It’s Underdog Week at SB Nation, so while we continue to have very little in terms of news on the NHL front, let’s kill some time by taking a look at the dog (and almost dog) mascots that represent NHL teams.
Credit to Laura Berestecki at BC Connection for her idea and rating system, breaking down each mascot by cuteness, intimidation, name, originality and dog resemblance. I took it a step further and added design, as well as merchandise — because what good is a mascot if kids can’t cuddle a plush or put a poster on their wall?
So LET’S... RATE... MASCOTS!!
Bernie - Colorado Avalanche
Cuteness: As someone who finds most dogs adorable, there’s something about Bernie that doesn’t quite have the same cute factor. The tongue helps. 6/10.
Intimidation: Nothing about Bernie is intimidating, especially when compared to Colorado’s original mascot, Howler the Yeti. Unfortunately for fans of Howler, his interaction with a Chicago Blackhawks fan at a game caused the need for the Avalanche to quietly cancel him. Bernie is a good dog, but he doesn’t have the fear factor of an abominable snowman.
Name: Bernie the St. Bernard. Not super original, but it is cute, and his name practically begs for special kids events on Saturdays called “Weekends at Bernie’s.” 7/10.
Design: Serious bonus points for the barrel around the neck that (a) honors the history of the St. Bernard, (b) incorporates the alternate shoulder patch logo, and (c) can be filled with the adult beverage of the costume-wearer’s choice to help him or her get through a day of tail-pulling, crying, runny-nosed children. 8/10.
Originality: Some points for the idea that St. Bernard’s were the original avalanche rescue dogs. But believe it or not, Bernie is not the first St. Bernard mascot in professional sports (that would be Gumbo, the New Orleans Saints’ mascot), nor is he even the first Bernie the St. Bernard, with collegiate and minor league Bernies in Northampton, Siena and Dubuque. 6/10.
Dog resemblance: No doubt about it, it’s a dog. A weird looking dog, but a dog. 8/10.
Merch: The Bernie plush is about 10 times cuter than the mascot itself. The Avs have a limited selection of Bernie merch (just a plush, a sticker and a hat on the Altitude Athletics site), but all three would make a Colorado kid pretty happy. 8/10.
Howler - Arizona Coyotes
Cuteness: Pretty. Darned. Cute. The puppy eyes and toothy smile are a nice touch. 9/10.
Intimidation: What the puppy eyes give in cuteness, they take away in scariness. Those teeth look sharp, though, and on a dark night, a howl can be pretty haunting. 8/10.
Name: There was a Howler before him (see above), but the Arizona coyote’s name is simple, effective, rolls off the tongue nicely. Only problem — the coyote is more of a yipper than a howler. Sure, they do howl, but it’s not the soul-haunting song of a wolf. But “Yipper” isn’t as good a name, so Howler it is. 8/10.
Design: It’s a pretty basic dog. No real accessories to speak of, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bonus points for not being this terrifying “coyote”:
Originality: To quote Peter Venkman: “Yeah? So? (Its) a dog.” Your basic dog mascot. And when you could have designed Howler after the original logo, that’s a missed opportunity in my book.
Dog resemblance: Looks like a dog, howls like a dog, and its “scientific” name is “Canis Howlus Maximus.” So it’s definitely a dog. 10/10.
Merch: A search on The Coyotes Den team store reveals a plush, and other vendors also offer a puck and a bobblehead, but that’s about it. Come on, Arizona, embrace your howler! 2/10.
Harvey - Calgary Flames
Cuteness: Endearingly retro, like a 1960’s cartoon character. Bright blue eyes, fuzzy ears, and the droopy tongue have kids lining up around the block for a picture and a hug. 8/10.
Intimidation: Kids might not be scared of him, but Harvey the Hound once got under the skin of Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. That’s gotta be worth something. 7/10.
Name: Given a moniker at the last minute by creator Grant Kelba, the Harvey the Hound was named after the Hockey Hounds fan club of the Western League’s Calgary Centennials. It not only recalls early cartoon characters, but old-school hockey. 8/10.
Design: In a day and age where everything is created and marketed by committee and focus group, Harvey the Hound is 100% homemade and one man’s creation. Where the Flames organization could (and have) come up with terrible fire-based ideas for a mascot, Harvey endures 30 years later. And if you want your mascot to have accessories, Harvey’s your pup. He’s got a hat, a collar, and firemen’s pants with a distinctive buckle that can adopt logo changes, special event nights, or a 30-year anniversary emblem. 10/10.
Originality: Considering Harvey was the first mascot in the history of the NHL and paved the way for iconic characters like Pensburgh, Bailey the Lion, SJ Sharkie and Gritty, you can’t get more original than the definite article. 10/10.
Dog resemblance: He’s a cartoon dog, through and through. 9/10
Merch: When your mascot has been around for 30 years, you’re bound to sell some stuff with his face plastered on it. Plushes, signs, hats, pucks, stickers, keychains, mini sticks, slippers… if you want it, chances are Harvey the Hound’s tongue is on it. 9/10.
Nordy - Minnesota Wild*
* - We’re aware Nordy isn’t officially a dog, or a bear, or a cat, or anything specific. He’s a Wild animal. But this is Hockey Wilderness, after all, so we’re throwing him into the discussion.
Cuteness: Though adult fans collectively rolled their eyes when Nordy was introduced, there are plenty of kids who are happy to see Nordy’s big goofy grin. He’s weird… really, really weird. But kinda cute. 6/10.
Intimidation: The big goofy grin belies a vicious animal instinct. His mullet recalls the days of old school hockey and minor-league fight fests. And he once beat Chicago’s Tommy Hawk with a baseball bat.
Name: The name “Nordy” is taken from the Minnesota state motto L’Etoile du Nord, or “Star of the North,” but is more likely to be linked by Twin City dudes to the Nordeast area of Minneapolis and the beer named after it. Considering they could have gone “Wildy” or “Wild E. Fletcher” or something like that, Nordy isn’t the worst thing they could come up with. 6/10.
Design: Ever see the episode of The Simpsons where the family helps Homer’s brother design a car? They come up with a bunch of ideas, most of them crazy, and then they make a car from ALL of them. That’s how you get a “Nordy.” A mullet, an M-shaped tattoo (?) on his forehead, a weird red Zorro mask that’s also his fur, and his 18001 number representing the seating capacity of the Xcel Energy Center. Less is often more, and more, in this case, is borderline insane. 2/10.
Originality: What is an animal that represents Minnesota? How about a bear? A cougar? A fox? A wolf? A raccoon? Why choose one — let’s do them all! Whatever you think about Nordy, he’s one-of-a-kind, and they’re will never be another one like him. 10/10.
Dog resemblance: He’s not intended to be a dog specifically, but if he’s an amalgamation of all of Minnesota’s wild creatures, there’s some wolf in there somewhere. Also, foxes are tangentially related to dogs. So we include him in this list, but while he’s dog-adjacent, there’s nothing about him that screams canine. 1/10.
Merch: There’s Nordy merch… oh my dog there’s Nordy merch. There are bobbleheads, including ones for every holiday, including Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Hanukkah (complete with menorah). There are ornaments, plushes, pucks, Tiki Totems, pins… there’s so much Nordy stuff. 11/10.
Harvey the Hound: 61/70
Howler the Coyote: 50/70
Nordy the “Wild Animal”: 45/70
Bernie the St. Bernard: 44/70