Catfish-hurling Predators fan charged for disrupting Stanley Cup Final |

Catfish-hurling Predators fan charged for disrupting Stanley Cup Final

Ben Schmitt
An ice worker removes a fish during the second period in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Penguins and Predators on May 29, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.

A catfish is apparently an “instrument of crime” in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh police on Tuesday filed misdemeanor charges against Jacob Deveral Waddell, 36, of Nolensville, Tenn., for tossing a dead catfish on to the PPG Paints Arena ice during the second period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Charges listed in a district court docket are: disorderly conduct, disrupting meetings and possessing instruments of crime. Waddell was escorted from the arena without incident, Pittsburgh police said in a news release.

Pittsburgh police said Waddell was charged via summons.

Waddell told police that he obtained the catfish in Tennessee, vacuum sealed it and traveled with it to Pittsburgh. On game night, he placed the fish inside his compression shorts to sneak it into PPG Paints Arena.

He then went into an arena bathroom and wrapped the fish in a free Penguins T-shirt and rally towel, before hurling it on to the ice from Section 122, according to a police criminal complaint.

Waddell told a Nashville radio station Tuesday that he drove home to Tennessee through the night after the catfish toss.

“It was absolutely worth it and I would do it a thousand more times,” he told The Midday 180 radio show on 104.5 FM, referring as himself as a “dumb redneck with a bad idea.”

The complaint described the instrument of crime as a “dead catfish,” and the meeting as a “hockey game with 18,000+ in attendance disturbed or interrupted.”

Waddell scoffed at the charges. After security and police questioned him in a detaining room, he said an officer told him to expect a charge of disorderly conduct and a fine. The other charges came as a surprise today.

“Now they come up with other trumped-up charges which are BS,” he said. “I am just stubborn enough, as you can probably tell by strapping a catfish to my crotch, to go back up there and fight it.”

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 Detroit Red Wings fans who, for decades, have thrown octopi on to the ice during home games, playoff games in particular.

Waddell concocted the idea as part of a Memorial Day weekend trip to his in-laws, who live about 50 minutes away from Pittsburgh in Ohio.

First, he cut half of the catfish’s spine out, filleted and then ran it over several times with a pickup truck to flatten it. To mask the catfish stench, he said he sprayed it down with Old Spice cologne.

He sealed it and hid it his pants.

“I had a pair of underwear on, I had compression shorts on and I slid it right between the two and walked right in,” he told the radio station.

He snuck down into the lower level from upper level seats, noting that nobody checked his ticket.

Then he took out the fish and made the toss, fully expecting to be kicked out.

Penguins fans took it fairly easy on him, although he heard a few chants of “hillbilly” and “redneck” as security escorted him out.

“I didn’t stop smiling,” he said.

Asked about the charges against Waddell Tuesday, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said it would be inappropriate for her to intervene, “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,” she wrote in a statement emailed to the Trib.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded with a statement late Tuesday afternoon.

“From my perch, I agree with Mayor Barry that we shouldn’t be baited into interfering with this fish tale,” he said. “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.”

Wholey’s Fish Market in the Strip District declared last week that it would ask for identification before selling catfish to anyone during home games. Those producing Tennessee IDs would not be allowed to make a purchase.

One Red Wings fan, Zach Smith, managed to sneak an octopus that he brought from suburban Detroit into Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena in 2008 during the Stanley Cup Final.

Security kicked him out after he hurled it onto the ice. He later changed clothes and snuck back in with a new ticket.

Smith was never charged with a crime and did several national interviews after the incident.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, [email protected] or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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