Do you have what it takes to fill these big fuzzy shoes?

The Oilers Entertainment Group is looking for the next performer to become Hunter the lynx. Who can step up and rally a sellout crowd and what would it take?

'You have to have a smile on your face, despite the fact that nobody can even see your actual face'

What does it take to be a mascot?

6 years ago
Duration 1:40
Being a mascot is more difficult than it looks as CBC's John Robertson finds out in his NAIT Ook tryout.

Are you ready for never-ending high-fives?

Are you ready to get more than 18,000 people pumped up?

Are you ready for screams of joy every time you walk into a room, or the ability to sustain rivalries with opponents without saying a single word?

Then this might be the job for you.
Oilers mascot Hunter the lynx firing up the Edmonton crowd. (CBC News)

The Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) is seeking a performer to step into the oversized shoes of Hunter, the Oilers' lynx mascot unveiled last year.  And according to its Aug. 16 ad, the OEG is not looking for just anybody to step up and raise the roof.

Candidates are asked to have a post-secondary degree, or to be enrolled in a post-secondary program, and have a "keen knowledge of hockey." Also required is a "minimum of three years' experience at the collegiate, minor or professional-league level."

You would be expected to be Hunter in the suit for up to four hours at a time, never losing your non-verbal enthusiasm.

Core responsibilities and duties of the new full-time Hunter will include "interaction with fans, children and clients while inside the mascot suit" and the ability to "maintain and care for costume, props and signs used during in-game or community events."

You would get to be at all Oilers home games, but your view would be somewhat restricted. Overall, you'd be expected to be Hunter at 100 to 150 public events a year.

To see if I could make it in the mascot world, I decided to try my skills out by suiting up as Ook, mascot for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology sports teams. NAIT is in the process of hiring its own performer.

Even though the costume doesn't weigh very much, you feel the sense of history and school pride as you look out at the world through the mascot's eyes.

"You get to be a big part of all the events and sometimes people just like to be that centre of attention, so I think for certain personalities, it's a really good job," said Sam Nahrgang, NAIT's sports information, promotions and events coordinator.

"It just adds to the atmosphere and give the fans something else to cheer about and keeps the energy level high and hopefully the home team, I guess NAIT, will thrive off that and lead to success."
Sam Nahrgang with NAIT Athletics knows what it is like to be the performer in the NAIT Ook at public events. (John Robertson/CBC)

The Ook costume is by Edmonton-based International Mascot Corp., which produces 1,000 to 1,500 mascot costumes each year at facilities in Edmonton and Atlanta, Ga.

"We find out really what the environment is, what the demands are," said company president Joel Leveille. "Are they going to be doing bungee jumping, are they doing rappelling, are they doing acrobatics are they dancing on stage?"

Oilers mascot Hunter is what Leveille calls a "high-performance" character for performers who need "lots of mobility."

International Mascot started in 1983 making costumes for 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics mascots Hidy and Howdy.
International Mascot Corp. started with creating the mascots "Hidy" and "Howdy" for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. (International Mascot Corporation)

"When we built it back in the old days, it was, 'Let's make the right shape and the right look,' " Leveille said.

"Yeah, we had to make it fit a person back then but today we have to make it far more functional for vision, to have mobility, and it has to be comfortable for the performer to wear."

Today there are two major styles of mascot costumes — meet and greet and high-performance.

New types of foam materials make them less bulky, wider fields of vision and electric fans to keep the performers cool. Shoes can attach to skies or skates. There are even ways to make sure the head stays on during riskier manoeuvres.
Joel Leveille, president of International Mascot Corp., has been bringing mascots to life for over 30 years. (John Robertson/CBC)

The University of Alberta has two mascots, GUBA (Great University Bear of Alberta) for men's teams and Patches, for the women's teams.

Several performers help the mascots bring joy to the fans, especially the younger ones, said Connor Hood, the U of A's director of sports information.

"It is an important job for the people filling those shoes because of all the joy that they do bring to fans," Hood said.

"It would be an incredibly difficult job because despite being inside the mascot suit, you really have to be on your game for the three to four hours as long as the event is or the game is."

"You have to have a smile on your face, despite the fact that nobody can even see your actual face."

As of this week, the Oilers Entertainment Group had not found the person who will bring Hunter to life this hockey season.

Hunter entertains at Oilers home games, pep rallies and other community events. (CBC News)