The Michigan Gray Wolves have not generally been known for their creative promotions. When they bother to hold a giveaway, it’s typically a scarf, a knit hat, a T-shirt, or maybe a rally towel… nothing out of the ordinary. This week, however, the Wolves held a children’s promotion that was truly unique — and reportedly developed by their mascot.
On Sunday, the first 5,000 children through the gates received a storybook that contained a retelling of a couple of classic fairy tales. The cover stated that the book was written by the team’s mascot, Wally Wolf. According to Michigan’s marketing department, Wally was inspired to write it in order to combat “rampant anti-wolf propaganda” found in many children’s stories.
“Honestly, Wally has a point,” said Wolves D Fritz Kronstein. “Think about all the fairy tales that include the Big Bad Wolf. What makes him so bad all the time? I definitely think it’s time to hear the other side of the story.”
In Wally’s take on the classic stories, the “Big Good Wolf” was cast as the hero. In the villain’s role were other animals — ones that bore a striking resemblance to the mascots of Michigan’s rival teams.
The first story in the book was a rewrite of “The Three Little Pigs.” In this version, the pigs built hockey rinks out of straw, sticks, and bricks. This time, they were visited by the “Big Bad Bear,” a giant earmuff-wearing polar bear that looks strikingly like Petey, the Anchorage Igloos‘ mascot. After the Big Bad Bear blows away the straw- and stick-built rinks, the Big Good Wolf arrives and chases off the villainous bear with a hockey stick, then teaches the pigs the finer points of the slapshot.
The second story is a fresh take on “Little Red Riding Hood.” Retitled “Little Blue Riding Hood” (because the heroine is dressed in Wolves’ colors), the story tells the tale of a young girl bringing Wolves tickets to her ailing grandmother. But before our heroine can get there, Grandma is kidnapped by the “Dirty Dog,” a brown dog in a sailor costume who resembles Salty Sam, the Portland Bluebacks‘ mascot. When Little Blue Riding Hood showed up at Grandma’s house, she noticed that something was amiss. “What long ears you have, Grandma!” she says. “What big jowls you have!” Just before the Dirty Dog can spring up and snatch our heroine, the Big Good Wolf shows up, chases the villainous dog away, puts Grandma and Little Blue Riding Hood on the back of his motorcycle, and races them over to the Wolves game just in time.
“Finally, it’s a fairy tale where wolves get a fair shake,” said Wolves GM Tim Carrier. “I’m glad that Wally decided to share his stories with our young fans.”
Wally’s book was a hit with the fans, but not everyone was so delighted. The Igloos, for instance, weren’t pleased when they heard about the portrayal of the Big Bad Bear. “I thought that Petey and Wally had buried the hatchet years ago,” said Igloos C Jake Frost. “But if the wolf wants to get things started again, I’m sure that Petey is willing to go back to war. And we’ll all have his back.”
The Bluebacks were likewise unamused about the “Dirty Dog” portrayal, and expressed their displeasure. “This is gross character assassination toward Salty Sam,” said RW Vince Mango. “We all know that Sam is 100% pro-grandma, and he would never kidnap anyone or try to traumatize little girls. And most importantly, he would certainly never try to steal Wolves tickets.”
Informed of the Igloos’ and Bluebacks’ objections, Carrier was unapologetic. “Wally calls them like he sees them,” the GM said. “Like most authors, Wally’s stories are informed by his life experience.”
As the SHL was planning for its fourth annual All-Star game, commissioner Perry Mitchell wanted to do something to make the event special. “Obviously, the game itself is a lot of fun,” said the commissioner. “But we thought we’d like to add something new and different to make it a little extra-special.”
The league considered adding a skills competition similar to the NHL’s, or perhaps some sort of celebrity game. But adding a skills competition would make it a multi-day event, which the SHL wanted to avoid. And identifying participants for a celebrity hockey game was a challenge, due to the need to find celebrities who can skate and are comfortable doing so in front of a live audience.
Eventually, they hit upon a truly unique idea. It was dreamed up during a brainstorming session, when they were thinking about other events that arenas host. One league staffer mentioned monster-truck rallies, and suggested that the teams’ mascots each get to drive one.
“We all laughed,” said Commissioner Mitchell, “but then we thought: Hey, that’s actually a cool idea!”
But how could they bring monster trucks on the ice? They couldn’t, but they did the next best thing: having the mascots mount kids’ ride-on trucks. Each truck was painted in the team’s colors, complete with logos affixed to the doors.
“We knew that we wanted to get the mascots involved, and what better way than having them ride toy trucks?” said Mitchell.
