CHICAGO – Prior to a game at Joe Louis Arena last week, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith skated over to chat with Detroit Red Wings Zamboni driver Al Sobotka following the national anthem.
Sobotka, who’s taken care of the ice at ‘The Joe’ for 30 years, has become famous for scooping up octopuses thrown on the playing surface for luck and swinging them over his head to fire up the crowd as he removes them.
The one hurled near the end of the anthem prior to Game 4 of a Western Conference Semifinals series between the Original Six rivals caught Keith’s attention.
“Oh I just wanted to look at that thing,” Keith said on Sunday, prior to flying back to Detroit for Game 6 on Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN,CBC, RDS). “I’d never seen something like that, that big.”
How did the conversation go?
“I just said, ‘That thing’s gross,’ ” Keith said. “He said, ‘You’d better get out of the way or you’re going to get hit.’ So, I was like, ‘Alright, I better get out of the way then.”
Keith also made a light-hearted plea on Sunday to check into the legality of the decades-old Motor City tradition.
“Isn’t it supposed to be a penalty when their fans are throwing things on the ice?” he said. “I think it’s in the rule book. Maybe we can get a power play from that.”
A Detroit fan also threw an octopus on the ice Saturday night at United Center near the end of Chicago's 4-1 victory -- a game in which Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell broke the goal camera with a shot in the first period.
After pouncing on a rebound right near the net, he fired a hard wrister right into the camera mounted inside the net for the game's first goal. The picture went blurry immediately.
"That’s kind of funny," Bickell said. "I knew it went in the middle of the net. It was funny to break the net-cam. Hopefully I don’t get billed for it."