What drafting and fostering a touted prospect is to an NHL team’s on-ice endeavors, designing and putting forth a mascot is to the team’s extracurricular public relations. Some will deliver what they are supposed to all but impeccably while others will flame out in the heat of the hype.
Or, in a few cases, an NHL franchise will acquire its mascot from another sports organization. Again, sometimes that is a solid transaction; other times not so much or maybe somewhere in between.
Naturally, one of the mascot’s top tasks is to toss another element of fun in the game-going experience to a team’s youngest fans. Hence the incessant offers to have the character appear at a school, birthday party or other kids’ function.
But like the skaters they help to cheer on, mascots play a two-way game. The other half of their game is being a living and breathing symbol of the team, which means there much be a balance between amusement for children and still being taken seriously.
It should also go without saying that the mascot’s appearance represents the franchise in a way that makes sense, yet sometimes that is somehow not the case.
Based on the criteria described above, here is a bottom-to-top assessment of the NHL’s 25 mascots. (Note that there are no entries from Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, the New York Rangers or Philadelphia. And sorry, Red Wings fans, but your octopus will not be eligible until he dons a jersey and starts making rounds in the Joe Louis Arena seating bowl.)
This is just indescribably ugly—kind of like last year’s Lightning’s defensive and goaltending stats. Frankly, it serves the team right for going with a subpar concept.
Granted, the play on “lightning bug” in the mascot's name is understood, but the Columbus Blue Jackets (more on them later) have a comparatively better excuse for using an insect as its mascot.
The Bolts would be better served trying to find something more “electric.” Too bad the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder beat them to the use of a Roman thunder god.
It would be nice to assume that something went immutably wrong when the head for this character was being designed. But if the Penguins could afford to find their much-needed new arena, they can afford to pay for IceBurgh’s plastic procedure, one that would slim down the beak, reposition the eyes, etc.
Right now, it looks like the skating Penguin crest on the mascot’s jersey is trying to get away from him.
No joke. That was this author’s exact knee-jerk response when he opened this page and saw the unseemly Sabretooth’s portrait.
The Sabres cannot be faulted for wanting to deviate the overwhelming presence of bison among the city’s sports landscape. After all, they have one on their jersey, the Bills have one on their helmet and the local professional baseball club is called the Buffalo Bisons.
Even so, the name and species of this mascot calls the Nashville Predators to mind too readily. But that problem pales in comparison to the costume’s goofy, overly cartoonish appearance.
Surely the Sabres can do better.
Upon relocation from Hartford, the Hurricanes reportedly contemplated adopting the nickname “Ice Hogs.” Fortunately, unlike Rockford’s minor pro team, they decided against that but have retained a remnant of that idea in the form of their mascot.
In light of some of the pirate-themed masks goaltender Cam Ward has sported, one would like to think the Hurricanes now know better ways to pay homage to their locale.
Aren’t there enough bears in the mascot community as it is?
If the Toronto franchise wants to even bother with a mascot, it should try something that is more emphatically specific to their country. After all, they are named after one Canadian symbol, the Maple Leaf, so why not continue that motif with, say, a beaver?
Don't laugh. You will soon see how a good mascot can be made by injecting more aggression into an ordinarily placid-seeming animal.
The first sentence of Stinger’s bio says, “If Big Bird and Bart Simpson collided in the rink, the resulting character might just be Stinger.”
The Blue Jackets do not need to ditch the wasp altogether, like they did with their logo, but they could do much better than this.
The hair speaks hockey well enough, but the mug does not. A mascot should not be showing its teeth in a smooth row through an otherwise closed mouth like that. At least not unless his expression and his eyes look a little meaner.
Left behind by baseball’s Expos, Youppi found refuge with a franchise that had no mascot previously.
The Canadiens might have been better off that way. Or, at least, there ought to make Youppi look less like a stringless Muppet and maybe more like something that pays homage to the historic franchise or the region.
