The throwing of the octopus has been a playoff tradition at Detroit Red Wings games dating all the way back to the early 1950's.
At the time, NHL teams needed to win only eight playoff games to hoist the Stanley Cup, and the eight tentacles on the Octopus were supposed to represent each win that was needed to claim hockey's ultimate prize. Even though the league, and playoffs, have since been expanded (it now takes 16 wins to win the cup) the tradition still goes on at every Red Wings playoff game at Joe Louis Arena, and most road games that have a large contingent of Wings fans present.
Some fanbases have attempted to copy this tradition with varying degrees of success. In the mid-90's, Florida Panthers fans used to throw plastic rats on the ice after former player Scott Mellanby disposed of a rat in the team's locker room, and followed it up with a two-goal performance. Nashville Predators fans have actually thrown catfish, while Coyotes fans joined the fun by tossing a snake on the ice in this year's opening round. (And you can see more at the Huffington Post, as they recently did a countdown of the weirdest things ever thrown by hockey fans).
On Sunday night in San Jose, Sharks fans upped the ante -- against the Red Wings, of course -- by tossing an actual shark on the ice after Joe Pavelski's first period goal ... with an octopus in its mouth. Hey, it's still better than what they've been known to throw in Sweden.
Still, my favorite Octopus moment was during the 2008 playoffs when Colorado's Cody McLeod picked it up off the Detroit ice with his bare hands and threw it back into the stands.
Joke was on him in the end, of course, as the Wings swept the Avs in four straight games.
San Jose ended up winning Sunday's game, 4-3, to take a 2-0 series lead.
(H/T Puck Daddy)