Hate Gritty, the newest and most inexplicable NHL mascot. It only makes him stronger.
Introduced in September to howls (and at least one description as “toxic masculinity incarnate”), the Philadelphia Flyers’ byproduct of Oscar the Grouch’s electric Kool-Aid acid trip to Grimace’s McDonaldland boudoir has rapidly been embraced by Philadelphia and the mascot-loving world at large. In an age where a five-figure Twitter audience makes you a star, Gritty is pushing 250,000 followers.
Never mind that the Flyers stink, missing the playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons. Their fans, notoriously grumpy, have fallen hard for their occasionally surly (T-shirt cannon shots in the back, anyone?) mascot. As one fan, Anna Ladd, told the Washington Post, “He’s, like, the spirit of Philadelphia. Pure anarchy and chaos. When everything is bad in the world, Gritty is good.”
Be it any other or Gritty, NHL mascots are good. But let’s rank them anyway (1 to 29, because the Rangers don’t have a mascot and Detroit’s Al the Octopus doesn’t do live, ahem, appearances):
- 1. Gnash (Nashville Predators): Gnash is just a great name, evoking both the town and the sabretooth tiger profiled on the team logo. Gnash is also a bit of a punk — routinely trolling media outlets, other teams and mascots on Twitter, where he has more than 51,000 followers, and a rappelling madman, bombing down from the rafters more aggressively than any of his peers.
- 2. Bailey the Lion (LA Kings): LA’s regal king of the jungle has 54,000-plus Twitter followers. He’s not bad in person, either, like the recent ’80s Night in which he poured some sugar (get it?) on visiting Blackhawks fans.
- 3. Gritty (Philadelphia Flyers): OK, he’s a sensation. Nearly a quarter million Twitter followers demonstrate as much. Though will his act have legs? Besides the furry orange ones, that is. ( Photo via @GrittyNHL )
- 4. Iceburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins): No other NHL mascot has a history quite as wild as Iceburgh, who nearly plunged Jean-Claude Van Damme’s pretty face into a deep fryer during a fight scene in “Sudden Death.” Iceburgh wasn’t Pittsburgh’s first, or even second, mascot. Pittsburgh Pete and Re-Pete, both actual penguins, had short lives on the job until going to their eternal rest in the franchise’s early days. Not a huge Twitter presence (9,450 followers).
- 5. Wild Wing (Anaheim Ducks): We’re not supposed to acknowledge it, but mascots wear masks. Wild Wing has a mask on his mask, which sort of makes him look like Daffy Duck, if Friday the 13 th had been a cartoon. Regardless, antics-wise, he’s a trendsetter, which being the first NHL mascot to descend to the ice from the arena rafters will do.
- 6. SJ Sharkie (San Jose Sharks): OK, so his name is a bit on the curiously upturned nose. Yet the so-called “hardest working fish in sports” has nearly 43,000 Twitter followers and was picked by Cartoon Network in 2012 as the “Most Awesome Mascot” in all of sports. Plus, he occasionally tears around the ice on an ATV. Sweet.
- 7. Harvey the Hound (Calgary Flames): On Jan. 20, 2003, Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish — with his team trailing 4-0 and Harvey straddling the glass behind the Oilers’ bench — ripped out Harvey’s tongue. The video went viral before that was even a thing — yet oddly, isn’t much of a social media guy.
- 8. NJ Devil (New Jersey Devils): It must be the David Niven mustache, right? Whatever, NJ strikes the perfectly devil-may-care note. Not at all scary, in a good way. A respectable following of 24,000 on Twitter.
- 9. Mick E. Moose (Winnipeg Jets): This deranged Bullwinkle has a terrifically punny name, and did serve 15 seasons as the Manitoba Moose’s mascot before getting promoted, so there’s that. For Winnipeg, 4,000 Twitter followers isn’t bad.
- 10. Tommy Hawk (Chicago Blackhawks): In nobody’s top 10 until December, when viral video caught the supposedly benign hockey mascot body slamming a fan who had allegedly attacked him. Still, not quite 11,000 Twitter followers in a major market that has won three Stanley Cups since he signed on?
