What almost was
Eleven years ago today, Vancouver Canucks mascot Fin was born.
The back story of how exactly Fin came to be has long been kept a secret, like how they get the Caramilk in the Caramilk bar, but it’s safe to assume the process was a lot less gooey than that, or actual whale labour.Five file folders (two white, two blue, one grey) that were handed to me a month ago contain the answer, which provides a glimpse into what almost was and it will deepen your appreciation for Fin.
When the Canucks entered the NHL in 1970 there were no furry anthropomorphic mascots. Teams had unofficial mascots at best and they were mainly fans, children of players or pets, serving merely as good luck charms.
The Canucks had such a mascot in the early 1980s who went by the name of Lil’ Red. He had no official tie to the team; he was just an incredibly enthusiastic season ticket holder that had free reign at the Pacific Coliseum.
The Canuck Duck was next up. Sponsored by the Drake Hotel, the Canuck Duck was linked to the team in that he wore a yellow Canucks jersey and would fall down stairs at games as his shtick throughout the mid ‘80s, but there was never a real connection to this quacker.
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s mascots began popping up all over the NHL, led by Calgary’s Harvey the Hound. The Canucks remained apprehensive about the idea, but gave Prankster Bear a shot, although unofficially. He handed out treats on the concourse and represented ‘Winning Spirit’ right up until Vancouver moved to GM Place, now Rogers Arena.
During the 1998-99 season and beyond, Goalie Man was all the rage. He was an organic fan who sported a mask, glove and blocker and would rev up the crowd from his seat behind the opposing goaltender. Where he is now, no one knows.
The Canucks officially embraced the idea of embracing a mascot when Brian Burke took over the reigns as general manager. Although he wasn’t the biggest fan of the furry friends, by 2000 he allowed a collection of Canucks employees to pursue the idea.
That’s when the fun began.
It is said a camel is a horse designed by committee and that was almost the case with the mascot of the Canucks. There were some of the most outrageous proposals sent to the team, mascots which, until today, have never been seen by the public.
The Canucks were leaning quite heavily towards making a lumberjack the mascot, he would have been a revamped new age Johnny Canuck, but as the role of Vancouver’s mascot evolved, it became clear the figure would be an important member of the community.
Nothing makes a child’s day more than a plaid wearing, axe swinging, bearded seven-foot lumberjack!
So the team switched gears and went in search of a hip, cool mascot with a hockey connection. It’s unclear whether any of the mascots below were seriously, and I mean seriously, considered, but the dreadlocks goalie, robot goalie man and shocked beaver were all in the mix.
As you can see in this exclusive photo gallery, there were actually a pair of robot goalies, two beavers, some kind of gerbil looking goalie and numerous character goaltenders.
Judging from your reaction, one of either laughter, shock or horror, you’re pleased the Canucks went with Fin as mascot. According to numerous sources, the whale mascot was chosen over all the rest during focus groups in early 2001. Chalk one up for focus groups.
By the time Vancouver hit the ice for the 2001-02 season, a nameless whale had emerged as the team’s mascot. The Canucks media guide introduced the newest member of the team to the world, but there was one problem: the "yet-to-be-named Orca" was nameless.
The Canucks launched a contest to name the team’s mischievous mammal and by puck drop that season, Fin was ready for action.
Seven all-star games, 410 regular season games, 49 playoff games, 11 showings at the Annual Celebrity Mascot Games, and 1,500 community appearances throughout the Lower Mainland, BC, Canada and the USA later and it’s difficult to imagine the Canucks without Fin.
The larger than life orca with a big appetite for hockey and an even bigger heart is a better fit for the team than anyone ever imagined and looking back, it’s clear he was the perfect choice as mascot.
Happy birthday Fin, we couldn’t be happier you don’t have dreadlocks.