SHL Holds First-Ever Mascot Race

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:

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!”

Mascot War Rekindled: Wally Wolf Hacks Rival’s Twitter Account

It was supposed to be over.  During the 2015 season, the Anchorage Igloos‘ Petey the Polar Bear and the Michigan Gray Wolves‘ Wally Wolf were proxies for the rivalry between the West’s two top teams.  Both mascots feuded throughout the season before finally burying the hatchet during an on-ice sumo wrestling match in the last week of the season.  Since the mascots made nice, members of both teams (including Michigan LW Vladimir Beruschko and Anchorage coach Sam Castor) have insisted that the hostilities were dead and gone, never to resume.

Petey the Polar Bear

Looks like the declaration of peace was a bit premature.  When the Igloos and Wolves clashed on Friday at Arctic Circle Arena, Petey’s official Twitter account was hacked.  Upon investigation, the hack was discovered to be the work of Michigan’s mascot.  Not only is the Petey-Wally rivalry back, it has entered a new frontier.

Wally traveled with the Wolves for Friday’s much-anticipated showdown.  It’s unusual for a mascot to join a team for road games, but the Wolves said that they had brought him as “a good-luck charm” and “to give him a chance to catch up with his friend Petey.”  The two mascots met for tea on Friday afternoon at an Anchorage cafe; video of the rendezvous appeared on both teams’ websites.  All seemed normal.

But during Friday’s game, a series of unusual tweets appeared on the @IgloosPetey account.  Typically, the Anchorage mascot doesn’t tweet much during games, apart from a few pro-Igloos messages and the occasional selfie with fans.  During this game, though, Petey was atypically active.  In addition, the content of his messages was far different than his standard fare.

“My butt itches,” @IgloosPetey tweeted about six minutes into the games.  From there, he issued a series of tweets predicting that the Igloos would lose the game, adding insults directed at several Anchorage players and even the city itself.  After C Jake Frost pushed a slapshot wide late in the first period, a tweet reading “Frost is overrated” appeared on the account.  Later, @IgloosPetey issued the following slam: “Anchorage is a two-bit town that smells like rotten fish… ugh!”

Igloos officials became aware of the situations when fans began tweeting complaints to the account.  At first, they thought the culprit was a disgruntled employee, but they later realized that the account had been hacked.  The team quickly took steps to regain control of the account, and by the end of the game (a 3-2 Igloos win in overtime) the offending tweets had been deleted.

Wally Wolf

When the front office discovered that the account’s password had been changed to “W@llyRuleS!”, they were able to identify the culprit.  Apparently, during the seemingly friendly lunch, Wally got hold of Petey’s phone and was able to change the password to his Twitter account.

Anchorage GM Will Thorndike took umbrage to the hack.  “I am deeply disturbed that Wally Wolf would resort to cyber warfare,” Thorndike told reporters.  “And to take advantage of a friendly get-together to launch his nefarious plan… that’s so low, I have no words.  But if that’s the way he and the Wolves want to play it, we can do that.  The mascot war is back on!”

Replied Michigan GM Tim Carrier, “I am disappointed to hear these accusations against Wally on the basis of very flimsy evidence.  But if the mascot war is back on, so be it.  Oh, and in case the Igloos intend to try something when they come to town: Wally’s Twitter account has two-factor authentication.”

Igloos Clinch West

Anchorage IgloosThe matchup for the Vandenburg Trophy Finals is now set, as the Anchorage Igloos claimed the Western Division and will meet the Washington Galaxy for the championship.  The Igloos came into the last week of the season with the best record in the league, but with only a 6-point edge on the second-place Michigan Gray Wolves.  The two teams have battled it out all season, with Michigan’s heavy physical style pitted against Anchorage’s faster, skill-based play.

At the start of the week, Igloos RW Nicklas Ericsson fired a shot across the bow by saying, “There’s a lot riding on this title.  I know a lot of people are rooting for talent to win out over thuggishness.”  Gray Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko shot back, “The win will come down to heart, who is the biggest warrior.  We do not mean to make it easy.”

The teams faced off head-to-head on Saturday in Anchorage, with the Igloos winning 3-1 to put the Wolves behind the 8-ball.  “No more room for errors,” said Michigan coach Martin Delorme after the game.  “All there is now is winning.”

The Gray Wolves got a break in their next game; they shut out Dakota 2-0, while Anchorage blew a lead late and suffered a stunning 3-2 loss to Saskatchewan.  “We can’t take our foot off the gas yet,” Igloos coach Sam Castor admonished his team after the game.  “The lack of effort we showed in the third was appalling.  Michigan’s too good for us to take this for granted.”