- 11. Blades the Bruin (Boston Bruins): Blades makes it easy for kids to remember that yes, “bruin” is another word for “bear.” His face manages to straddle cuddly and menacing, without being too much of either. Not much social media presence.
- 12. Fin the Whale (Vancouver Canucks): Pamela Anderson tried to slip him the tongue at a 2008 game. Must be the mullet-level fin on this pleasantly menacing plushie, who also has a respectable 18,000-plus Twitter followers.
- 13. Howler the Coyote (Arizona Coyotes): In the best possible way, Howler looks happy to be here — and shouldn’t we all?
- 14. Bernie the St. Bernard (Colorado Avalanche): See, St. Bernards are big dogs that rescue people after an avalanche, and … never mind. Bernie, complete with a cask on his collar, is a vast improvement over Colorado’s first mascot, Howler the Yeti (who looked more like Howler the Dentally Challenged Prospector).
- 15. ThunderBug (Tampa Bay Lightning): Favorite band, the Beatles. Favorite movie, “A Bug’s Life.” Come on, this thing is just cute — in an “H.R. Pufnstuf” sort of way.
- 16. Carlton the Bear (Toronto Maple Leafs): Didn’t this guy used to do Coke commercials? There are no whites to his eyes, which conveys a discomfiting lifelessness.
- 17. Slapshot (Washington Capitals): Regal look, uninspired name. Those 17,000-plus Twitter followers have to be getting something.
- 18. Stanley C. Panther (Florida Panthers): Stanley went on injured reserve in 2010 after failing to hurdle a folding chair during a game. Probably karma visiting a team with the hubris to name its mascot after the league’s championship trophy.
- 19. Louie the Bear (St. Louis Blues): His backstory is he’s a polar bear who was born blue. His rep is he’s a good dancer. He’s got nearly 20,000 Twitter followers, which is stunning given the low trolling factor.
- 20. Sparky the Dragon (New York Islanders): His tail is basically a hockey stick, which is cool. He began his career as an Arena Football League mascot, which is not. Has Twitter. Hasn’t tweeted.
- 21. Stinger (Columbus Blue Jackets): A freaky green bug with red eyes. This is better than a short-lived alternative, Boomer, a cannon that sort of looked like a bong. Plus, the bug has nearly 10,000 Twitter followers.
- 22. Nordy (Minnesota Wild): Nobody knows what kind of animal Nordy is. But he’s got a mullet, so he’s definitely native to the state, and more than 10,000 Twitterites, so he’s popular.
- 23. Stormy (Carolina Hurricanes): Your mascot is a pig because your state is famous for barbecue? That’s just wrong. Adding a piggy miss, Caroline, at the tail end of the 2017-18 season hasn’t helped.
- 24. Sabretooth (Buffalo Sabres): Suffers, tiger-wise, from a severe case of Gnot Gnash. At least he’s into five figures in Twitter followers.
- 25. Spartacat (Ottawa Senators): Not especially menacing, not especially cuddly, a decidedly pretzel logic to the name, and just not Bailey.
- 26. Victor E. Green (Dallas Stars): This transplanted team transplanted the Phillie Phanatic, gave him a nose job and declared Victor E.
- 27. Chance the Gila Monster (Vegas Golden Knights): We get it. There are lizards in the desert — but this thing is a mustard-hued miss, despite having nearly 17,000 Twitter followers.
- 28. Hunter the Lynx (Edmonton Oilers): You know those high school mascot heads that appear to have been a papier-mache project of the JV coach’s wife? Except possibly evil or possessed? Yeah. This. ( Photo via @EdmontonOilers )
- 29. Youppi! (Montreal Canadiens): Youppi! (think “Yippee!” in French-Canadian) turned 40 this season. The first 26 of those years were spent in the employ of the Montreal Expos, and he became an NHL mascot when the MLB team contracted. Youppi! looks like a guy you’d like to have a Molson with, but somebody had to be last.
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