MascotInsider is pleased to present another great mascot interview staring Top Dog Owner Of Street Characters Inc. Let’s begin..
1. What are some of your memories from your first game as Harvey the Hound?
Wow, that was a looong time ago, I don’t recall my first game. What I do recall is the Flames back then were like the Chicago Bulls when they had Michael Jordan – tickets to the game were extremely hard to get. That meant that most of the crowd were businessmen from Downtown. The average age was in the 50’s and the vast majority were college graduates – the only time you saw any kids at the game was if it was Saturday Afternoon. This highly educated, white collar crowd was exactly the kind of crowd you would expect wouldn’t work for a mascot, yet when the Flames did season Ticket Holder surveys, Harvey consistently scored as their favorite thing at a Flames Game – after the hockey of course!
2. What kind of advice could you give someone who wants to become a professional mascot, but doesn’t know where to begin?
If you can believe it I get lots of email from people who have never been in a costume who ask how they can become a major league mascot, as if all they had to do was put on a costume! I explain they need to get some experience. Start by volunteering for a local charity, find out if you can assist the mascot at a minor league team. From there you will get to know the Team as well as other mascots in the area, continue to get as much experience as possible, remember, at this point it has to be about getting experience and not getting paid. As you get more and more experience and start to move up the ladder other organizations will start to hear about you and other mascots will tell you about job openings. Most importantly, make sure you get a video of your best stuff to make an audition video.
Being a mascot these days is pretty much like being a player, you start off because you love it, then you may play for your school, then a Minor League, Team or Teams, then hopefully you’ll get your big break and make it to the Majors.
3. What started Harvey the Hound’s feud with TSN broadcaster Gary Green?
That was a long standing feud with several Chapters. The event that got it all going was at a game at Halloween. It was a very one sided game, Calgary was up several goals at the end of the first period. At the start of the Intermission Gary had the unfortunate task of recapping a stinker of a game. He was standing in the corner with the rink behind him trying to find something interesting to say. Harvey was standing behind Gary listens intently, Harvey then started the motion that he was shovelling something (presumably manure), then made the motion that something really smelled. The crowd was loving it and even though Harvey was behind him, Gary could see what was going on through his monitor. On TV you could see him looking off to the side of the monitor and being somewhat distracted as he watched the antics behind him.
He finally said “I can’t take this anymore, this dog is driving me crazy”, he dropped the mike, grabbed Harvey around the throat and started banging the Hound’s head against the glass. The crowd loved it!
TSN had a game the next night in Vancouver, apparently as Gary walked through the Vancouver Airport people were stopping him and asking “What did you do to that poor dog last night?” From there the battle was on.
My favorite Story was when TSN was in Calgary on Trade Day. Harvey was walking around with a telephone in one hand, and a sign in the other that reads “Telephone Call for Gary Green”. Harvey then got down in front of a camera and held up another sign “You’ve been traded…” then flipped the sign over where the backside said “To the Home Shopping Network!”
It was classic.
4. Was there another mascot you learned from?
No, when Harvey was started he was the first mascot in the NHL and one of the first in Pro Sports. We were pioneers so to speak as there were only a handful of mascots.
When I train people today, though I do tell them a great way to learn is to watch other mascots. You will pick up new moves and variations of what you’re doing now. There’s more than one way to show you’re in love with a girl, or angry for example.
5. Where did you get the name “Top Dog?”
When I started Street Characters I wanted to have a title that better reflected who were are, and more fun. The president sounded just too formal. People seem to really love it as well.
6. How did you deal with a crowd that lacked energy?
I’m going to answer this question a little differently.
People often ask me what the biggest mistake is that’s made with a mascot. You’ll be surprised, but my answer is always, “They use them too much”.
Like any team, the Flames didn’t play their best every night. In those instances where they stunk it didn’t matter what Harvey did, it would just aggravate the fans more because they weren’t in the mood. If you try to force yourself on them you end up just aggravating them.
During those times we would take a long break in our dressing room. Hopefully something positive would happen and you could build on that when you came back out. Usually, Harvey’s absence was also noticeable, so they were much more responsive when he returned.
You want to make sure you don’t overstay your welcome, and if the crowd isn’t happy to see you, get the hell out of there.
7. How did you deal with the times that YOU lacked energy?
One word, “Bananas.”
8. What did you do during off-season?
Harvey was kept busy all season, in the off season the Flames would travel to the small towns and the players would challenge the locals to a softball game. Harvey was there for both comic relief, pitched a few games, and even saved a home run by catching the ball in his dog bowl!
From a personal standpoint, we live on the edge of the mountains, it seems like you’re always doing something outdoors.
9. What was your favorite thing to do as a mascot?
Harvey’s signature move was walking along the top of the glass, his feet would slip, and he would end up straddling the glass. You could hear every Male in the building going “Ohhh”.
One year, we delivered “Kingston” a new character to the LA Kings. I was asked if I would wear the costume for the unveiling at a game. During my briefing a section was pointed out to me and I was told “Don’t go near there, they’re crazy, they’ll tear you apart!” When they introduced me I looked at my boss, then pointed to the section I was told to stay away from, then looked back at him to see him saying “NO, NO, NO”, I gave him a little wave and headed directly into the middle of that section. Fortunately, it had a narrow metal railing and I did my full thing. From that point on I had them eating out of my hands. They could see I was literally busting my you know what for them.
I’ve been happily married for 20 years now, no kids though, can’t figure out why!
10. Do you remember any fans who left a big impression on you during your career?
Not any specifics, the great thing about Hockey is that you’re in the crowd pretty much for the entire game. I would say that most Hockey mascots are really good at interacting with the crowd from the entire building down to one individual fan.
The best ones are the ones that play along because the spontaneous bits are usually the funniest. We never tried to embarrass anyone, we always made sure the victim was having as much fun as everyone else.
I remember one time Harvey seeing a fan with the opposing team’s jersey on. Harvey stopped and pointed him out to the crowd. Then motioned to the fan to come down and fight him. The fan was laughing and finally stood up and came down the stairs. Turns out this guy was huge and towered over Harvey. The look on Harvey’s face was “Oh crap”.
The fan picked up Harvey and threw him over his shoulders and proceeded to carry Harvey back up the stairs. Harvey looked down, and there, in this guy’s back pocket was his wallet! Harvey casually reached down, plucked the wallet out of his pocket and then hid it in the costume.
The fan puts Harvey down and then shook his hand as though it was all in good fun – no hard feelings. The fan sat down and Harvey ran down the stairs in front of the section, and pulled out the wallet. The fan was busy high fiving his buddies about how he showed the Hound while Harvey was in front of everyone going through the wallet. Finally, someone said to the guy “Hey, where’s your wallet?” The guy checks his back pocket and then sees Harvey. He comes down and snatches his wallet while Harvey is looking through it.
Harvey’s look is “Hey, what just happened?”
The fan returned to his seat with smiles all around (including his own).
The highlight of my career was when I ran the mascot program for the Calgary Stampede. During the Medal Ceremonies of the ’88 Olympics I was on stage with a band as the warm up act. The band would have the crowd participating in every song and it was great being in control of 60,000 fans from around the World every night during the Olympics.