For the initial heats, the mascots were divided up by division. The first heat had them compete in groups of three. The winners of the first-round matches then faced off for the division crown, before the Western and Eastern winners faced off in a championship match. Each heat was conducted over an obstacle course that circumnavigated the ice.
The first race matched up three Eastern competitors:
The race quickly turned into a two-way battle between the Canadian clubs, as Scratch lost control on the opening straightaway and smashed into the boards, damaging his truck beyond repair. Le Tigre took an early lead, as he navigated his way through the traffic-cone chicane expertly and surged ahead. But when he reached the first series of ramps, he tumbled off the side and overturned, allowing his Hamiltonian rival to gain ground.
The Quebec mascot’s hopes of winning were ultimately dashed when he veered off course going into the final turn and wound up in a “water hazard” fashioned from a kid’s wading pool. Le Tigre’s misfortune allowed Crosscheck to sail down the homestretch to an easy win.
The second heat pitted a trio of Western mascots against one another:
Naturally, Shockers owner Heinz Doofenshmirtz couldn’t resist tinkering with Sparky’s truck, attaching what he called the “Mascot-Race-inator,” which deployed a pair of giant skis that turned the truck into something more like a snowmobile. This worked well initially, allowing Sparky to zoom ahead of his competitors. Alas, it made the truck impossible to steer, causing the Saskatchewan mascot to miss the traffic-cone chicane entirely and skid down the Zamboni tunnel, ending his hopes of victory.
With Sparky out of the race, Petey and Salty Sam settled in for a one-on-one duel. Befitting a team whose name references a locally famous submarine, the Blueback mascot had fitted his truck with “missiles” (actually a couple of giant Nerf guns). About halfway through the race, Salty Sam opened fire on his northern rival. The barrage cause Petey to lose control and tip over, and the Portland mascot took the lead. But Petey righted himself and continued on. Eventually, the Igloos mascot caught up to his foe, and then unleashed a hidden spray gun that shot vegetable oil out of the side. Salty Sam spun out, while Petey raced to the line and secured the victory.
The third heat matched up the remaining Eastern mascots:
Cool Cat, the dapper and sophisticated black feline representing the New York Night
Unlike the first two heats, none of these three competitors crashed out early, and the battle was close from beginning to end. Rocketman was the first to the traffic-cone chicane and took the early lead. But Nibs, who was drafting right behind him, cut to the inside on the following turn and hopped ahead. Cool Cat sat back a bit at first, but dialed it up after the first quarter of the race. When Nibs and Rocketman both slid a bit in the back straightaway, Cool Cat split the gap between them and was the first one over the bridge at center ice.
Cool Cat held a narrow but steady lead as the race entered its final stage. Then Rockman turned on his (previously unseen) rocket booster and soared past his competitors to an apparent win. Unfortunately for him, the use of the rocket booster led him to be disqualified, and second-place finisher Cool Cat advanced to the division final.
The final heat of the preliminary round matched up the last three from the West:
The race started off well for the KC fans and their mascot, as DJ Crushmore and Wally found that their trucks were chained together. While they worked feverishly to get unbound, Pete sailed off to a huge lead. He was almost a third of the way through the course before the other two even got started. The crowd roared as their hero navigated the course’s challenges with ease, seemingly on a glide path.
Ultimately, the gigantic lead proved to be Pete’s undoing. Feeling secure in victory, the Kansas City mascot felt it safe to stop in mid-race to tend to his smoker, which was parked in one of the tunnels just off the ice. Pete pulled some beautifully-cooked burnt ends off of the grate and handed them out to a grateful crowd. But while Pete fed his fans, Wally and DJ Crushmore had caught and passed his abandoned truck. By the time the Smoke mascot returned to his vehicle, it was too late. The other mascots crossed the finish line in an apparent dead heat. The decision went to a photo finish, which showed that Wally’s prominent snout crossed the line first. The Wolves mascot won by a nose – literally.
The Eastern final pitted a pair of bitter rivals against one another, Hamilton’s Crosscheck vs. New York’s Cool Cat. Their two teams have battled fiercely in every game they’ve played over the last couple of seasons. And when Crosscheck debuted earlier this season, Night coach Nick Foster mocked the mascot mercilessly, calling it a “freaky inbred Teletubby” and claimed that Crosscheck’s “family tree is a straight line.” The Pistols rallied to the defense of their mascot, and both teams were eager for a victory in this contest.
