The first mascot in Edmonton Oilers history, Hunter the Lynx, has already sparked debate among fans.
Unveiled in late September, the Canadian lynx mascot was chosen to represent the Oilers after a survey of 2,200 Edmonton students from kindergarten to Grade 9. Hunter will replace the Octane cheer squad as the Oilers’ newest mid-game diversion.
But since Hunter is the first mascot in Oiler history, and the team’s image doesn’t easily lend itself to a mascot, fans may have trouble resonating with the new face of the franchise, according to Dan Mason, a sports management professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation.
“The best (mascots) are the ones that linked to the heritage of the organization,” Mason said. “They mean something specifically to the people who are fans of the organization itself.”
So far, some hockey fans are apprehensive of Hunter.
Hunter the Lynx is…uh…different but I the kids like him, then that’s all that matters! #Mascot
— Preston Hodgkinson (@PrestonKixFM) September 27, 2016
Saturday. I’m sipping coffee, sitting w/ my kids. It’s great.
Still, I can’t shake the feeling that Hunter the Lynx is out there, waiting.
— Sean Tierney (@SeanTierneyTss) October 8, 2016
— Dinner Television (@Dinner_TV) September 26, 2016
The Oilers did connect Hunter to the team’s history, however. The mascot takes his name after “Wild” Bill Hunter, the founder and former owner of the Oilers. The franchise also likely tried to stand out by making its mascot unique, Mason said.
“The Oilers didn’t take (creating a mascot) lightly, and probably put a lot of time and effort into what they wanted to do,” Mason said.
The downside of Hunter’s original appearance is that it will take a lot of time for the fans to get used to his appearance. Fans might also feel hesitate to accept the lynx due to the Oilers’ recent move to Roger’s Place — a new mascot could be seen as another way for the the team’s owners to make money, Mason said.
Mason added that Hunter’s negative reactions may have simply come from fan culture, because “people who associate with sports franchises don’t like change.” He noted that fans still may change their minds with time — and Oilers victories.
“If the team is successful, then people will associate the mascot with the times the team is successful,” Mason said. “Or if it becomes part of the community, then you will see it be embraced. But I think it will take a long time to do that.”
Regardless of the backlash, Mason said Hunter is still an improvement over the last Oilers diversion.
“It’s better to have a mascot than a cheer team,” Mason said. “If you’re going to have something to fill in time, I’d rather have a semi-scary mascot than a group of women who are objectifying themselves.”