How an Edmonton fan convinced Riders gopher to scrap green contacts
'I think, with time, we can accept this new Gainer'
The Saskatchewan Roughriders' beloved mascot unveiled his second makeover of the week on Saturday — and the Edmonton woman who led a nationwide petition for the change considers it a victory.
Ahead of the kickoff against Calgary on Saturday, the Riders posted a video on social media showing Gainer the Gopher in the locker-room tossing his short-lived green contact lenses into the trash.
"It does make a big difference," said Maria Vicente in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "He looks more friendly."
Gainer IS Game Ready.🍉<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ThisIsOurGopher?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ThisIsOurGopher</a> <a href="https://t.co/lxSJIfHCFt">pic.twitter.com/lxSJIfHCFt</a>—@sskroughriders
The video follows fan backlash over his recent makeover.
Rider Nation revolted over the revamped mascot and the team was wise to listen, Vicente said.
"The Roughriders did the right thing," she said. "I think the new Gainer with the black eyes looks better but he will never replace old Gainer in my heart.
"I think, with time, we can accept this new Gainer."
The beloved gopher showed off a new look at the team's home opener on July 1 — and many Saskatchewan fans were unhappy with the visible changes.
The revamped mascot looked like he had spent the off-season in the gym. His eyes were wider and had changed from rodent brown to bright green.
Within 15 minutes of kickoff, the first #NotMyGainer tweet appeared. From there, the movement continued to pick up steam.
The outrage extended to politicians and parents who feared the new Gainer would give their children nightmares.
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Vicente was at a baseball game when a friend sent her a photo of the new Gainer.
Although born and raised in Edmonton — and an Eskimos season ticket holder — Vicente considers herself a "Riders first" fan.
Her first thought?
"He just did not look right," she said. "Honestly, it was his head. His eyes looked really, really creepy."
Vicente launched the petition and by Friday afternoon it had amassed 4,500 signatures.
We've worked all off-season to be under the bright lights. Our favourite gopher is no exception.<br><br>Now, Gainer is more <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CFLGameday?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CFLGameday</a> ready than he's ever been before....<br><br>Find out the rest tonight from Mosaic Stadium.👀<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UniteInGreen?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UniteInGreen</a> <a href="https://t.co/QSqNMcEumN">pic.twitter.com/QSqNMcEumN</a>—@sskroughriders
Everyone who is tweeting <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/notmygainer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#notmygainer</a> is going on my list. <a href="https://t.co/EteXtxMVvW">pic.twitter.com/EteXtxMVvW</a>—@BitterGainer
An Edmonton creation
The previous iteration of Gainer was created by Edmonton-based International Mascot Corporation.
Company president Joel Leveille said he was surprised when he began getting questions about Gainer's new look.
"We're not sure why the Saskatchewan Roughriders chose to develop a new design," Leveille said.
While he has no hard feelings, Leveille said the new look could use some improvements.
"A lot of discussion has been made about the small green eyes that some of the fans found scary," Leveille said.
"The only thing I might suggest with a character like that, is to perhaps enlarge the eyes."
Change is always difficult but Leveille believes the organization will be able to bring the new character to life.
He likens the backlash to the Edmonton Oilers mascot, Hunter. The six-pack sporting lynx also received a chilly reception.
Some of the fan reaction evoked words such as "demon" and "soul-eating wildcats."
Vicente, however, thinks Riders fans may be more stubborn than most.
"Even with the Gainer that emerged on the weekend, we're still getting signatures."