Miga — A killer whale turns into a black bear with fins, and looks vaguely like a panda. The fin sprouts out of the top of the head like a lock of hair, reminiscent of Alphalpha or Ed Grimley.
Sumi — A thunderbird with the furry legs and face of a bear who wears a poncho and a stylized killer whale hat.
Quatchi — A sasquatch who dreams of becoming a goalie someday. Expected to sign with the Maple Leafs at any moment.
Mukmuk — A toque-wearing Vancouver Island marmot that everybody loves, but who is destined to play a supporting role for Miga, Sumi and Quatchi.
Love ’em or hate ’em — and there are wildly differing opinions between children and adults — these are our mascots for 2010, and they have a huge role to play. Not only are they the friendly faces that will welcome the world to Canada and B.C., and hopefully capture the imagination of children around the world in the process, they are also supposed to rake in about $46 million in plush toy sales and other merchandise. Personally I’ll reserve judgment on our choice of mascots until summer of 2010 when the final receipts are in. I hope they sell a billion dollars worth.
So what’s with the mascots anyway? How did they become a staple of pro sports, and, by extension, the Olympics and Paralympics?
A mascot is essentially a person, place or thing believed to bring good luck. The word itself comes from the French slang “mascotte” which essentially means “witch”.
There’s no telling what mascot came first, but every tribal facemask, every totem pole, and every lucky animal that ever traveled with an army can be considered a mascot.
Their inclusion in professional sports is long and storied. Greeks in early Olympiads are believed to have brought statues of their gods and lucky animals to the first Olympiads almost 2,800 years ago. Every animal ever painted on a shield or crest is a kind of mascot, and the same is true for the Killer Whale on the Canucks uniforms today.
In the beginning of modern sports, which really started at the collegiate level, mascots were once real animals that embodied traits like fierceness, strength, and resilience. When the risks of keeping animals like wolves, bulls, badgers and mountain lions became apparent, teams eventually came to the conclusion that people dressed up as animals are probably safer.
These days virtually every sports team has a mascot on the payroll. Their job is to entertain the crowd during stops in the game and to rally their fans from the sidelines. They’re also a huge hit with kids and help draw families to sporting events. In some cases they can be highly profitable.