I’ve always kind of thought of the New York Rangers as the Evil Empire, even though the narrative usually doesn’t fit. For that reason, I’m not usually in a position to be cheering for them.
But that all changes this season. Why, you ask? Because as of today, the New York Rangers are the only team in the NHL that hasn’t stooped to employing a mascot. With the Philadelphia Flyers unveiling Gritty – which rhymes with...oh never mind – the Rangers remain the last holdout in an annoying trend that has seen teams create a bunch of big, dopey doofuses aimed at attracting a younger audience.
Even though it would be hard to believe in which universe a creature such as Gritty would do that. First impressions on social media were not flattering. The memes were instant and hilarious. One Philadelphia sports blog introduced Gritty with the headline, “The Flyers’ New Mascot Is Here To Murder You.” And there’s a lot about Gritty that makes you think, well, perhaps the Flyers didn’t really think this thing through.
First, Gritty is seven feet tall and he eats ice from the Zamboni. His appearance is what you would get if Youppi! and Jakub Voracek had a love child, then Scott Hartnell and the love child had a love child of their own that shoved nothing but Burger King Triple Whoppers and 7-Eleven Double Gulps down its throat. According to a team release, Gritty was forced out of his hermit-like existence when his secret hideout at the Wells Fargo Center was disturbed by renovations. That makes the hairy amorphous blob at most 22 years old, since the building has only existed since 1996. Bruce Springsteen has played the venue 56 times. You’d have thought he would have run into Gritty before now.
The Flyers introduced Gritty on Monday to great fanfare, producing a video where he skates out from behind a bunch of bright lights, then jiggles his massive belly around while his Cookie Monster eyes bulge out of his head. It certainly wasn’t the worst mascot debut of all-time. Not even close. No, that distinction belongs to Scorch, the short-lived mascot for the Adirondack Flames of the American League. Scorch was extinguished just five days after his unveiling in 2014, in part because he looked ridiculous, in part because he owed his existence to a fire that wiped out more than 100 businesses in Glens Falls, N.Y., 150 years before, but mostly because of this:
But the general notion is that the Flyers swung and missed on this one, not Luke Schenn-for-James van Riemsdyk bad, but a swing and a miss nonetheless. Particularly when they had so many other options, such as:
Clarkie: He could take out his false teeth and show them to the kids for kicks. The only problem is those kids would never know if he’s going to cuddle them or slash them in the ankle and punch them in the face.
Prongs: This towering, gap-toothed beast is best known for sneaking up behind you and crosschecking you in the back, then laughing about it.
Five Hole: In deference to the long line of illustrious goaltenders the Flyers have had, Five Hole could be part of a promotion where fans get to shoot pucks at him and discover he’s impossible to hit.
Big Bird: That’s an easy one. Just have Don Saleski come out of retirement.
Hexy: If for no other reason, just to see how he’d react to being bumped into in the crease at the annual Mascots’ Game.
The Hammer: Again, just to see him pummel the daylights out of every other mascot, then get inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame.
The Bryz: The Flyers will be paying Ilya Bryzgalov $1,642,857 a year until 2027, so why not get some use out of him? Sure, he would be afraid of bears, but how could you not love a big, cuddly guy like him, even if he does steal your money?