The Frost Heaves' mascot is more than just a moose
Posted: Wednesday May 31, 2006 2:12PM; Updated: Wednesday May 31, 2006 2:12PM
Meet the newest member of the Frost Heaves, the Canadian-born moose, Bump.
Alexander Wolff will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
I drove with my wife, Vanessa, and our two young children to the Montreal suburbs last week to fetch the Frost Heaves' mascot. He's a moose, and in light of what a frost heave is, we're calling him Bump.
An eponymous Day-Glo orange road sign graces the back of his jersey, and half an ABA basketball sits atop his head like a yarmulke.
Bump is the creation of Jean-ClaudeTremblay, who has designed hundreds of such creatures, including Youppi! of the late Montreal Expos, and Champ, the mascot of our neighbors, the Class A New York-Penn League Vermont Lake Monsters.
Mascots can be the cash cows (or lions or tigers or bears) of minor league sports, for they attract the essential kids-with-parents demographic. (As the Vermont Expos, the Lake Monsters had the worst record in the minors in 2003 and still drew 100,000 fans, thanks largely to the lovable, Loch Nessian Champ. No wonder management has named the team after him, or at least his species.) And while the Expos may be gone, the Montreal Canadiens paid $350,000 for the rights to take in Youppi! as an orphan, and over the course of one season -- thanks to appearance fees, sponsorship deals and merchandise sales -- Les Habs have already recouped their investment.
Tremblay's son, Dominic, gave us a tutorial in Mascot 101. Under no circumstances may a mascot talk or reveal the human being within. In all cases, a mascot must have a biography -- a whimsical backstory that's a wellspring for sympathy.
The gist of Bump's bio: He's a native Vermonter who, like all moose, is drawn to roadsides in the spring to lick road salt. Struck by a car as a young moose, he repaired to a nearby farm to convalesce, where he fell in love with a cow. But his family lured him back to the woods, where he continued to search for his bovine soulmate, which led him to wander down Interstate 91 and over the state line.
There he stumbled into a University of Massachusetts alumni game, in which former ABA great Julius "Dr. J" Erving dunked an ABA ball so ferociously that it became embedded in his head. That mishap hooked him on the throwback spirit of the red-white-and-blue league. Bump hasn't lost his passion for the game since returning to Vermont -- nor has he given up his thing for that elusive Holstein honey.
Dominic Tremblay pulled on the Bump costume while our kids waited in the parking lot, then enchanted them with a halting, slapstick appearance worthy of Dick Van Dyke. (Ever try to pass through a doorway with an antlerspan of almost six feet?) Before we entered the Tremblays' mascot factory -- a catacomb of drafting tables, fabric rolls, seamstresses' stations, oversized sinks and dryers, and disembodied heads smiling from walls -- Dominic had stealthily ducked inside and changed out of Bump's costume. That meant that as far as our kids were concerned, the huge black bag we slung in the back of the car contained a living, breathing, napping moose.
"I want to show Bump around the house," our four-year-old, Frank, said during the ride back.
Hearing this, Vanessa and I shot looks at each other. Bump isn't only the strangest thing we've ever brought through customs; he's also a Santa Claus-sized fiction we'll be obliged to maintain for as long as we can.