Philly health department clears Gritty for Flyers games, NHL relents

The mascot petitioned the league to be deemed “essential” — and appears to have won.

Gritty Claus

Gritty Claus

Twitter / @GrittyNHL
danyahenninger-headshot-2021sept

💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn email newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.


Update, 10:30 a.m.: According to Gritty on social media, the NHL has relented and will allow the mascot arena access. Said Gritty in response to future quarantine plans, “I’m back.”

Original story below

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition asking the National Hockey League to allow Gritty to attend Flyers games when the pandemic-shortened hockey season kicks off next month. That’s cool with Philly health officials, a spokesperson confirmed — as long as the NHL approves first.

The petition, written in the first person, pleads with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to declare the mascot “essential.”

“Greetings from me, Gritty,” the Change.org campaign reads. “It is with great care that I write to you all in my most desperate, but also most energized, hour.” The note goes on to hype the author’s ability to bring joy and be an “orange light of hope.”

No one would suggest the mascot doesn’t spread amusement and levity wherever it shows up. Would it be COVID-safe to allow Gritty at games?

As long as all the regular safety protocols are followed, yes, according to James Garrow of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health — and he’s sure Gritty would adhere to the rules.

The mascot was spotted early on wearing a face shield, and even did a promo video for the health department in a city-branded mask, Garrow noted. “He’s been excellent at this; we applaud the Flyers and Gritty for continuing to demonstrate best practices.”

As far as actual science goes, character masks are not a substitute for protective face masks, as many medical experts noted around Halloween this year, “but a Gritty head is probably more protective than that,” Garrow said.

The holdup, then, rests solely with the NHL. At issue is the definition the league uses for mascots.

The Sixers, for example, plan to showcase their dancers at home games this year, using the crew to liven up the empty arena. But a different set of rules applies when the Wells Fargo is hosting hockey instead of basketball.

“It’s our understanding that the NHL has decided that the mascots aren’t an essential part of the game,” Garrow said. “They’re basically considered to be spectators, and according to our current guidance there cannot be spectators for indoor events.”

C’mon Gar, as the petition puts it. This mascot is more than a spectator.

If there ever could be someone essential in the world of sports, every Philadelphian, every hockey fan — every person who’s set eyes on the creature and been equal parts inspired and freaked out — knows Gritty is it.

 

Mornings in the know

Sign up for Billy Penn’s free morning newsletter for a daily roundup of Philadelphia’s most pressing news, top interesting stories, fun tidbits, and relevant events.

Thanks for reading another Billy Penn article!

We don’t have a paywall, and never will. Instead, we depend on readers like you to keep our newsroom jamming on stories about Philadelphia. If you like what you see, will you support our work?

Thanks for reading a Billy Penn story

We don’t have a paywall, and our daily newsletter is free. Instead, YOU are key to keeping our nonprofit newsroom running strong. If you like what you see, will you join as a member today?

This story was powered by readers

Readers like you make articles like this possible, so thanks for your support. Want to make sure we stick around? Become a sustainer with a recurring contribution!

Tell a friend about Billy Penn

Thanks for reading another article — and we’re grateful for your support! Want to help a friend start their day with Billy Penn? Send them to our newsletter signup page.

Tagged

Gritty, Sports