Will there be a battle of the birds in the ECHL this year? Will feathers fly?
The Portland-based Maine Mariners, who will begin play the ECHL in October, revealed their team mascot Wednesday and it’s a puffin named Beacon.
That came as a surprise to the Newfoundland Growlers, who are also entering the league in 2018-19. For two decades, Buddy the Puffin had been the mascot for professional hockey teams based out of St. John’s, and while there has yet to be an announcement, the expectation has been that Buddy could be back on the ice at Mile One Centre this fall and perhaps even on the court with the National Basketball League of Canada’s St. John’s Edge, who have struck up a partnership with the Growlers.
As for why Buddy’s renaissance can’t yet be confirmed, it may be the Buddy “brand” is one of subjects in negotiations that could lead to the Growlers acquiring items associated with the operations of the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps, who played out of Mile One from 2011 to 2017.
There may be those who never believed Buddy would return, that a Growlers’ mascot would be canine-based — after all, the team’s logo is the head of a Newfoundland dog. However, that will not be the case, at least for the inaugural season, although a dog theme might be part of game-day operations and team promotions.
They may come from the same ornithological family, but there are notable difference between Buddy and Beacon, from the shape and colour of their beaks, to the contour of their eyes and their body types — Beacon might be described as athletic, while Buddy falls into more of what might be seen as the “every man” category.
As well, Beacon was introduced while wearing a hockey helmet, while Buddy has been traditionally bare-headed.
If Buddy — who debuted with the AHL’s St. John’s Maple Leafs in 1992 — does become part of the Growlers family, it could lead to an interesting sidebar rivalry beyond whatever happens on the ice. Both Newfoundland and Maine are in the North Division and play eight times this season.
There is no word on whether the mascots will fly with (next to?) their respective teams on road trips.