Depending on your point of view, mascots are either an enjoyable in-game ritual or an annoying sideshow circus.
Both teams playing in tonight’s Mastercard Memorial Cup final - the Ontario League champion Windsor Spitfires and the host city Brandon Wheat Kings – have used these creative caricature concoctions to pump up their crowds over the years.
Brandon’s mascot is Willie, a fetching, floppy-eared dog, easily adapted to his cold climate home judging by how comfortable he is in skates and hockey pants.
Bomber, the Spitfires official mascot is a toothy, rugged pilot complete with aviator shades for a 1940s retro look that pays homage to the famed World War II fighter plane.
These characters each have a certain appeal but according to Spitfires defenseman Saverio Posa they have nothing on Sammy Uprichard, a young Windsor boy who is the team’s living, breathing mascot.
“I call him a good luck charm but I call him my favourite fan as well,” said Posa upon seeing Sammy greet players coming off the ice after a practice.
“Every time I see him he’s always there to cheer on the guys. He’s very supportive and I love the kid to death.”
Uprichard, who is wheelchair bound reciprocates the praise with a high-five.
“It’s actually breathtaking, seeing a kid you know won’t be able to play the sport being very supportive. It’s quite touching,” reflected Posa
Throughout the tournament Uprichard has been a fixture for the reigning Memorial Cup champions in their quest to become the first back-to-back winners since the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and 1995.
“Seeing this little guy, he’s always ready for the boys to come out of the locker room. It’s so good to see him there,” said Posa. “He’s always got that bright smile one his face no matter how bad things are going for the team.”
Tonight Posa and the Spitfires will be setting their sights on giving Sammy Uprichard and the rest of their fans the biggest, and final smiles of the season.