The New York Rangers have never had a mascot unlike most other National Hockey League teams. This season, mascot mania hit a new high (or low) when the Philadelphia Flyers introduced Gritty.
If there is one thing that fans of the New York Rangers should respect is that the team has dignity and a sense of tradition. The best example of that is that they haven’t succumbed to the mascot mania that has overwhelmed the NHL this season, all due to a bizarre creature named Gritty. In fact, the New York Rangers are the only team in the NHL that doesn’t employ a mascot.
Want to try something depressing? Google “Gritty” and see what you get. For me it took .46 seconds to come up with 36,100,000 results. It took 15 pages of results to start to get to the adjective instead of the mascot.
Now, Google “Giroux.” In .51 seconds I got 13,900,000 hits. Claude was pretty much gone by the fifth page of results.
This may be a very unscientific look at the strange popularity of the mascot, but if you want concrete evidence that the hockey world has gone a little crazy, go pick up the latest print copy of The Hockey News. It’s the last issue before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin and guess who is on the cover? Is it the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that is challenging every record for excellence in the NHL? Nope, it’s Gritty. The cover story? Gritty’s “oral history.”
Watching NHL coverage on NBC and it seems that there is a Gritty feature during every game and I guarantee that Gritty has made more national television appearances than Connor McDavid, the best hockey player on the planet.
The Rangers may not make the playoffs and might be incapable of scoring a power play goal, but the simple fact is that the closest the Rangers come to a “Gritty” is a balding, middle aged fan named Larry Goodman. Dancing Larry is a Madison Square Garden staple who has become a fan favorite. Some may feel that the new staged Dancing Larry segments are a bit much and his endorsement deal with a car dealership was over the top . It was much more genuine when Larry appeared in his section of the blue seats rather than all over the Garden accompanied by a phalanx of MSG staffers.
From the early seventies to the mid-nineties, there was “The Chief,” a Ranger fan who wore a Blueshirts jersey, Rangers facepaint and a Native American headdress. The Chief retired in 1995, before his politically incorrect attire could draw any criticism.
And let’s all agree to forget about the Dancing Grandma who shared the spotlight with Larry for a while about ten years ago.
The Rangers may not become human bowling pins like the Carolina Hurricanes, but the Jagr-led Rangers were one of the first, if not the first NHL team to adopt the practice of saluting the fans after a win.
And Ranger fans have upheld the time honored tradition of chanting “Potvin Sucks” every game for four decades. One thing folks, let’s do it like twice a game, not every ten minutes.
There are some annoying innovations that have appeared at the Garden. The t-shirt toss is just dumb and that fancam balloon that flutters around the arena during intermissions belongs in Raleigh, not in New York City.
But as irritated as we can be at Glen Sather and Jimmy Dolan, the simple fact that they have kept their version of Gritty out of the World’s Most Famous Arena, is something we should all be thankful for.
What do you think? Is there any harm to have a Gritty-like Ranger mascot or should we just leave it alone? Feel free to weigh in.