The Fuzzy Details: A Look at Hockey Mascots

All types of sports have mascots. It seems like the perfect opportunity to watch your favorite team at every home game. You get to get close to the ice or hang with the fans in the upper level. It’s gotta be a dream job right? You can be the most loved figure at home games or sometimes the fans just aren’t that into you. Wearing the fuzzy suits of the mascot does take some great athletic ability. The suits get pretty hot and have their own technology to keep the performer cool and collected when dealing with the crazed fans at their event. It’s not only about what goes on in the stadium either. Showing up to different public relation events, charities even the odd players birthday bash. The mascot can be a great symbol for the fans to rally behind.

Wild Animals

Animals are probably the most common type of mascots. From bulldogs to penguins you never have to search far to find a furry or feathered friend. Mascot like LA Kings Bailey are

harvey
Harvey the Hound

just some of the National Hockey Leagues (NHL) rally animals. The NHL has had lots of teams with animal mascots over the years. Some have stuck around longer than others. The original NHL mascot was Harvey the Hound. The Calgary Flames mascot was introduced in 1983 with his first home game being a crushing 10-3 blasting of the Pittsburgh Penguin. Two player recorded hat tricks that game and cemented Harvey as a staple inside the arena at Flames games. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Harvey though. Craig MacTavish then the Edmonton Oilers head coach got into it with the fuzzy hound. Harvey was taunting and mocking MacTavish and the Oilers bench. The visiting team was down 4-0 and the Oilers were frustrated with the antics. First squirting water in an attempt to shoo the mascot and motioning for Harvey to hit the road. Coach MacTavish had enough and reached up and pulled Harvey’s tongue out of his mouth. Heaving the red tongue into the crowd created a spark that the Oilers used to battle back. Ultimately losing 4-3 the Oilers made their point that game. S.J. Sharkie from the San Jose Sharks also needed to be rescued at a home game. In 1999 Sharkie was doing his normal pregame routine before the starting lineups were introduced. He would rappel down from the rafters and kick off the pregame by skating around and waving a Sharks flag. Unfortunately for Sharkie this time there was a hangup, his jersey became lodged in the rappel clasp and he was stuck. Hanging over the ice Sharkie remained there for the duration of the opening ceremonies and the introduction of the starting lineups. It was such a problem that the game was delayed as Sharkie was rescued

iceburgh_2008
Iceburgh

and pulled back up to safety. It’s not always an anthropomorphic animal sometimes teams use real live animals. Before the Pittsburgh Penguins had Iceburgh they had Penguin Pete. Pete was from the Pittsburgh zoo and was on loan from them during the 1968 season. Pete only lasted one month, he unfortunately died of pneumonia that season. The issue was that they believe his nesting area was too warm in the arena and it caused him to get sick. A second penguin nicknamed “Re-Pete” was used during the 1971-72 season. He was then retired after successfully completing the season as Pittsburgh’s mascot. Thankfully Pittsburgh stopped using actual penguins and introduced Iceburgh during the 1991-92 season. He has even gone on to movie roles, playing “Icey” in the 1995 movie “Sudden Death”.

Crossing Over

youppi-1
From boy of summer to winter fanatic.

Some mascot begin their careers in other sports before making their way to hockey. The Monteal Canadiens Youppi! started his road to the NHL in baseball. Originally the mascot for the now defunct Montreal Expos, Youppi! had great success in Major League Baseball (MLB). He had run ins with legendary announcer Harry “Skip” Caray and manager Tommy Lasorda. Youppi! is also the first mascot to be thrown out of a MLB game. During extra innings he was on top of the visiting teams dugout. Running than jumping on the roof of the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout. Manager Tommy Lasorda complained and the umpire tossed Youppi from the game. After the Expos moved to Washington D.C. in 2005, Youppi!’s future hung in the balance until the Canadiens adopted him as their mascot.

It’s not always a smooth ride to the NHL. Sparky the dragon has had a rough time as the mascot of the New York sparkyIslanders. Coming over from the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League (AFL), Sparky has had quite the journey. The AFL team folded in 2009 and Sparky went from the gridiron to the frozen tundra. Sparky traded jerseys and had a slight redesign when he became the mascot in 2010. Lasting 5 years the Islanders were preparing to move from the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Everything was all packed except for Sparky. He would not be making the trip for the 2015 season. Sparky had only gone missing for a short time though as he returned four months later. With ticket sales down and attendance not meeting expectations Sparky was recalled and has brought his fiery personality back to Islander home games.

