Detroit Red Wings fan Greg Goloborodko isn’t sure Blue Jackets supporters understand why the octopi fly in visiting arenas at playoff time.
“It truly isn’t meant as an insult to the Blue Jackets,” said Goloborodko, a 25-year-old Ohio State student. “It’s just a way to honor a great Red Wings tradition.”
Goloborodko, a native of Russia who lives in Columbus, admits to throwing his third octopus in the past four seasons in Nationwide Arena on Tuesday during the closing minute of the Red Wings’ 4-1 win in Game 3 of a Stanley Cup playoff series.
He lobbed a 2 1/2-pound octopus nicknamed “Homer” about 60 feet over the Plexiglas and onto the ice. Yes, Goloborodko names his octopi for Red Wings’ players — the latest in honor of forward Tomas Holmstrom.
Goloborodko said he was detained by arena security, threatened by angry Jackets fans and enjoyed a chance encounter with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before being escorted from the building.
“As I was being held downstairs, Gary Bettman and his security guys walked by,” Goloborodko said. “Like any good hockey fan, I recognized my commissioner and yelled out, ‘Hey, Commissioner.’
“I heard Bettman say, ‘I’m not happy about this one bit.’ I don’t know if he was responding to me or talking about something else.”
Goloborodko bought “Homer” several days ago and let it thaw. On Tuesday, he stood in line for six hours to purchase one of the Huntington Bank $20 tickets and returned home to pack his slimy payload in a Ziploc bag and drawstring sack.
Nationwide Arena has the reputation among Red Wings fans for being an easy building in which to smuggle octopi, Goloborodko said.
Blue Jackets spokesman Todd Sharrock said two other octopi were confiscated Tuesday. He also confirmed that Goloborodko was escorted from the arena for throwing an object onto the ice.
Red Wings fans have been tossing octopi at games since 1952. The eight tentacles represent the number of playoff wins once required to win the Stanley Cup.
Goloborodko and his brother, Misha, became Red Wings fans because of the team’s heavy Russian influence in the 1990s. Misha, who also lives in Columbus, has been a Blue Jackets fan since the team began play in 2000.
His brother remains true to the Wings and often wears a No. 13 Pavel Datsyuk jersey on the OSU campus. Goloborodko donned it Tuesday as he snuck down from his seat in Section 224 to improve his launch site.
“I had a nice wind up and the little guy just flew,” Goloborodko said.
Elsewhere in Nationwide Arena, Blue Jackets fans pounced on a fan in a Red Wings’ No. 91 Sergei Fedorov jersey before he could heave an octopus.
Goloborodko said Jackets fans vented their anger and that arena security was not happy having to defend him.
As the series resumes tonight, ticket takers will be on the lookout for more octopi with the Red Wings on the verge of a sweep. They won’t need to search for Goloborodko, he said.
“I’m just going to watch the game from a bar in the Arena District,” Goloborodko said. “Counting the one I threw at Joe Louis Arena, I have thrown four octopi. That’s enough for one lifetime.”