Sporting events play host to some of the most well-known traditions throughout the world, from baseball’s ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game” to rushing the field after a major victory or upset. Hockey has spawned some of the greatest of these traditions, and these can be named by those who don’t even follow the sport. The handshakes at the conclusion of a playoff series may be the greatest show of sportsmanship throughout sports, while the appearance of the octopus at Joe Louis Arena is essential to every Red Wings playoff run. Your Toledo Walleye have some traditions that are well known throughout the city and the ECHL, though there is some controversy to them. How about we delve into some of T-Towns home grown traditions?
As I mentioned earlier Hockeytown is famous for the annual playoff appearance of everyone’s favorite eight legged sea creature. Originally the octopus was thrown onto the ice to represent the number of wins it took to claim the Stanley Cup, eight wins over two best of seven series back in the leagues early days. Toledo, being an observant Detroit farm team, has also taken to throwing a particular aquatic animal onto the ice during home games. The Toledo Walleye are named after the famous walleye run that takes place every year, when fisherman line the rivers to try and nab as many of the tasty critters as they can. So it’s rather unsurprising that walleye started appearing on the Walleye’s ice! Though it’s hard to pin an exact date when the fish started flying onto the ice, they have become a staple to any home game at the Huntington Center. Usually thrown after the team’s first goal of the night, the thrower is just as slippery as the fish itself, because you never quite catch them in the act. The fans are always happy to see the appearance of the local fish, and it serves as a great way to hype up the crowd. Hopefully I’ll be able to meet the Walleye tosser someday and get to ask them how they manage to sneak a full sized fish inside!
Another unique tradition in Toledo is the playing of their own custom theme song before the players take the ice for warmups and before the start of every period. Local Toledo band In Theory came up with a way to not only energize the Huntington Center for the coming game, but to immortalize themselves in the very roots of Toledo hockey. Suit Up (T-Town Hockey), has been a hit with the fan base due to the catchy tune and mean rock sound, with the guitar and drums resonating with a feeling of grit and tenacity. The rock song has become a battle cry since its introduction, and is one of the most distinguishing events that takes place at an ECHL game. As for the NHL, few teams have their own custom song. The only one that comes to mind immediately are the Boston Bruins having “Time To Go” written and performed by the Dropkick Murphys, which is another fantastic song. If you want to hear Suit Up for yourself have a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN2Xu4O2SzM
One tradition rises above the rest though, our most controversial practice being the “Hit Somebody!” yell.
Chants are a normal part of sports regardless of league, location, or the game being played. Baseball games across the nation have fans trying to distract the opposition with, “Heeeyyy batter batter batter”, and basketball arenas absolutely lay into opponents who are at the free throw line. For Toledo, we have adopted a battle cry that is both beloved and disputed within our own fan base. The actual call is well within acceptable, a seemingly harmless shout of, “Hit Somebody!”. Walleye fans use it as a way of getting the crowd or team back into a game, or by creating a hostile work environment for a visiting team who find themselves trailing. At one point before the puck ever hits the ice, the whole crowd yells “Hit Somebody!” in unison. It’s here where the fan base is at odds. We yell this in between the final two verses of the National Anthem, right after “…banner yet wave” but before “O’er the land…”. The tradition of “Hit Somebody!” during the anthem is said to originate during the inaugural 1991-92 season of the Toledo Storm, and carried over when the Storm rebranded as the Walleye between 2007 and 2009. Lately there has been criticism of the shout during the anthem, but I’m not here to discuss that. The tradition of “Hit Somebody!” has become a part of Toledo’s identity, and it will never be removed entirely from the team. Perhaps moved, but never removed, as it’s far too much fun to yell prior to the game start. You should come on down to experience some of these traditions for yourself sometime, I’m sure you won’t regret it! See you at the Huntington Center, and LET’S GO WALLEYE!
Feature image was provided by Jarrod Maneval
Suit Up (T-Town Hockey) is written and performed by In Theory