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As Red Wings fans arrive for the season opener at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will be handing out free toy octopuses, hoping to end the tradition of real ones being thrown on the ice. 

PETA's motto is "animals are not ours to abuse in any way." The free, squeezable toy has "Respect Animals" printed on it.

PETA previously requested that the National Hockey League institute a policy against allowing the animals at games and asked in a letter to Chris Ilitch about keeping octopuses off the ice but said it did not receive a response. 

"Christopher Ilitch has not responded to the letter PETA sent to him in April, so we’re taking our plea directly to the fans at the first regular season home game on Thursday by giving away cruelty-free octopus squeezes," said Brooke Rossi, PETA spokeswoman on Tuesday. 

The octopuses first made their appearance on April 15, 1952, during the Red Wings' Stanley Cup playoff run. 

"Two Detroit brothers, Pete and Jerry Cusimano - storeowner's in Detroit's Eastern Market - threw the eight-legged cephalopod on the ice at Olympia Stadium. Each tentacle of the octopus was symbolic of a win in the playoffs," according to Red Wings history. "Back then, the NHL boasted only six teams, and eight wins (two best-of-seven series) were needed to win the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings swept the series that year, and the octopus has come to be the good luck charm ever since."

The tradition carried over to Joe Louis Arena on opening night in 1979, when several found their way onto the ice.

PETA said it hoped the season opener with the toy octopuses at the LCA will become tradition. 

"Octopuses are intelligent, sensitive animals who use tools, communicate with one another, form romantic social bonds and deserve our respect," said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman in a news release. "PETA hopes the Red Wings' new stadium will usher in a new era of compassion for these remarkable animals."

PETA is requesting LCA check fans entering games for concealed octopuses. They also say violators should face consequences including "immediate ejection, a lifelong ban on attending games and a fine of $5,000 for attempting to bring animals into the arena," the release said.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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