By ALAN SNEL
It would have been too easy for a team named the Golden Knights to come up with a dragon as their mascot. Besides, the New York Islanders, another NHL team, already has a dragon for a mascot.
No, this rookie NHL team in Las Vegas found its mascot in the Nevada desert — a gila monster character named, “Chance,” who (as the VGK story goes) was empowered by his love for Golden Knights hockey to shed his reclusive, shy ways to become an endearing, skating “Golden” gila monster mascot for children and adults alike.
And as team marketing lore has it, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley took a “Chance” on Las Vegas. Ba-da-bum.
The Golden Knights unveil their mascot, Chance, tonight at the start of the game when the skating gila monster winds a siren for the team “Battle Cry.” Before each game, a different local celebrity, fan, first responder or community leader will get a crack at sounding the siren.
Tonight, the Golden Knights figured winding the siren was a good way to introduce Chance to 17,000 fans.
The team has hired mascot character actor Clint McComb to play Chance. McComb is a mascot veteran, playing the role of “Rampage” for the Los Angeles Rams and serving as the mascot for the NFL Arizona Cardinals and the Arizona State teams.
“He was the only mascot who does black flips. I don’t know if he’ll do back flips on the ice,” Golden Knights Chief Marketing Officer Brian Killingsworth told LVSportsBiz.com. “There’s nobody better for the role.”
The Golden Knights also rolled out a more realistic-looking character, a guy playing an actual knight wearing gold armor who strolled with fans from the Brooklyn Bridge to T-Mobile Arena for tonight’s Golden Knights-Detroit Red Wings match at 7:30 p.m.
Chance and the knight will be all-purpose characters that the Golden Knights will use for visits to hospitals, charity events and schools, Killingsworth said.
Chance will serve as a conduit for young fans, he said.
“When you develop a fandem in kids, the live experience is incredible. For a lot of kids, the first impression is that of the mascot,” said Killingsworth, who also served as the chief marketing officer for NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “We think kids will be excited.”
Killingsworth said a priority was also being original and innovative with the mascot character. He said the only other gila monster mascot he knows is at a small college.
The team did take a look at a dragon character and other mascots in the style of a Barney or Phillie Phanatic. But in the end, the marketing staffers went with the desert creature and built a story line of how the reclusive, slow gila monster made new friends and could even skate after discovering hockey’s powers to become a “Golden” gila monster. OK.
The fact that McComb has an athletic background is part of the trend in the mascot industry. Performers playing mascots have become more nimble in their moves, and now come from gymnastic, athletic or acting backgrounds.
The Golden Knights used VStar Entertainment in Minneapolis to design the Chance costume. The back of mascot head has a disco ball “Las Vegas shine,” Killingsworth said. He noted the team has ordered Chance the “Golden” gila monster novelty items such as toys and T-shirts, which should be on sale in five to six weeks.
“Not too many people have done the gila monster,” he said. “It’s native to the desert and has an attractability.”
That’s the power of sports. What other entertainment genre can give a gila monster the power of attractability?
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com