The league's mascots assembled for the 2020 NHL Mascot Showdown, which was part of the all-star game's festivities held in St. Louis, Missouri, in January. Photo courtesy of the NHL
Being a mascot in the National Hockey League is a tough business.
Twenty-nine of the league’s 31 teams have an official mascot, and many of them haven’t been around for very long, as shown in the list below where only two of the five mascots chosen existed in the 20th century.
The better mascots endure, taking the ice and putting on a show regardless of when times are good or bad for the franchise they represent. They consistently provide fun and entertainment, adding to the live sports experience. Off the ice, they make personal appearances, help charitable causes, bring happiness to children and families, and now, a lot of them are relied upon to be social media savvy to help keep their teams in the spotlight, even amid a pandemic.
The not-so-good mascots, meanwhile, end up replaced. They’re a footnote in their respective team’s legacy, rather than being part of the larger narrative.
The first NHL mascot made his debut in 1984 (read about the No. 4 pick below for more info), and it has been a long road getting most teams and their respective fanbases behind these symbols. Two teams — the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers — have yet to buy in.
Trimming this list to just five mascots was a challenge, as there were a couple who just missed the cut: Youppi! from the Montreal Canadiens and Iceburgh of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sorry fellas, but for some reason top-five and top-10 lists are what people seem to find appealing — not top-seven lists.
Once you've finished digesting this top-five list, head on over to the NHL's annual Fan Choice Awards page and fill out a ballot to vote for your favorite league mascot.
Take a look at Bernie and say you don't like St. Bernards. You can't — he's a good boy. Photo courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche
Dogs are supposed to be man’s best friend, so it would be difficult to keep canines off of this list. Enter Bernie, the first of two dog mascots in the NHL to make the cut. Hailing from Denver, Bernie made his Avs debut in 2009. At 6-foot-5, he’s a good pup — in spite of all the drool. A St. Bernard, Bernie is a symbol of integrity, strength and loyalty, according to the Avs’ team website. He’s also a lot of fun, which was recently on display when he was seen crowd surfing over a group of Air Force cadets during the team’s NHL Stadium Series game at Falcon Stadium in February.
Harvey was the NHL's first official mascot, making his Calgary Flames debut in 1984. Photo courtesy of the Calgary Flames
The first official mascot of the NHL, making his debut during the 1983-84 season, Harvey the hound provides the city of Calgary a lot of bite and entertainment. Grant Kelba was the original Harvey, making his own costume and pitching his idea to the organization while pulling in a stipend of $50 per game. The Flames eventually bought the rights to Harvey from Kelba in 1996, and he retired soon after. The 6-foot-6 Harvey suit is now worn by Kelba’s nephew, Scott. A fan of “Scooby-Doo,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” and the film “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” Harvey gets treats for helping usher in an era of NHL mascots.
Slapshot, the mascot of the Washington Capitals, entertains fans in Washington, D.C. at Capital One Arena. Photo courtesy of the Washington Capitals
As steady as Alex Ovechkin’s scoring on the power play, Slapshot is a permanent fixture at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Slapshot, a large bald eagle who wears No. 00, made his first appearance in 1995. Listed at 6-foot-6 on skates, this bird of prey makes frequent appearances away from Chinatown, going all over Virginia, Maryland and around the nation’s capital city. A fan of the 1977 movie “Slap Shot,” Slapshot’s hobbies include bird watching, eating Swedish Fish, and playing on the National Mall when he’s not on the ice.
Bailey the lion has been a mainstay in Los Angeles and is a favorite among Kings fans. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Kings
Labeling himself as the “World’s sassiest lion” on Twitter, Bailey is both humorous and ferocious. The second mascot in Los Angeles Kings’ history, he made his Staples Center debut in the 2007-08 season. Standing 6-foot-4 with a thick mane, this lion has quickly become one of the most popular mascots in all of professional sports and has already won a handful of top mascot awards, including the Most Awesome Mascot award at the 2014 Cartoon Network Hall of Game Awards show. Bailey is named after the late Garnet Bailey, the former Kings’ director of pro scouting who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Gritty has been in the league for only two seasons but he's already a titan of NHL mascots. Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers
Two dogs, an eagle, a big kitty, and — who knows what this next mascot is supposed to be? The 7-foot Gritty made his debut in a Flyers jersey prior to the 2018-19 season and has been turning heads ever since. The first official Flyers’ mascot, Gritty is orange, rotund and he has hypnotic eyeballs that make you think he can see right through you. His antics know no bounds, and he’s already excellent at trolling, as seen via his Twitter page. With over 300,000 followers on the social media platform, he’s as polarizing as they come — much like most everything else sports-related in Philadelphia.
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