Cool Cat got off to an early lead in a somewhat controversial fashion, as he appeared to cut off Crosscheck going into the first turn. But the fuzzy orange creature refused to be shaken, and remained close behind his competitor. In the latter half of the race, Crossheck unveiled a secret weapon; a laser pointer, which it pointed at the side boards just off the track. Sure enough, Cool Cat abandoned his truck and began chasing the red dot around. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Crosscheck surged into the lead. Once Cool Cat realized that he had been tricked, he remounted his truck and launched back into the race, but it was too late.
Meanwhile, the West final pitted a pair of longtime frenemies in Anchorage’s Petey the Polar Bear and Michigan’s Wally Wolf. The two mascots had a rivalry that dates back to the SHL’s earliest days. Petey and Wally seemed to settle their feud at the end of the league’s inaugural season, although there have been occasional flare-ups since then.
Right at the start of the race, Wally ensured himself the early edge by swatting Petey with a giant stuffed fish, an apparent reference to a 2018 incident when Michigan’s radio announcer claimed that the city of Anchorage “smells like rotting fish.” While Petey reeled from the unexpected attack, Wally took the early lead.
But Petey got some help from a friend. As Wally roared down the back straightaway, a figure in a walrus costume emerged from the bench area and tackled Wally. As the Wolves mascot struggled to get free, the walrus character whipped off its head to reveal Igloos LW Jerry Koons. “Don’t you mess with Petey!” Koons hollered as the Anchorage mascot raced by. Wally shook free from Koons and got back on track. But Petey managed to hold off his rival down the stretch and won by a couple truck lengths.
This set up a final matchup between the mascots from last year’s Finals contenders: Crosscheck of the Pistols vs. Petey of the Igloos. This team, both mascots were joined on the ice by the All-Stars from their teams. Some players tried to thwart their opponent; Anchorage’s Ty Worthington whacked Crosscheck with a Nerf bat, while Hamilton’s Hercules Mulligan body-checked Petey into the water hazard. Other players chose a more positive approach, like the Igloos’ Tom Hoffman helping Petey up out of the pool.
It was a tightly pitched battle from beginning to end. But in the end, it was a wet but undaunted Petey who won it for the Igloos, beating Crosscheck to the finish line by a couple feet.
“Petey has always been a top-notch competitor, and he overcame a lot of adversity out there today,” said Igloos coach Sam Castor. “This definitely doesn’t make up for losing the Vandy, but it is a nice little bit of revenge. Petey forever!”
When you’re a member of the Anchorage Igloos, life is a bit different than it is for the other 11 SHL clubs. Most often, that difference manifests itself in extremely long road trips and brutal winter temperatures. But occasionally, players have to deal with some of the quirkier aspects of the league’s northernmost outpost. RW Jean Pierre Fleury found that out the hard way this week, when his new car was severely damaged by… a rogue walrus.
Fleury appeared in a couple games for the Igloos last year, but this season he became a full-time member of the roster. He chose to celebrate making the big time (as well as his new contract) by purchasing a brand new Chrysler 300.
“For the first time in my life, I have a new car,” said Fleury. “Before now, I always had old cars, rusting and crappy. Now I can afford something nice.”
After showing off his new ride to teammates before Tuesday’s morning skate, Fleury parked it out in the farthest reaches of the players’ parking lot, which is located at the edge of the Gulf of Alaska. He parked it away from the other cars to avoid door dings, as well as any pranks his teammates might want to pull.
“I thought maybe they would put shaving cream on the windows or something,” said Fleury.
When Fleury returned to his car after the practice session, he was shocked and distressed to find that the passenger side of his car was badly dented. The damage was so severe that Fleury was unable to open the doors on that side.
“This was much worse than shaving cream,” Fleury noted. “If this was a prank, it was a terrible one.”
His Igloos teammates quickly assured him that this was no prank. But access to the players’ lot is controlled, and security guards did not report seeing any unusual cars enter or leave. So what had happened? Had some juvenile delinquents attacked the car?
Fortunately, the team posts security cameras around the lot, and they were able to find footage that showed what happened. And when they reviewed the footage, they were stunned by what they saw.
At some point during the practice session, a male walrus climbed out of the water and onto the land near Fleury’s car. It is currently the height of the walrus mating season, and the normally gentle creatures tend to be a bit more aggressive during this time.
It appeared that the walrus must have seen his reflection in the shiny paint of Fleury’s car, and mistaken it for another walrus, perhaps a romantic rival. The animal backed up, then charged and headbutted the car several times, before wandering back off into the water.
