If you want to make sure a mascot unveiling goes well, just make sure a bunch of kids are there.
The Sixers brought a bunch of kids to the Franklin Institute when they unveiled Franklin the dog. The Union had a bunch of kids at the Philadelphia Zoo when the team showed off Phang, the snake with arms and legs. And, today, the Philadelphia Flyers had a bunch of children on hand at the Please Touch Museum when they introduced Gritty, the team’s new mascot.
The kids loved it. They cheered wildly. Of course they did: They were out of school for the day. They got free t-shirts. But it was a good start for the mascot; this wasn’t the Gobbledy Gooker.
One time as a kid I went to a Sixers game and they introduced a new mascot, Slam; he was almost instantly booed. It’s hard to introduce a mascot, especially for a team without an easily adaptable animal nickname. The Flyers once had a mascot, Slapshot, for one season in 1976. It didn’t work. It’s hard to know why any of these mascots work. Why is the Phillie Phanatic a beloved mascot instead of a creepy furry green harasser? Why is Mr. Met Deadspin’s official top-ranked mascot instead of a horrifying hybrid of a human and a baseball? You need to get people on board somehow.
And so hiring a bunch of children for your mascot unveiling is a pretty smart move. They’ll cheer anything once they’re out of school. And, to be fair, the Flyers’ mascot was unveiling was pretty cute. Members of the Flyers “Fun Patrol” danced with kids for about a half hour before in-arena hosts Andrea Helfrich and Shawny Hill did some skits with the kids. A teacher came on stage and wanted to do long division. Hill convinced her the kids were going to have fun instead.
They then threw it to a prerecorded video about current renovations ongoing at the Flyers’ arena. There’s nothing kids like more than arena renovations, based on how they screamed for this video. It eventually turned into a detective story where a private investigator helped the construction workers find out who was drawing hockey plays on the walls and replacing equipment with hockey equipment. Every good mascot needs a ridiculous backstory.
And dance moves:
Finally, after all the build-up, Gritty came out. He is an orange furry thing, sort of an orange grimace with a big hipster beard. His name is incredibly stupid. If he looks like the Phillie Phanatic, that’s not a surprise: The Flyers worked with Raymond Entertainment to develop him (it?); Dave Raymond was the original Phillie Phanatic.
“If you look around the league, 29 of the 31 teams have mascots,” Flyers COO Shawn Tilger told Deadspin at the event. “We realized how important it is to have an extra voice in the community—especially one that can have an attachment to kids. Looking at the smiles on these kids faces, I know we did the right thing.”
Tilger said the process of creating Gritty took about two years. The team bounced around between mascot consultants before settling on Raymond, the mascot GOAT. “Gritty” is almost a parody of hockey fan speak, so it’s a pretty good name. I’m just going to assume it’s actually Trent Klatt in that mascot suit.
At the end of the unveiling, the hosts got all the kids to yell “We love you, Gritty!” This was creepy as heck, but I think I am sold on this horrifying orange furry being being the new mascot of the Flyers. The instant negative reaction to it on Twitter sold it for me: This mascot is great. I love you too, Gritty.