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Catfish-Throwing Predators Fan Charged After Penguins Game 1 Playoff Win

A Nashville Predators fan briefly faced summary charges after throwing a catfish onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Pens were up 3-0 with 16:40 left in the second period when Jacob Waddell, 36, of Nolensville, Tenn., said he launched a mangled catfish over the protective glass near section 122. 

Waddell wasn't initially arrested, according to Nashville sports talk radio show The Midday 180, whose hosts encouraged the gambit, but he missed his team's near-rally in the second and third periods. Charges filed Tuesday in Allegheny County District Court include possessing instruments of crime, disrupting meetings and disorderly conduct.

"The actor possessed one or more instruments of crime, namely, dead catfish with intent to employ it or them criminally," police said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police dropped all charges against Waddell on Wednesday morning, May 31, 2017.

The Pens ultimately won the contest 5-3.

Waddell outlined his plan live on Midday 180 after an all-night drive back home.

His family already had Memorial Day plans in Boardman, Ohio, he said, and the Predators-Penguins matchup was fresh on his mind. He thought it would be "amazing" to be at the game, he said.

"And like an ignorant redneck, I thought, 'Wouldn't it awesome to throw a catfish on the ice at this game?'"

Waddell bought a Nashville specimen on principle, he said, and later realized it was way too big "to hide and throw on the ice." So he removed part of its spine, ran it over with his pickup truck (for flattening), doused it in Old Spice cologne and let it stew in a cooler for days.

He paid his own entry, he said. Tickets cost him $350 per ticket for upper bowl seats. He said he tested an outfit -- two layers of underwear, baggy pants and boots, to disguise the bulk -- on his in-laws first; no one detected a smell.

Working an off-duty, uniformed detail, Pittsburgh police officer Bryan Sellers recorded his account.

Sellers wrote: "While gathering Waddell's personal information, he was asked how he was able to get a catfish into the arena. ... Waddell said he had placed the fish inside of his compression shorts in order to gain entry to the arena without being discovered. Waddell said that once inside, he went to the restroom, removed the fish from his pants, wrapped it in the free t-shirt and towel give away and held on to it until he threw it on the ice."

Two unrelated Predators fans willing to screenshot their e-tickets for lower bowl seats helped conclude the ruse, but Waddell said guards never checked.

"The thing that really ... made the Pittsburgh people mad," Waddell said, "is I had to outsmart their people to get in with the fish, and then to get down on the ice to throw it on the ice."

Waddell said he was told by police immediately after the toss that he'd face a fine and disorderly conduct ticket. The other charges were unexpected, he said.

"Just a dumb redneck with a bad idea," he said.

Credit The Tennessean
The Tennessean
Nashville's metro daily, The Tennessean, published up a full-page banner ad Tuesday after Nolensville native Jacob Waddell was charged with disorderly conduct and other charges for allegedly throwing a catfish on the ice during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh on Monday, May 29, 2017.

This is the Predators' first franchise appearance in the final stretch for the cup. Their fans hailed the stunt as heroic and credited Waddell with the Pens' subsequent inability to shoot on goal for the next 37 minutes. The streak is the longest for any game-winning team in recorded Final history.

Nashville adopted the slimy tradition from the Detroit Red Wings' decades-old custom of tossing octopi on the home ice of opposing teams. Red Wings fan Zach Smith smuggled one into Mellon Arena in 2008, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He was escorted out but never charged.

At least one Pittsburgh fish market was ready.

Strip District grocer Wholey's told customers days in advance that they'd need ID to buy catfish leading up to Game 1, prohibiting sale to anyone from Tennessee.

Waddell said he wasn't aware of the ban.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a statement Tuesday afternoon she "appreciates and applauds" Preds' fans enthusiasm.

"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," press secretary Sean Braisted said. "We would hope that in the spirit of good sportsmanship that any charges for throwing a catfish onto the ice would be quickly dismissed."

Peduto countered an hour later.

"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."

Game 2 begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

UPDATED: 11:12 a.m. Wednesday, May 31, 2017, after PPD dropped all charges. Previous additions include: 5:02 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, 2017, with a statement from Bill Peduto; at 3:36 p.m. to include comments from Nashville Mayor Megan Barry; at 3:06 p.m. to include Waddell's account; and at 1:23 p.m. with official language from the criminal complaint.

Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.