 

Not Even a Spark

scorch
Burned out.

It’s not common for a player to be traded before even playing a game for a team. Draft pick selections do get moved before actually starting their career with their drafting team. This however is a little different. The Adirondack Flames of the American Hockey League (AHL) snuffed out a mascot shortly after announcing it. In 2014 the Adirondack Flames moved to Glenn Falls, NY replacing the leaving Phantoms who were moving to Allentown, PA. On Oct 9th 2014 Scorch was unveiled, he was the last surviving flame from a fire that happened in Glenn Falls in 1864. Scorch managed to survive 150 years before re-emerging out front of the Civic Center. He was called back by the fans who were “fired up” about the Adirondack Flames coming to town. Scorch even went on to defeat a firefighter, during the promotional pictures.

You gotta love a good friendly fire right? Well just five days later the Adirondack Flames team president Brian Petrovek issued and apology. Stating “We would like to emphasize that we as an organization take seriously the dangers associated with fire, understand its potentially devastating effects and acknowledge that those in our nation who are called upon to face and fight fires on a daily basis are truly heroes.”. To say that the unveiling was in poor taste would be an understatement. The friendly flame was dropped on Oct 14th 2014. Possibly the shortest run in mascot history. The Flames quickly moved to redesign a more friendly mascot “Dash” a giant dalmatian who should be a bigger and friendlier hit with the fans.

Not Just For Home Ice Advantage

The NHL introduced the Mascot Showdown in 2015 during the NHL Fan Fare. The Fan Fare is a family friendly fun event that takes place during the All Star weekend. It’s a great way for the NHL to market towards young fans and make the festivities of the All Star game more enjoyable. A few events are held between the mascots at the Fan Fare. A hockey skills competition followed by a game of hockey took place at the inaugural event. In 2017 the event added a dodge ball game as well as replacing ice hockey with a game of broomball. The Fan Fare is a great way for young fans to interact with all 27 mascots (not all teams have a mascot). The events are all held with fun in mind and they seem to be a great success for old and new fans. EA Sports have even featured the mascots in the NHL series of games. Bringing the mascots in full force for the NHL 16 edition, the mascots move around the stadium and can be seen pumping up the virtual fans.

Hockey Mascots also make appearances outside the rink. Whether it’s showing up at a rally event or making a child’s day at the hospital, the mascot is there to brighten the mood. The Mascot games is an annual event for New Hope for Kids a central Florida charity. Mascots from many different sports come and visit children and their families. They compete in gladiator themed games, dance contests and relay races to name a few, to help raise money for a good cause. In the end it doesn’t matter who wins the mascot games, the real winner are the people watching.

Keeping Cool Under The Hood

inside-mascot
Under the hood

The performers for the mascots have some pretty nice technology to keep them cool even as the game heats up. It’s not just about a few well placed hidden vents. While an exhaust fan is a great way to help circulate air it’s just the first step in keeping the performer from over heating. Some suits contain light vacuum exhausts systems that suck the warm breath of the actor out. A tube is used to vent the warm air away from the actors face reducing sweating. Wearing light clothes with

cooling-vest
Protects against sweat bullets

moisture wicking technology are another good step. Some times you just need a little more, something like an ice vest. Well not actual ice strapped to the person. A cooling vest can be used to help cool down the performer.. A pack with ice water that circulates around the chest is the highest tech option available. But a simple chilled gel vest can provide up to 8 hours of cooling depending on the weather conditions. Removable cool packs can be slid in between appearances to refresh the actor. The best way the performers stay cool is with good old-fashioned water breaks. It’s not the latest in mascot refrigerating but taking frequent breaks is the time proven way to keep a mascot performing just as well as the athletes on the ice.

The players aren’t the only athletes under pressure at the game. The mascot can catch just as much flack if the team is performing. But the chance to be a well received, beloved symbol draws people to don the suit and make the game lighter. While the super famous mascots such as Harvey the Hound , The Phillie Phanatic and Benny the Bull are all well-loved. There is always someone somewhere who gets excited to see that fuzzy, goofy, fun-loving mascot come bumbling towards them.


Jim McBride is the “Beyond the Ice” writer for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can email him at jmcbride@gnghockey.com.

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