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Why do Predators fans throw catfish on the ice at the Stanley Cup Final?

Part being knuckleheads, part tradition.

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The Nashville Predators are in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history, which means a national audience is getting the chance to discover some of their traditions. We’ve gotten treated to one of those repeatedly since Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins — catfish on the ice.

Game 6 is on Sunday night, and there will be a lot more than one catfish on hand at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

Now, you might be thinking, “What gives? There’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens on the ice during hockey games, but catfish? Why catfish?”

The catfish-throwing is actually a tradition for Predators fans that they brought to Pittsburgh for Game 1, much to the chagrin of local fish markets that tried to avoid selling them to Tennessee residents. It’s something they’ve been doing in their home arena for over a decade.

The first reported example of it happening came back in 2003, according to The Tennessean. Ever since, catfish have rained down on the ice in Nashville during big moments. There are few bigger than Stanley Cup Final games.

The tradition takes inspiration from fans of the Detroit Red Wings, who have been throwing octopuses on the ice in the Motor City since the 1950s. The Red Wings’ tradition, colloquially known as the Legend of the Octopus, started in 1952 when a pair of brothers hurled an octopus on the ice during the team’s playoff run. The Wings went on to sweep the Maple Leafs and Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup, and fans have been doing it in support of them ever since.

When the Predators started playing in 1998, they obviously didn’t have any history like the Red Wings. Detroit was arguably the NHL’s premier franchise at the time, though, and with many people from the Midwest flocking to Nashville, it made the Wings a logical source of inspiration.

So someone decided in 2003 to toss a catfish on the ice, presumably thinking of the Red Wings, and even though the Predators didn’t go on to win the Stanley Cup that year, a tradition was born. Ever since, fans have kept doing it — even if it means tricking a local seafood seller and taping a gross, slimy 20-pound fish to your back in order to get past security. You might still get kicked out, though, at least in Pittsburgh:

Does the tradition make a ton of sense? No, not really. But this is Nashville, its own kind of hockeytown, and it doesn’t really care whether the tradition makes sense to you. It’s all their own, they love it, and that’s enough for them. Next time you see a catfish on the ice, now you know.