GLENS FALLS -- It’s not unusual for a hockey player to get cut from the team.
But it’s not often that the team’s mascot gets replaced before even taking the ice.
Adirondack Flames President Brian Petrovek said that Scorch, the team’s initial mascot, which did not appear at Saturday’s inaugural home opener, is being replaced after a controversial pre-season unveiling skit in which the puck-headed mascot overpowered an actor portraying a Glens Falls firefighter.
Petrovek said the team has been diligent to market hockey games as family entertainment, and it can’t risk sullying its brand image with controversy over the mascot.
“We’re extinguishing Scorch,” Petrovek said in an interview on Tuesday. “The misjudgment we made was such that we came to that decision.”
The team issued an apology for the skit on Oct. 9, just hours after The Post-Star reported about it.
Scorch was introduced at the news conference that featured a skit with a story line portraying Scorch as the lone flame from the devastating Great Fire of 1864, which destroyed much of downtown Glens Falls.
Scorch supposedly had smoldered 150 years and reignited to get fans “fired up,” (the team’s marketing slogan) to support the new American Hockey League team in town.
In the skit, Scorch overpowered an actor portraying a firefighter in an attempt to show the strength of the mascot and the team.
The plot instantly became a topic of conversation on social media, with some commenters questioning the team’s judgment.
“The firefighter on the ground? Think the Flames might want to embrace firefighters, not beat them up,” said T.J. Cutler, commenting on The Post-Star’s Facebook page.
“Back story of a flame or flames overpowering a firefighter? Poor taste,” said John Kassebaum, another Post-Star Facebook page commenter.
Another said the skit was not offensive.
“Guys, it’s just a mascot. Stop making everything into an argument. Let’s just play hockey,” said JoAnn Mann Dawes, commenting on The Post-Star Facebook page.
In the apology statement, the Flames said that the Glens Falls Fire Department helped put together the skit.
The next day, the Glens Falls Fire Department issued a news release stating that the department’s only involvement was to loan the team firefighting gear.
“Our department had no prior knowledge of the event’s content or the design of the mascot,” the Fire Department said in the statement.
“The Adirondack Flames organization contacted our department and asked us to provide a firefighter for the event,” the department said.
“We denied that request, but in the spirit of cooperation and support for the team, we provided them with a set of firefighting gear.”
The mascot did not appear at the Flames’ home opener at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Saturday, and will not appear ever.
Petrovek said the management is designing a new mascot that will be associated with fun, not fear.
“They (mascots) should be 100 percent fun,” he said. “That’s what our intention has always been, and that’s what it will be moving forward.”
A sports mascot’s job is to increase revenue for the team, by drawing more fans to the game and putting them in a good mood so they spend more at concession stands, said David Raymond, the Phillies Phanatic mascot for 17 seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, in a 2010 interview with The Post-Star.
Some professional sports team mascots make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, he said.
“And the reason why they make that is that they’re driving two or three times that in revenue to their team because they’re doing such a good job with their brand,” said Raymond, now a sports marketing consultant, in the 2010 interview.
Glens Falls Mayor John “Jack” Diamond said Tuesday he would not comment about the mascot beyond the news release the Fire Department issued Friday.
Diamond said city officials did not ask the team’s management to replace the mascot.
“I’ll let the Flames deal with their mascot issue,” Diamond said.
The mayor said he was just happy the Flames had a sell-out crowd for their home opener on Saturday.
“There was a lot of excitement in the building,” he said.
This is not the first time a local hockey team has replaced its mascot, but previous replacement decisions have not been so sudden.
The Adirondack Phantoms, which played five seasons at the Glens Falls Civic Center, replaced their mascot Phlex, a super hero character, after their first season in Glens Falls.
Phlex had come with the team when it relocated from Philadelphia.
The new mascot, Dax, an oversized yellow beaver, quickly became a character that area children loved.
Dax was part of a strategy to rebrand the game experience with more of a Disney-like atmosphere, team ownership said at the time.
The Phantoms relocated to Allentown, Pa., this season, and have a new mascot that looks similar to Dax.
The Adirondack Frostbite of the United Hockey League replaced Knuckles, a polar bear mascot that sometime scared children with his large teeth, in 2005 with Chilly, a new kinder-gently looking polar bear character.
Knuckles had been with the team for just one season.
“He looks a little more friendly, and a little bit more like a polar bear,” Frostbite Assistant General Manager Amy Apicerno said when Chilly was introduced.
“Nothing against Knuckles, but Chilly does look a little friendlier,” she said at the time.