Apart from the fact that his facial expression is not nearly competitive enough and nowhere near what you usually see in depictions of a bird of prey, the Blackhawks mascot is all right. Not good, but not awful.
Inherited from the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League, this guy needs to be traded to Calgary in exchange for the aforementioned Harvey. In turn, the Isles could redo Harvey to boast more of a direct Long Island theme.
Or not. A dragon could theoretically be a seashore resident, so the Isles just might as well greedily hang on to Sparky.
Representing a team that really had no other logical direction to take with him, Stanley has no real unexpected plus points, but no egregious flaws, either.
The ice blue body makes this saber-tooth tiger an improvement on Buffalo’s and makes sense when you read the backstory on the Predators’ symbol. Or, at least, when you read that the part about the 1971 dig, which is factually accurate.
The tiger, by flaunting its fangs, also uses the shade of blue infinitely better than his divisional rival Louie.
The color distribution flows almost impeccably with the Devils’ home jersey. That is really all that can be said, or even needs to be said, about a mascot that is in a situation similar to that of the Panthers.
Earlier this year, the Cartoon Network named SJ the “Most Awesome Mascot” in major professional sports.
This author would not go that far, but Sharkie has a fairly easy job of representing an NHL franchise with one of the best nicknames and emblems and does it just fine. He mostly loses points in this derby by virtue of the fact that some of his competitors have meaner eyebrows, which is essential in this sport even for a kid-friendly rinkside character.
Much like Stanley C. Panther, NJ Devil and SJ Sharkie, Blades does not have much opportunity to offer pleasant surprises. At the same time, he cannot lose any points for being an aggressive-looking bear (or bruin).
For what it’s worth, take this from a native Rhode Islander who has encountered multiple versions of the Providence Bruins mascot, Sam Boni, even before Blades came along. Boston commendably avoided the various mistakes its AHL affiliate made.
Unlike the Sam Bonis of the past and present, Blades looks fully alive and is also in good athletic shape.
The Senators scored big with their mascot in accordance with the ancient soldier theme in their logo.
Spartacat definitely boasts the best name of the league’s 26 mascots and not the worst costume design, either. The lion’s mane is combed in nearly a mullet form, which is especially appropriate for the capital city of hockey’s home country.
Naturally, the Canucks’ killer whale mascot debuted concomitantly with the advent of the team’s new killer whale logo in 1997. (Has anyone ever mentioned the irony in the fact that this happened the very first season in the post-Hartford Whalers era?)
Regardless, if a team cannot derive a costumed mascot that matches its nickname, this is the right way to ensure everything still makes sense. The orca is a top-shelf nod to the dense presence of the aquatic predator off the nearby British Columbia coast.
See, Toronto? That last point is what I am getting at.
Introduced along with the short-lived green, copper and black uniforms and soaring eagle logo, Slapshot was a natural for the Capitals and remains one of the NHL’s better mascots. He looks even better today in the reintroduced red, white and blue jersey and bears the look of competitive fire that the aforementioned Tommy Hawk lacks.
This is a holdover from the IHL/AHL’s Manitoba Moose, who filled the city’s professional hockey void between the two Jets franchises. In turn, the new team capitalized on a gift and offered a perfect nod to the area’s hockey heritage as well as a part of the regional fauna.
Once again, Maple Leafs, watch and learn from your fellow countrymen.
Besides the nice past and present mixture, Mick’s outward appearance also packs a commendable combination of appeal to younger fans and competitive vibe.
Having been around since the franchise’s inception in 1993, is one of the NHL’s veteran mascots and evokes memories of his cartoon namesake for all puckheaded 90s kids.
Granted, this Wild Wing looks a little huskier than the fictitious goalie voiced by Ian Ziering, but he bears the same look of toughness and determination through his mask. Furthermore, he does so with an inherently more difficult task in contrast to when the emblem is a bear, dog, eagle, hawk, lion, moose, tiger, orca, panther or shark.