Tossing in their two cents

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:00 PM ET


 First, a jersey in Vancouver.

 Now, octopi in Detroit.

 As if it's not tough enough playing two division champions, the Calgary Flames have been forced to dodge an array of projectiles launched onto the ice in these NHL playoffs.

 Fortunately, it hasn't played a role in the outcomes of their hockey games.

 At least, not yet.

 "Preferably, we don't want things thrown on the ice," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla.

 "It slows up the game and it slows up momentum. But at the same time, they have their tradition there. If it's before the game or during a break, no problem."

 Trouble is, an octopus thrown onto the ice surface of Joe Louis Arena during Game 1 meant a stoppage in play with the Flames trying to mount a rush.

 No big deal, when all was said and done.

 But it could have been worse in Vancouver three nights earlier, when the Flames won 3-2 in overtime to eliminate the host Canucks.

 The result was nearly compromised when a jersey was tossed onto the ice just a few metres from where Iginla was attempting to score an insurance goal into an empty net. Play continued to the other end where, seconds later, Matt Cooke scored to force overtime with 5.7 seconds remaining in regulation.

 The official NHL rulebook states: "In the event that objects are thrown on the ice that interfere with the progress of the game, the referee shall blow the whistle and stop the play and the puck shall be faced-off at the spot where the play is stopped."

 "That jersey on the ice could have been catastrophic," said Flames defenceman Mike Commodore.

 "Thank God, we came back out of that. If we would have lost, that's a bad thing. Even if it's the other way around, that's not the way you want to win a series or lose a series."

 Furthermore on the play, in stooping to collect the jersey from the surface, referee Dan Marouelli didn't see Brendan Morrison slashing the stick out of Iginla's hands -- an oft-called infraction during this post-season. Iginla then fell over his stick, leaving the Flames badly outnumbered on the subsequent Markus Naslund rush to set up Cooke's tying goal.

 "I haven't really thought about it," Iginla said. "I mean, the jersey on the ice, it looked bad on the replay when you look back on Game 7.

 "But I think that was more frustration at the time. That's not tradition."

 Certainly not like it is in Detroit, where tossing octopi onto the surface dates back to the Original Six days. Each of the eight legs of the sea creature represented a playoff win needed to capture the Stanley Cup.

 "I started last game in Detroit and I didn't even think about," said Flames defenceman Jordan Leopold.

 "A piece of octopus came right by me and I just kind of laughed because I thought it was funny. But it was before the game. As long as it's not during the game, it doesn't affect any momentum or anything.

 "It's definitely a tradition and something that should be carried on. It's just sometimes you have to put safety and fun all in perspective. Definitely, while the play is going, nothing should be thrown on the ice.

 "A little piece of lint or a thread of fibre can really help a guy pull a groin or lose an edge and go crashing into the boards."


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