You know the injury epidemic in the NHL is getting really bad when the mascots start going down. Not to be outdone by the likes of
Derek Stepan and
Jordan Staal, Gnash of the Nashville Predators is out six-to-eight weeks with a broken fibula in his left leg. Really. The team announced that. Now normally, news of a mascot on the sidelines would be welcomed by your trusty correspondent. Spoiler alert: I’m a middle-aged white guy. And as such, I see mascots as an annoying waste of fabric. From the San Diego Chicken to Youppi! – abominations one and all. When two of them get into a fight at a college football game, I’m cheering for both of them to get beaten up. I admired Craig MacTavish when he pulled Harvey the Hound’s tongue out a few years back. I laughed out loud about 20 years ago when an ECHL player whom I believe was coached by Chris McSorley, went after the opposing team’s mascot in the stands because it kept hitting him with a pair of inflatable lips. “Our coach gave me the green light to go after their mascot,” was his explanation. Gold.
So when I learned that Gnash would be out six-to-eight weeks, I posted a comment on Twitter about how any day a mascot gets injured is a good day. And boy, did I hear about it. Even Gnash himself, who is billed by the Predators themselves as, “the loveable and fun-loving Predators mascot,” threatened me by saying I should sleep with one eye open. Bailey, the Los Angeles Kings mascot, also got into the act. Since I live in Toronto, I now live in fear that Carlton the Bear will track me down at my house and knock on my door, then incessantly stare at me with that dopey grin on his face until I lose my sanity.
(Quick side story about Carlton. When Dmitri Yushkevich was traded by the Leafs to the Florida Panthers in the summer of 2002, he felt betrayed by the organization. After the trade, he told me that the only honest person in the Maple Leafs organization was Carlton, and that was because he never said anything. More gold.) There were no tears shed for Gnash, nor was there gnashing of teeth on my part. That was, until I dug a little deeper. According to the Predators, Gnash was discovered perfectly preserved in a block of ice deep below the surface of the earth by work crews who were digging the foundation for the Bridgestone Center. So if you found a pre-historic creature that had survived the Ice Age, you’d probably just leave it there and go home for the day when you finished work. Sounds reasonable. Well, that’s what these guys did, only to have the saber-tooth tiger disappear in search of others of his kind. The story goes that he only returned to Nashville when the ice returned for their home opener on Oct. 10, 1998. And according to the Predators, “comes out of hiding when he hears the familiar Predators roar that reminds him of home.” According to the Predators, “rather than subject the creature to an existence of endless scientific research and study living in a cage, they looked for a place where he could feel at home.” Yeah, that’s all well and good, but that life now includes having him drop from the rafters of the arena before the game and swing all over the place as some kind of fan spectacle. Then he spends the next three hours getting pawed by kids, throwing T-shirts and dancing around. That doesn’t sound like a place where he can feel at home. It sounds like the worst case of exploitation since the Dionne Quintuplets. There have been a number of stories lately about the indignities and poor treatment to which NHL Ice Girls are subject, but they have nothing on Gnash. I know now why Gnash broke his leg. These guys are running him ragged. At different times, Gnash has had to do the “TMC Heating and Cooling Morning Bus Stop Forecast” on local television, has worked as a Predators intern and parking valet and helped the Predators flog an on-line dating service. What’s worse is the team pimps him out to anyone who is willing to pay for him. For $100, Gnash will drop in for a minimum of 15 minutes and sign autographs at your kid’s birthday party. For $200, he’ll stay for 30 minutes and for $450, you get an hour of Gnash and his four-wheeler or street hockey equipment. The Predators charge $350 an hour and $275 for each additional hour for a retail promotion, but the price goes down to $250 an hour and $200 for each additional hour for team sponsors. Not-for-profit charities, of course, are eligible to get free appearances by Gnash, which means the NFL will probably be hiring him to work the office Christmas party. So perhaps being a mascot, like hockey writing, isn’t all glory and women and parties and big money. I have a new appreciation for Gnash and his ilk and I wish them no harm. I pray for Gnash’s speedy recovery.