The Anchorage Igloos and the Michigan Gray Wolves have developed a fierce on-ice rivalry as they have battled for supremacy in the West. This week, the rivalry exploded off the ice as well, thanks to an incident involving a Gray Wolves player and a giant polar bear.
During the third period of Tuesday’s Wolves-Igloos game, Igloos mascot Petey the Polar Bear stood behind the Wolves bench, mocking and taunting them. The Michigan players responded by banging the glass and squirting Petey with their water bottles in an attempt to get the mascot to go away. But Petey hung in there, wiggling his fluffy behind in their direction and sticking his head over the glass. Finally, Gray Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko couldn’t take it any longer and snapped, whacking Petey in the face with his stick and causing the mascot to tumble onto the fans in the front rows. Beruschko raised his arms in triumph and accepted high-fives from his teammates, but the Igloos were incensed at the violence visited on their mascot.
“There’s nothing wrong with a high-spirited rivalry,” said Anchorage coach Sam Castor after the game. “But when you bring Petey into it, you’ve crossed the line. We consider Petey to be one of us. An attack on him is an attack on the whole team. Beruschko better watch his back.”
Igloos GM Will Thorndike doubled down in a press release issued the next morning. Titled “Justice For Petey,” the press release called on the league to “take swift action to punish the senseless brutality leveled against Petey the Polar Bear. Petey is a beloved symbol of joy and family-friendly entertainment throughout the Anchorage community. To see him savagely attacked in this way is an affront to all of us. The sentiments of the entire Igloos organization can be summed up by a 6-year-old fan named Dwight. After witnessing the heinous assault, Dwight said with tears in his eyes: ‘Mommy, what happened to Petey? Why would that mean man hit him?’ Why indeed, Dwight. While we are not necessarily calling for Mr. Beruschko to be banned from the league for his actions, we expect justice to be swift and severe.” The press release went on to suggest that Beruschko be prosecuted under the Endangered Species Act for threatening a vulnerable animal. Igloos fans rallied to the cause, starting the Twitter hashtag #IAmPetey to demand punishment for Beruschko.
Later in the week, the league announced that Beruschko would be fined $500 for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” The league’s press release acknowledged that the Igloos had sought harsher punishment, but noted: “Upon further investigation, the league discovered that Petey was not an actual polar bear, but rather a team employee in a costume. Therefore, the Endangered Species Act does not apply in this case. Furthermore, while the league in no way condones Mr. Beruschko’s actions, the fact remains that Petey was trespassing on the Gray Wolves bench during the game.”
For his part, Beruschko claimed not to understand the fuss. “He was being a big jerk,” Beruschko said of Petey, “so I got him out of the way. On ice, this would not even be penalty.”
The Igloos proclaimed deep dissatisfaction with the outcome of the incident. “Everyone in this locker room knows that Petey’s been done wrong,” said C Jake Frost. “We’re not going to forget this, believe me.” Asked if the Igloos might be plotting revenge against Michigan’s mascot, Wally Wolf, Frost replied: “We’ll deal with this matter however we deem appropriate. We believe in policing ourselves. Petey knows we have his back.”