The Edmonton Oilers said goodbye to Rexall Place this past season, leaving behind 42 years of memories and tradition, but with the official NHL opening of Rogers Place only weeks away, the Oilers are looking to start some new traditions.
One of those new traditions includes the introduction of a mascot, the first-ever in franchise history. And while it’s all well and good that the Oilers are trying to get into the mascot game for the first time, the creation the team has introduced is more on the side of terrifying than cute and cuddly.
The mascot is a lynx, named ‘Hunter’ in honor of original Oilers owner Bill Hunter. While the anthropomorphic animal may seem an odd choice when a big ol’ oil drop with eyes probably would have sufficed for a mascot, there is a bit of a backstory for Hunter.
There are lynxes throughout the Edmonton River Valley, which is said to be where Hunter came from, but the origin story for the mascot goes well beyond him just showing up to work after making the trek to Rogers Place. It includes watching kids play hockey after coming out at night to hunt and him burrowing under Rogers Place until the building was ready.
“During the winter of 2013 I heard many shinny players talking about a new, world-class building that my beloved Oilers were going to play in. I was ecstatic, and knew right then and there that this was my chance to get in on the action,” Hunter’s origin story reads. “On the night before the first shovel hit the ground, I packed up my stuff and made my way to 104 Ave and 104 Street, where I built a secret den under the construction site, watching and waiting for this magnificent building to be completed. Just as the finishing touches were being made to the building, I revealed myself to the Oilers.”
What a pleasant surprise an almost seven-foot-tall lynx with piercing eyes must have been for those lucky few who first got to meet Hunter.
Hunter’s unveiling has been met with, uh, mixed reviews, we’ll say. A fair share have pointed out the connection between Hunter, a lynx, and the Oilers hitting the links early for the past decade, and the eyes and fangs haven’t helped make Hunter look that inviting a furry friend.
However, among the target audience and the people who really matter when it comes to the mascot, Hunter seems to be a hit. More than 2,000 kids were surveyed and Hunter was the most popular choice for the new mascot, and the kids seemed less frightened by his gaze than one would expect.
“The mascot character will certainly not be at the forefront of our game-night experience but will add a new element to our presentation toolkit,” Oiler Entertainment Group senior vice-president of marketing Jeff Harrop told the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones.
“Having that mascot character to do the things in the community, especially in the child-centric places, whether it’s festival, hospital or school visits, is going to be a nice piece to engage those future Oilers fans.”
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