After a triumphant season of his own, Rocco King, Powell River Kings’ lion mascot, is looking forward to cheering on his favourite team at the home opener on Friday, September 6, and is asking the community to join him.
“To me it feels like a different year at the rink,” said Rocco. “I’m excited to see the number of new faces who will be playing on the ice. I’m going to be cheering them on and want [Powell River’s] help, too.”
Earlier this year, Rocco was one of 12 mascots from across Canada and the United States who travelled to Vernon to compete in the inaugural Okanagan Mascot Games. The friendly competition was created to raise funds for BC Children's Hospital and Kelowna General Hospital Foundation’s JoeAnna’s House, a facility in the Okanagan similar to Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver.
Along with hospital visits to sick children in the Okanagan and fan meet and greets, the mascots competed in events including a relay course, jousting tournament, apple cart races, lip sync and dance battle.
Rocco was joined by competitors Sniper from the BC Hockey League’s Vernon Vipers; Silver Fox from SilverStar Mountain Resort; Breadhead from Cobs Bread; Parka the Beaver, representing Parks Canada; Beacon the Beaver of West Kelowna’s Kizzmit Tourism; Rocky from the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets; and also from the BCHL, The General from the West Kelowna Warriors and HarVee of the Penticton Vees.
Contestants from the United States included Biscuit the Bulldog from Allen Americans Hockey Club in Texas, and Nugget, a donkey representing the Rapid City Rush hockey club from South Dakota; both from minor professional hockey league ECHL. Finally, Victor E. Tigers of Fayetteville, Tennessee, was the only high school competitor participating in the games this year.
Although the top prize and mascot-sized championship ring went to Parka, Rocco did not come home empty-handed.
“I won the Fan Favourite, Mascot’s Mascot, and Best of the BCHL Mascots,” he said.
Rocco was invited back to compete in the recently announced 2020 mascot games and will serve as an ambassador for the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. After this year’s games, Rocco participated in BC Children’s Hospital fundraiser RBC Race for the Kids in June, and was profiled on three episodes of a US-based podcast called The Unsuited. The show, recorded in Florida, looks at the world of mascotting and the individuals behind it.
“In the US mascots are huge,” said Rocco.
Unlike the majority of mascots who are paid, Rocco works on a volunteer basis.
“Players, coaches and staff go, but the mascot stays,” he added.
Since the episodes have aired, he has gained admirers from across the continent.
“I’ve had fans all across the US who have messaged me through Facebook and asked me to sign autographs,” he said. “Powell River was already on the map, but [the show] highlighted mascotting here.”
For Rocco, the best part of his work remains the positive impact he can make.
“Smiles are pretty contagious,” he said. “And it's an amazing thing to walk in a room and you’ve just made people smile.”
Kings host Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday, August 30, at Hap Parker Arena to complete their exhibition schedule. Game time is 5 pm.
The two teams also meet in Powell River for the first game of the regular season on Friday, September 6, starting at 7 pm.