIW.)
For the biggest of victories – such as when the team won back-to-back ACC tournaments with Tim Duncan or took home the ACC football title in 2006 – the quad is a virtual whiteout, with the ground and trees looking like they’ve been hit by a one-ply blizzard.
3. Taylor University basketball – Silent Night
The tiny Evangelical college in Indiana may be home to the greatest tradition in a basketball-mad state. Yes, even better than you, candy-striped Indiana Hoosiers warm-up pants. On the eve of finals, students dress up in costumes (like a hybrid of Christmas and Halloween) and pack the stands to watch their NAIA basketball team.
Then, they sit in complete silence from the tip until the Trojans score their 10th point of the game, whereupon the gym erupts and students rush the floor like they’d just defeated, I don’t know, which team is an NAIA powerhouse?
The videos from each year are great – watch one and you’ll be sucked into a YouTube wormhole from which you’ll emerge with “Silent Night” playing on an endless repeat in your head. While the chaotic celebration is great, the best part is the silence before it.
Every squeak of a player’s shoe, call-out of a pick or request for the ball echoes throughout the gym. The quiet is deafening and almost disconcerting, especially when Taylor hits a basket and fans celebrate without speaking. (Bonus points to the one oblivious fan who starts clapping and is quickly shushed into silence.)
It’s been a successful gimmick – Taylor has never lost the Silent Night game in its 21-year history.
4. University of Pennsylvania football – Toast toss
Before the 1980s, the Penn band would play a song called “Drink a Highball,” that concluded, “drink a highball and be jolly, here’s a toast to dear old Penn!”
Fans would take the direction literally and take a nip of a drink. When alcohol was banned from Franklin Field, students had to get creative which, in this case, meant stealing a move from those cult, interactive viewings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
When a character in the film offers a toast, fans threw toast at the screen. Since the last line of the “Highball” song is “here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” students simply borrowed the tradition. Now, when the song is played, thousands of pieces of toast (or just plain bread, because what college student owns a toaster?) are hurled onto the field.
This being an Ivy League school, there’s also a so-called “toast Zamboni” that was made by engineering students to pick up some of the projectile.
5. John Brown University basketball – TP night
Tiny John Brown University, another religious school in the Midwest, becomes a mix of New Hampshire, Wake Forest and Taylor University on “TP night,” when the student body throws hundreds of rolls of toilet paper on the floor after the team’s first basket. JBU is assessed a technical for the outburst but nobody seems to mind.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Octopus throw
In 1952, two Detroit brothers brought an octopus to the Red Wings first playoff game and threw it on the ice. The eight legs of the cephalopod represented the eight games the team needed to win in order to win the Stanley Cup. The tradition continued for decades, picking up steam during the team’s dynastic run of the late-1990s. Back then, the team openly encouraged the celebration but now they have to look the other way, a result of NHL rules and Detroit law. The throwing of an octopus results in ejection and a $500 fine, but the Red Wings take care to note that a police officer must see the throw in order for a fan to be ticketed.
7. Duke basketball — Most prepared fans
Once a week during the winter at Cameron Indoor Stadium, some of America’s finest students channel all their pent-up energy from studying to cheer on Mike Krzyzewski’s scrappy band of All-American floor-slappers. Painted up like investment bankers on a retreat to Burning Man, the blue-chested, blue-faced student body appears to cheer spontaneously but actually reads off pre-written cheer sheets.
8. Nashville Predators – The catfish
Most of these in-game traditions are fantastic if you root for that specific team but immensely annoying if you don’t. (See: Crazies, Cameron.) That’s why Nashville’s catfish toss got started, allegedly. A former Nashville bar owner told The Tennessean that he was the phantom fish tosser in the Preds inaugural 1998-99 season. Bothered by Red Wings fans who filled the arena when the team came to play in Nashville, he and his friends hatched a plan to throw a catfish on the ice as a response to Detroit’s octopuses.
The idea lives on in various forms, most notably with a new addition to Bridgestone Arena for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The team announced before Game 1 of its first-round series that a fish tank had been installed and would be home to four catfish – “four wins per series,” said Predators president Sean Henry, “four series gets you the ultimate prize.” I like it. If you’re going to rip-off Detroit’s celebration, might as well go all-in and steal the symbolism too.
9. Chelsea football – Celery
For years, fans of the British football club brought celery to Stamford Bridge and threw it on the field, creating the kind of general mayhem you’d expect from English soccer fans. Why celery? No one quite knows. One origin story is that it was inspired (taken?) from a lower-league team that had its field overrun with celery in the offseason.
The celery tossing (which was accompanied by a bawdy chant) was halted after it interrupted a 2007 game with Arsenal, but fans still bring it to victory parades and away games despite it being the least nutritious vegetable.