Toronto Maple Leafs: He’s No Gritty But We Love him

Toronto Maple Leafs -Carlton the Bear (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs -Carlton the Bear (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t played in a while, which leaves one to wonder what has become of Carlton the Bear.

Carlton the Bear may not be the most high profile mascot in the National Hockey League but he still holds a special place in the hearts of Toronto Maple Leafs fans.

Carlton the Bear has been the  Leafs mascot since 1995.

Aptly named after Carlton Street in Toronto, this anthropomorphic polar bear has appeared in over 20 NHL arenas during his career.

The History of Carlton and the Toronto Maple Leafs

Carlton the Bear made his NHL debut on October 10, 1995, in a 7–3 win over the New York Islanders.

He was given the jersey number 60 in honour of  Carlton Street, where Maple Leaf Gardens stood. Mike Ferriman was the man behind the bear for 17 years before a switch in 2009.

Now, Toronto has a plethora of great mascots beyond Carlton; Jason the MascotAceDuke the DogRaptorIggy, and Bitchy the Hawk, however, most go unnoticed for the likes of the Phillie Phanatic and Gritty.

I am here to tell you all that although our mascot might not be a larger version of Animal from The Muppets, he’s still an amazing bear that deserves our love and attention. Consider this blog post my rebuttal to my those who claim “[w]ithout a doubt, the Raptor is the best mascot in the city of Toronto.”

Why Carlton Reigns Supreme

Like all of the Original Six teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs are one rich with history. Their fans come from generations upon generations of Leaf fans before them and although venues may change and players are traded, the mascot is a consistent reminder of both the past and the generation to come.

It can be a tumultuous ride being a Leafs fan; the team is always lacking consistency. Stanning Carlton the Bear will be one of the only consistent factors of this Leafs team we can guarantee. He’s a veteran guy, good for locker room morale, and is already part of Mitch Marner’s charm.

While mascots are meant to pump up a crowd, there is often a political debate behind them. These fun loving costumes and logos are often used as one the quickest arguments against diversity in sports. The Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, and other sports which use Native American stereotypes as their brands are heavily criticized for their lack of respect.

Comparing Carlton to one of our closest competitors, Montreal couldn’t even develop their own mascot (they had to steal it from the Expos!). Even across sports Carlton’s uniqueness is unambiguous. I mean, hey, at least our mascot isn’t extinct (although Polar bears are getting closer).

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Toronto doesn’t need a shiny, over the top mascot to draw attention to our sport. Toronto has the city it built for over 100 years as it’s base. Our mascot Carlton is merely an echo of our values, tradition and honouring the past. Carolina can keep their Storm Surges, they need it more than us, because Carlton (an animal that is actually still alive) is thawing our hearts.