The Igloos and Gray Wolves then faced off again, this time at Cadillac Place.  Between periods, the team’s mascots, Anchorage’s Petey the Polar Bear and Michigan’s Wally Wolf, engaged in a sumo-style wrestling match at center ice.  The mascots have been feuding all season, and both teams felt it was time to settle things.

Each mascot won one fall; just as they were preparing to line up for the deciding third fall, Wally stuck out his hand to offer peace.  Petey shook, and they left the ice arm-in-arm.  “If Petey and Wally can make peace, there’s hope for the world,” said a visibly moved Igloos C Nile Bernard.  The Gray Wolves won the actual game, 2-1, to remain alive.

The battle lasted until the second-to-last game of the season, when the Igloos routed Saskatchewan 6-2 to clinch both the division and the Congress Trophy for winning the league points title.  The team engaged in a fairly low-key celebration; Castor led a locker-room toast and the players exchanged high-fives and hugs, but there wasn’t any loud music or over-the-top shouting and hollering.

“I think we’re all focused on the [championship trophy],” said C Jake Frost.  “We won’t really feel like the season is complete unless we win the whole thing.”

Castor predicted glory for his team, saying, “We’ve fought long and hard to get to this point.  We’ve been a strong team from the start, and we’re getting stronger.  I think it’s going to be very tough to beat us.”

Mascot Wars Continue

Michigan Grey WolvesAnchorage IgloosThe next salvo in the mascot-based war between the Anchorage Igloos and the Michigan Gray Wolves has been fired.  Two weeks ago, Gray Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko created an uproar in Anchorage when he attacked Igloos mascot Petey the Polar Bear with his hockey stick.  This week, during a game at Cadillac Place, the Igloos struck back against Michigan mascot Wally Wolf.

During a break in action during the second period, Wally came onto the ice to toss some T-shirts into the crowd.  He unknowingly wandered a little too close to the Igloos bench, and C Jake Frost stuck out his stick and tripped the mascot, sending him down to the ice in a heap.  “With his big giant head, he just sort of toppled over,” said one witness to the incident.  Frost then pointed and said, “That’s for Petey, you bastard!”

Wally Wolf
Wally Wolf

While boos rained down from the crowd and Frost and his teammates whooped it up on the bench, the Gray Wolves fumed.  “Blindsiding a guy like that on the ice isn’t right,” said D Frank Mudrick.  “He could have blown out his ACL and ended his career on a move like that.”

Gray Wolves coach Martin Delorme walked to the end of his bench and began pointing and shouting at the Igloos.  Anchorage coach Sam Castor responded in kind, and the crowd roared as the two coaches waved their arms and argued.  “Honestly, I’m not really sure what [Delorme] was saying,” said Castor.  “He might have been yelling in French.  Don’t know.  I was pointing out that his guy started it, and to give it a rest.”

During the first faceoff after play resumed, Mudrick skated up to Frost and demanded a fight.  Frost skated away, and Igloos D Olaf Martinsson squared off with Mudrick instead.  “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” said Frost.

In the third, Wally re-emerged with a large bandage wrapped around his head, as the fans gave him a standing ovation.  Wally walked behind the Anchorage bench, withdrew a pair of water balloons he’d hidden under his shirt, and dropped them on the Igloos, soaking Frost and RW Remi Montrechere.  The mascot ran off before the stunned Igloos could react.

“Good thing he didn’t hit me with those balloons,” said Castor.  “I’d have chased him down and beat the hell out of him.  This suit cost more than his whole wardrobe.”

The SHL fined Frost $500 and Wally $250, issuing a press release that stated, “Okay, you guys have had your fun.  Now knock it off or we’re going to start handing out suspensions.”  But neither side showed any indication of ceasing hostilities.

“This isn’t over,” said Gray Wolves C Hunter Bailes.  “That polar bear better have a suit of armor ready for the next time we play them.”  Replied Igloos D Moose Baker, “Petey’s going to be ready, and we’re going to be ready.  If any of those guys so much as lays a hand on Petey’s fur, there’s going to be a line brawl on the spot.  Mark my words.”

Frost had another suggestion: “I think the only way this can end is for Petey and Wally to settle this on the field of honor.  [The Gray Wolves] can pick the time and place, and I’ll spring for Petey’s airfare.”

Igloos-Wolves Rivalry Gains New Edge

Anchorage IgloosMichigan Grey WolvesThe 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.

Petey the Polar Bear
Petey the 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.”

Sam Castor
Sam Castor

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.”