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Predators fans looking to buy catfish to toss at Stanley Cup Final won't get it at Wholey's

Ben Schmitt
| Friday, May 26, 2017, 4:03 p.m.
Jim Wholey, co-owner of Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District
Ben Schmitt | Tribune-Review
Jim Wholey, co-owner of Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District
Mike Hartman (left), head fish cutter at Wholey's Fish Market, and Dan Wholey, one of the store's co-owners.
Ben Schmitt | Tribune-Review
Mike Hartman (left), head fish cutter at Wholey's Fish Market, and Dan Wholey, one of the store's co-owners.
Catfish for sale at Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District
Ben Schmitt | Tribune-Review
Catfish for sale at Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District
Wholey’s Fish Market in the Strip District plans to take extraordinary steps in keeping the unlikely whiskered predators away from PPG Paints Arena during Penguins home games.
Ben Schmitt | Tribune-Review
Wholey’s Fish Market in the Strip District plans to take extraordinary steps in keeping the unlikely whiskered predators away from PPG Paints Arena during Penguins home games.
Wholey’s Fish Market in the Strip District plans to take extraordinary steps in keeping the unlikely whiskered predators away from PPG Paints Arena during Penguins home games.
Ben Schmitt | Tribune-Review
Wholey’s Fish Market in the Strip District plans to take extraordinary steps in keeping the unlikely whiskered predators away from PPG Paints Arena during Penguins home games.

A popular Pittsburgh fish market is preparing to keep the catfish it has on ice off the Penguins' home ice during the upcoming Stanley Cup Final.

Nashville Predators fans are known to toss large, slimy catfish on the ice for good luck during home games at Bridgestone Arena. Some may say they stole the concept from the Detroit Red Wings fans who, for decades, have thrown octopi on to the ice during home games, playoff games in particular.

Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District plans to take extraordinary steps in keeping the unlikely whiskered predators away from PPG Paints Arena during Penguins home games.

“You have to show ID if you want to buy catfish here,” co-owner Jim Wholey told the Tribune-Review on Friday. “If you're from Tennessee, we're not selling it to you.”

No business owner wants to turn away paying customers, but this isn't Wholey's first Stanley Cup rodeo.

When the Penguins faced off against the Red Wings during the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and '09, Wholey's refused to sell octopi to Detroit fans. The concept drew national attention at the time.

One Red Wings fan, Zach Smith, managed to sneak an octopus that he brought from suburban Detroit into Pittsburgh's former Mellon Arena in 2008. Security kicked him out after he hurled it on to the ice. He later changed clothes and snuck back in with a new ticket.

“Like I said in 2008, this is for eating, not throwing,” said Dan Wholey, another owner. “Catfish are delicious, and we're going to eat them before, during and after we beat the Predators.”

Wholey's employees worked Friday on a sign to offer fair warning to out-of-towners to stay away from the catfish.

Its message?

“We have 200 pounds of catfish, and you can't buy it unless you show ID,” said general manager Scott Thomas. “I don't think they'll get past us. A lot of our people here are serious Pens fans.”

The Red Wings tradition stems from the hockey era where only eight wins were needed to capture the Stanley Cup (16 are needed now.)

So, why catfish?

They're a popular southern dish and also swim in the Cumberland River which runs through downtown Nashville.

The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville first reported a catfish landing on Bridgestone Arena ice on Oct. 30, 2003 .

Hockey writer Greg Wyshynski, who created Yahoo! Sports' hockey blog “Puck Daddy,” said Red Wings and Predators used to meet in the NHL playoffs before league realignment.

“I would assume it is either a ripoff or homage,” he told the Trib. “I would imagine it was some sort of reaction to seeing octopi thrown on to your home ice in Nashville.”

Still, he said octopi are much more pliable and easy to smuggle into an arena.

“A catfish, especially some of the dimensions the Predator fans have thrown on to the ice, is much more unwieldy,” Wyshynski said. “I have a hard time envisioning many Predator fans getting into games in Pittsburgh. I have a harder time seeing how they would get a catfish into the game.”

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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