Hockey Catfish

Roule’s Ramblings  6-7-2017

This tale is for you hockey fans. Others may read at their own peril as everyone knows, thanks Sarah Palin, that hockey fans are a bit … well, funny in a crazy sort of way.  After all, who else carries an octopus or a catfish to a sporting event.

The two aqua creatures are linked despite living in different environments.

Detroit Red Wings fans began tossing the eight-armed cephalopods onto the ice many years ago to signify that the Red Wings were just eight wins away from winning Lord Stanley’s Cup. The octopus was deemed a good-luck charm.

Fast forward to the initial season of the Nashville Predators. The Red Wings were coming to Music City and a group of Good Ole Boys were drinking beer (what else?) at Wolfy’s. The subject of Red Wings fans and octopuses was a topic of discussion and as a joke the gathering wondered what they could toss on the ice. It was Bob Wolf, part owner of Wolfy’s, that came up with idea of catfish.

Wolf smuggled a catfish into the arena and when he felt the time was right he gave the fish a toss. Splat! A tradition was born.

Since then, many catfish have been smuggled into Bridgestone Arena to help cheer the Preds to victory. The favored way of smuggling smelly catfish is to tuck it into one’s trousers.

I can hear the conversation taking place in the arena’s parking facility.

“Scoot over, Willy, we got company.”

Catfish smuggling is rather reminiscent of high school hijinx. Remember stashing friends into the car’s trunk to save a few bucks to watch a movie at the local passion pit. The upside was that it enabled you to buy more Milk Duds and Jujyfruits. The downside: The girl wasn’t interested in dating you ever, ever again.

So why catfish? Well catfish are sorta like Dixie’s pirogi. Many a plate of catfish, hush puppies and slaw have graced tables throughout the Mid- and Deep South, except for Louisiana where crawfish is king and the counties are called parishes.

I was introduced to the Southern culinary treat when I went to work at The Daily Corinthian at Corinth, Miss. Corinth sits in the northeast part of the state a mile or so from the Tennessee state line. That area of Mississippi is dry, but beer flowed in McNairy County Tennessee. Yes, that McNairy County. The home of Buford Pusser of “Walking Tall” fame. But that’s a story for another time.

Tucked away on a back road in McNairy County on the southern bank of the Tennessee River was the Catfish Hotel. It was just a stones throw from the Shiloh Battlefield. You didn’t go to the Catfish for steak Diane or oysters Rockefeller. You went there for one thing: to eat catfish.

When I was there in the mid 1960s, the catfish was farm-raised. It wasn’t always that way. Hotel staffers used to fish for catfish from a balcony overlooking the Tennessee River.

That Catfish Hotel was a favorite stopping place for presidents when they traveled west and it attracted people from as far away as Memphis for fresh deep-fried catfish.

The hotel is gone now. It burned to the ground, the flames fueled by the grease impregnated wood from years of deep frying catfish and hush puppies.

I’ve eaten catfish at many other restaurants since then, but their fare just wasn’t up to the standards and flavor of the fish fried at the Catfish Hotel.

And looking at the splattered fish on the ice at Pred’s games, I may never eat catfish again.

Bob Roule MHS ’58

Webmaster’s note:  It appears that the catfish toss didn’t work for them.

Pass the pirogi!


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