Naturally, once word got around the clubhouse, the Igloos were all too excited to see the tape for themselves. One of the team’s video editors created a continuous loop of the attack, which C Jake Frost then played in the clubhouse before Thursday’s game against Dakota.
“It was really fantastic,” said Frost. “We just kept watching the walrus trashing J.P.’s car and laughing ourselves silly. Meanwhile, J.P. was sitting over in his locker with his head in his hands. He couldn’t bear to look.”
Fortunately for Fleury, his insurance was able to cover the damage. And the team announced that it will build a fence along the shoreline to prevent incidents like this from happening again.
Until the fence can be constructed, however, Frost had another suggestion. “Naturally, after this heinous attack on my teammate’s car, I decided to become an expert on everything there is to know about walruses,” said Frost. “And by that, I mean that I read the Wikipedia entry on them. And I learned that polar bears are one of the few natural predators that walruses have. So that’s the answer: we need to send [Igloos mascot] Petey out there to defend our cars!”
Frost’s linemate Jerry Koons supported the idea. “There are few things in life more terrifying than an 8-foot-tall polar bear with earmuffs and a hockey jersey. If we have Petey sit out there and keep an eye on things, we won’t have any walrus problems any more. No one wants to mess with Petey.”
The Anchorage Igloos have faced a lot of obstacles this season as they’ve attempted to defend their division title. They’ve struggled to put together lengthy winning streaks. They’ve lagged far behind their rivals, the Michigan Gray Wolves, in the standings. Lately, as they’ve tried to nail down a playoff spot, they’ve been hit by a rash of injuries.
On Saturday, the Igloos came in to Cadillac Place to face the Wolves. They expected a challenging game against their rivals, but they also had to contend with an unexpected challenge: a hail of rotting fish showered down on their bench.
“You figure you’ll have to dodge some tough checks in a game, and maybe a beer sometimes,” said Igloos LW Jerry Koons. “You’re not really expecting to have to dodge fish.”
The whole thing was triggered by an offhand comment on the Wolves’ radio broadcast during last week’s 13-0 thrashing of Seattle. In the third period, color commentator Blackie Sprowl was trying to find something to talk about, since the game was completely out of hand. He wound up launching into a comic monologue about the challenges of the commentator’s life.
“You know, this job is harder than the fans might think,” Sprowl said to play-by-play man Philip Shelton. “It’s not all free food and fast women, you know. We got to fly to Anchorage.”
“Yeah, that’s always a tough trip,” said Shelton.
“You go on a 30-hour flight, then you land in this snow-encrusted outpost in the middle of nowhere. There’s more moose than people, and the whole place smells like rotting fish. Then you’ve got to take another 30-hour flight back to civilization. These are the kind of hardships that we put up with for you, fans.”
“Okay, Anchorage isn’t quite that bad,” Shelton interjected.
“Sure it is,” retorted Sprowl. “Whole place smells like rotten fish. You know, the next time the Igloos come here, we should put some rotten fish in their dressing room, just so they feel at home.”
“Rotten fish in the dressing room. Okay,” said Shelton incredulously. “Sorry, folks, this is what 10-0 does to you.”
“I think it’s great,” said Sprowl. “They’ll smell those rotten fish and say, ‘Hey, smells like home in here.'”
Ordinarily, that would have been the end of it. But when Anchorage arrived for Saturday’s game, a group of jokesters showed up with some day-old trout, and during breaks in the action, they began flinging it at the visiting bench.
The first salvo missed the mark, but the second hit Igloos D Ted Keefe flush on the front of his jersey. The blueliner stared quizzically at the offending fish, then tossed it aside as the fans cheered. As trout continued to rain down, though, the Igloos’ mood changed from confusion to frustration. A couple players started checking the fish back at the fans, while others complained to the ushers. Before long, the section behind the Anchorage bench was chanting “Fish! Fish! Fish!”
Eventually, the PA announcer warned the fans that “anyone throwing fish or other objects at the benches will be ejected.” The fans booed, but the chucking of sea creatures came to a halt.
The Igloos wound up winning the game, 3-2. During coach Sam Castor‘s postgame press conference, the first remark out of the coach’s mouth was, “What the hell was with the fish?” A local reporter explained the story, whereupon Castor rolled his eyes and said, “Listen, my suit costs more than the monthly paycheck of those clowns. The Wolves can expect a bill from my tailor.”
Igloos C Nile Bernard said that the team took the fish-flinging in stride. “In fact, we’re packing the fish up and bringing it back home for Petey,” said Bernard, referring to mascot Petey the Polar Bear. “We’re not going to let that stuff go to waste.”