IT might look like a regular old dead catfish. But this critter thrown onto the ice at the Stanley Cup Final is no laughing matter in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins were leading 3-0 in the second period of Game 1 in the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators when someone from the crowd threw a mangled catfish over the glass.
LIVE stream the NHL Playoffs on FOX SPORTS. Get a free 2-week FOXTEL PLAY trial now & stream LIVE within minutes. SIGN UP NOW!
The incident stopped the game as officials used a shovel to dispose of the fish. The man responsible was ejected from the stadium to loud boos from Pittsburgh fans.
Identified as Jacob Waddell, 36, the man threw the catfish on behalf of Nashville sports radio program The Midday 180. A sticker from the show was stuck to the catfish, and Deveral was seen wearing a shirt displaying its logo when he was escorted out of the arena.
Waddell was facing charges including disorderly conduct, disrupting a meeting and possessing an instrument of crime.
Waddell, who lives in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, had bought the fish near his home before driving some 900km northeast to Pittsburgh. He filleted the fish and drove over it with his pick-up truck, before vacuum sealing the flattened remains, which he stuffed into his underpants.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala has reviewed video and other evidence in the case and “made the determination that the actions of Mr Waddell do not rise to the level of criminal charges. As such, the three charges filed against Mr Waddell will be withdrawn in a timely manner,” a spokesman said.
“The man is a hero,” The Midday 180 tweeted from its account.
“Good news. Jacob was not arrested. But he’s not Welcome in Pittsburgh again. Now on his way home. ‘It was awesome. Did we score?’”
They did, Jacob. The Predators clawed their way back from 0-3 down and threatened a huge upset in Pittsburgh when they levelled it at 3-3 with just under 7 minutes left in the game.
But in the final minutes, Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel scored the game-winner, with an empty net score sealing a 5-3 win for the home team.
The throwing of a catfish onto the ice at Predators home games in Nashville is a much-loved tradition in ‘Music City’, but to do it in Pittsburgh was a slap in the face to the Penguins faithful.
They had tried to stop it from happening too.
Some local fishmongers were so concerned about diehard Predators fans bringing the tradition to PPG Paints Arena, that in the lead-up to Game 1 they refused to sell the fish to anyone with a Tennessee ID.
The tradition is believed to have started in 2003, inspired by the legendary Detroit Red Wings whose fans throw an octopus onto the ice during NHL games. The catfish adds a bit of Southern flavour to the famous ice hockey ritual.
While Pittsburgh fans were fuming at the catfish incident, Nashville fans — including country music star Carrie Underwood — rejoiced at the bravery of Waddell to complete the mission.
The question now is whether the feat can be repeated in Game 2 in Pittsburgh. The puck drops Thursday June 1, 10am AEST, and will be shown live on Fox Sports 506.