By Scott Harrigan and Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
November 6, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – While the Victoria Royals get set to host the Edmonton Oil Kings in tonight’s Western Hockey League game in Victoria, a question remains as to whether beloved Royals mascot Marty-the-Marmot will be in the line-up or not, following the between periods incident last Saturday night.
For those of you who may have been living in a marmot burrow for the past five days, as Island Sports News was first to report on Saturday, Marty was unceremoniously tackled and body-slammed to the ice by a contestant in a game of musical chairs, after Marty ran some playful interference that resulted in the contestant being eliminated from the game.
The incident created a huge buzz on social media, not to mention in much of the national media – even making it on TSN’s nationally televised Sports Centre – and fans of Marty have been calling for assault charges to be filed on the disgruntled contestant. You can watch a video of the incident courtesy of CHEK News below:
Victoria Police have said they are investigating the incident, but as of yet, no charges have been laid and the Royals and Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre management are not making any comments on the situation. Of note however is that the Royals have posted on their Facebook page today that, “The over exuberant fan from the weekend has come forward and recognized the inappropriateness of his actions, as well he has made a significant donation to the team Movember Fund.”
Fans of the big guy of course will be wondering if Marty, who appeared to be legitimately injured after the tackle Saturday, will be at the Royals game this evening, performing his usual antics for the crowd.
Both Marty – via his Facebook page – and the Royals have said that yes, Marty will be there and while Marty the “character” will no doubt be on the ice and in the stands, the question remains as to whether the person in the suit, the real human being, that played Marty Saturday and who does so regularly, will be there, or if a substitute will be in their place.
Only the person who was playing Marty on Saturday, as well as Royals management know for sure whether that individual was injured badly enough to have to take a break from his or her duties as the Royals mascot.
Marty leads the Royals on to the ice during a recent game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
As noted, the Royals are not commenting on any aspect of the issue, but an article in today’s Times-Colonist newspaper noting that WorkSafe BC is investigating the incident leads one to believe that the person was injured, as it is not likely that WorkSafe BC would be investigating unless an injury report and claim were made.
Part of the speculation as to why the Royals are not commenting on the issue, as well as why the person inside the suit has not yet filed charges (if they in fact plan on doing so), is that this would likely result in the identity of that person becoming known to the public.
The person who plays Marty, according to all accounts, has done so since his “birth” with the Salmon Kings and the Royals have gone to pretty great lengths to keep his or her identity secret, including as an example, having Marty conduct a formal one-on-one interview with ISN totally in character.
The fear most likely is that “outing” that person may take some of the mystique away from Marty, the character, a sentiment that one of these authors can relate to, after the person who played Seamore the Seal (the former Victoria Seals mascot) revealed his out-of-costume self following a game one night.
Think of it like this, have you ever listened to a radio station or a DJ and had a image of what that person looked like? Then had a chance to see or meet that person? It’s never, ever what you had pictured in your head and you are perhaps left disappointed somewhat. It is the same case here. To learn what he/she looks like would probably take away from the persona of the character of the Marmot for many a fan.
After all let’s be honest here, Marty has taken on a life of his own so to speak. He has become a community icon around these parts, winning Mascot of the Year and being a very public figure at many charity events around town. Fans of the Marmot are now fans and or season ticket holders of the team, whereas they probably weren’t huge hockey fans before. Credit for this goes to the Royals front office and the actor inside Marty as well, for doing such a great job marketing and animating this character.
Marty with one of his many young fans (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
However one has to ask whether Marty, the mascot, has become bigger than the Royals, the team? He seems to always be in the news more then the team itself and when you think of the Royals you can’t help but associate the mascot along with this.
So the question we personally have is this, “What would you the FAN , the season ticket holder, feel, if the the original actor playing Marty was too injured to perform, or had to be replaced ? Does it matter who plays Marty? Would you care if the person who plays Marty is identified, in general, or even in the interest of justice (assuming legal charges on the incident proceed)? Would it take away from your enjoyment of a game? Or your enjoyment of Marty’s antics? Would you be disappointed?
We suspect that most fans at tonight’s game will likely be very pleased to see Marty – the character – back on the ice and most will likely not be able to tell the difference between the regular person that plays Marty, versus a substitute person, if one is used.
Marty entertains the fans at a recent game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
However long-time fans and keen observers might be able to tell if a new actor took over and for them it might matter and might make a difference in their enjoyment of both Marty and the game.
From a legal perspective the Royals silence on the issue to this point is understandable, as it potentially raises a number of complicated issues not only around Marty’s true identity, but also around a re-examination of their contest formats, contestant selection process for their promotions, mascot and contestant antics during such contests and the like.
One thing for certain though, is that the Royals are certainly going to reap the benefits of the huge publicity storm around the incident, as no doubt a few extra fans will be in attendance at tonight’s game and perhaps future games just to see Marty, offer their support, and to see how he performs in light of everything that has happened.
If this helps put fans in the seats and charges the crowd up, and the Royals tear it up with a nice long winning streak, well maybe just maybe, from a team perspective, all this attention was worth it.
Team management will tell you that wins and losses are all that matter in hockey but, as we are finding out (only in Victoria), the big furry Marmot seems to play a key role on this team that is much bigger than perhaps the Royals even realized.
Puck drop tonight is at 7:05 pm, but be there early, as Marty usually leads the charge on to the ice just a few minutes before that.