The Philadelphia Flyers’ hugely popular mascot Gritty was one of the major success stories in the National Hockey League last season. But the reach of the social media sensation played no role in the league’s decision to include the Flyers in the 2019 Global Series in Europe, NHL chief revenue officer Keith Wachtel has told SportBusiness.
The Flyers will play an exhibition game against Lausanne HC in Switzerland on September 30 before facing the Chicago Blackhawks on October 4 in Prague in the opening game of the 2019-20 regular season.
With 253,000 followers at the time of writing, Gritty leads all mascots among US major professional sports leagues and collegiate teams on Twitter, and he has appeared on national television in entertainment programs such as ABC’s Good Morning America, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on NBC, and CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The Flyers have two Czech players on their roster – Jakub Voráček and Michal Neuvirth – and the opportunity to bring these two stars back to their home country led to the team’s inclusion in the Global Series, not the team’s goggly-eyed furry mascot, Wachtel said.
“Where we decide where we’re going to go a lot of factors go into it, most importantly players who are from that market that we’re going to. That is the No. 1 priority as we want to bring those stars home and help us with everything to grow and make the event bigger,” Wachtel told SportBusiness at the Hashtag Sports conference in New York.
“Having Gritty is great as someone who has transcended the traditional mascot world, but he was not a factor in the decision,” he said, though Gritty will still be used in marketing by the Flyers and the league around the upcoming event.