Images: NBC; 104.5 The Zone FM

Update (11:50 a.m.): Charges dropped!

The Predators fan who threw a catfish on the ice in Pittsburgh and was later arrested and charged with various crimes, including “disrupting a meeting,” said on a Nashville radio show he has vowed to fight the charges.

Advertisement

Some backstory: When the Predators were founded in 1998, some of the first fans were former Detroiters who had migrated to work at newer GM plants in Tennessee. They began backing the team, and were dubbed the “Predwings.” In 2003, someone ripped off Detroit’s tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice—but with a catfish. Fans have been throwing catfish on the ice in Nashville occasionally ever since.

Okay. Pittsburgh didn’t want fans from Nashville to come into the arena with a catfish and hurl it onto the ice. Wholey’s, a fish market in the city, checked ID for anyone purchasing catfish. “Pens fans only,” a sign said. But in an interview on the Midday 180 show in Nashville, Jake Waddell says he got around any Pittsburgh purchase prevention by purchasing his catfish in Tennessee.

In the interview on 104.5 The Zone, Waddell says he is just a “dumb redneck with a bad idea.” He added: “I thought ‘Man, wouldn’t it be awesome to get to go to that game?’ And then, like an ignorant redneck, I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to throw a catfish on the ice at this game?’”

Advertisement

Per his interview on Nashville radio: Waddell bought a pair of upper-level tickets to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final for $350, along with a catfish in Tennessee. On the eight-hour drive from Tennessee to Pittsburgh, Waddell kept the catfish in a cooler. To blunt the smell, he also sprayed it with Old Spice.

Then, he needed to compress the fish’s size a bit. He filleted it at a cousin’s house. But it was still too big, so he ran it over with his car a few times to compress it more. “No matter how much I ran it over with my truck,” he said on the radio, “the head was too big.”

Then came sneaking it into the arena. This gets more complicated. Waddell put on a pair of underwear, followed by the catfish. Then he put on compression shorts and a pair of baggy shorts over the whole ensemble. He talked to relatives to test out whether it was obvious he was packing a catfish in his pants. “I talked to them for 20 minutes, and they had no idea I had the fish on,” he told the radio station.

Waddell got into the arena, wrapped the catfish in a free T-shirt/towel giveaway, and snuck down to the lower bowl. Two Predators fans he met by chance had agreed to screenshot their e-tickets to allow Waddell to get into the seating area. He then walked up to the glass and threw the catfish, before being whisked away by security.

“You can hear the crowd getting restless: ‘Hillbilly, redneck,’ all this other stuff they’re yelling at me. They’re calling me stuff I should be called,” he said. “If it wasn’t 1 vs. 10,000, I wouldn’t have been uncomfortable, but I was kind of hoping the security guards would get us on out of there.”

Waddell told the station a police officer said he was being charged with disorderly conduct, and he’d receive a citation in the mail. It was only later that he found out he was also charged with two other misdemeanors: possessing an instrument of a crime and disrupting a meeting.

Advertisement

“Now they come out with a couple other trumped-up charges, which are BS,” he told Midday 180. “I mean, a catfish isn’t an instrument of whatever-the-hell-they’re-saying-it-was, and I didn’t disrupt a meeting. It was an athletic event.”

The radio station, naturally, is selling T-shirts with a catfish and “INSTRUMENT OF CRIME” on it. 104.5 The Zone says it will cover his fines, and apparently Nashville lawyers are also willing to help: Tennessee lawyers could be admitted pro hac vice in the state in association with a Pennsylvania law firm. I’m sure there are Flyers fan lawyers in the Philadelphia area who’d be willing to help Waddell out.

The whole thing has become a dumb, hilarious story. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry issued a statement on the charges: “Mayor Barry appreciates and applauds the enthusiasm of our fans. However, as mayor she knows that it would be inappropriate for her to intercede in a criminal matter locally, let alone ask the mayor of Pittsburgh to do the same. We would hope that in the spirit of good sportsmanship that any charges for throwing a catfish onto the ice would be quickly dismissed.” Nashville Councilman Freddie O’Connell said he was drafting a resolution asking Allegheny County to pardon the catfish tosser.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto issued his own statement full of fish puns.

This has turned into a whale of a story. From my perch, I agree with Mayor Barry that we shouldn’t be baited into interfering with this fish tale, but if the charges eventually make their way to a judge I hope the predatory catfish hurler who got the hook last night is simply sentenced to community service, perhaps cleaning fish at Wholey’s.

That’s pretty funny, though I don’t know Peduto well enough to know if it’s characteristic or just a fluke.

Advertisement

PETA even emailed me a statement, where they came out on the pro side of calling a fish an instrument of crime: “Whether catfish or cat, it’s never acceptable to toss any sensitive, intelligent animal’s body onto the ice during a hockey game. PETA appreciates PPG Paints Arena’s swift action to eject the fan and have him charged with several crimes.”

Game 2 is tonight. For the sake of everyone, let’s hope no catfish go flying.