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One on one with Sarge-a man of mystery

We have a very passionate fan base. There is no better place to be in Northern Ontario than Memorial Gardens on a big game night.

Say the name Sarge to any North Bay hockey fan, young or old, and they immediately know who you are talking about.

Over the years, different people have taken on the role of Sarge, however, the current North Bay Battalion mascot has been performing his shtick at Battalion home games at Memorial Gardens for the past three seasons.

The mystery man saw the position advertised just after the pandemic.

He credits one particular family member for encouraging him to apply for the position.

“I thought ‘Why not?’ It is a good form of exercise and a fun little hobby to have and I’ve always been a bit of a class clown. So, here I am three seasons later,” chuckled Sarge.     

He will sometimes test some of his antics on a young family member before performing in front of a crowd.

” So, basically, I just do stuff that I know will make me and him laugh, and I think it seems to transfer really well to everyone else in the arena for the most part.”

Sarge knows how and when to get the crowd revved up, rattling the rafters to support their beloved OHL team.

“You can feel it. I’ve been around hockey my entire life and you can feel when the Troops have a little bit of momentum. Maybe it is the other team that is pushing and the energy in the building kind of goes stale and it needs that release. When you feel like the boys on the ice need a bit of a boost, that’s when I’ll try to get the crowd going if they’re not doing it already,” explained Sarge.  

“I try to transfer that positive energy onto the ice. There are times when you actually notice a difference. The players start playing with a bit more intensity when the crowd gets behind them.”

Remaining anonymous is part of the intrigue.

Even the players make a game of trying to figure out who is wearing the uniform.

“I try to avoid contact with them. I don’t want to mess with their thing. There are very, very few players that actually know who I am, and recognize me outside of the suit. And I prefer to keep it that way, honestly,” laughed Sarge.

“It is actually really funny going to some events and you see them trying to peek inside and figure out who I am.”

Sarge enjoys interacting with the children.

“Just seeing their faces, seeing how excited they are to see me is really cool. And just the energy in the building, the excitement. There’s not much to not enjoy about it actually.”

The non-verbal mascot resorts to any one of a number of antics to get the crowd engaged.  

“I'll bang on the metal railings to make as much noise as I can or stand in front of the crowd and get dancing and moving.”

He taps into the energy of the youngsters and their boisterous nature to-- treat them to an electrifying performance.    

“The best thing in the world is finding a bunch of kids between 9 and 15. I can always get them going, get them on the screen and it spreads from there.”

Sarge is like the pied piper, with young hockey fans tagging behind on game night.   

“There is actually a pretty good following at the Battalion games. Sometimes he is walking around the rink and there are 10 to 15 kids following him. It is unbelievable,” noted John McLellan, Battalion Marketing and Business Development

The Battalion organization recognizes the benefits of having their team mascot develop a strong rapport with the fans.   

“Sarge is a very important element to a Battalion home game. He keeps our fans entertained, there is a lot of interaction with our fans, and he also at times puts a little bit of comedy into his act. The feedback we receive from the fans is that he does just an amazing job for us,” shared McLellan.

Out-of-town teams bring their own vibe to the barn.   

“When we’re playing Sudbury for example, there’s so much energy, everybody is so into it. I really don’t have to do a whole lot to be honest because the crowd is doing my job for me. I’ll just try to keep it going when it starts to get quiet,” said Sarge.

“But then there are other games, it might be a Thursday night and we’re playing say Owen Sound where we don’t have a rivalry, they don’t really bring a lot of fans in and that is when it gets a bit more difficult to try to get the fans going and get them engaged.”

His job is to keep the Troops pumped and the fans engaged.

“I wouldn’t say he gets under the skin of the opposing players, that’s not what we want him to do. His job out there is to interact with our fans and make the game a little more entertaining by what he is doing in the stands,” explained McLellan.

“So, the job is not to really get involved with the other team and what they’re doing. I think that was something that was done in the past, but it is not something we encourage.”

It is not uncommon for league mascots to interact with one another, exchanging ideas and stories.

“There’s a group chat with OHL mascots with basically every team minus I think three teams, so we all talk before games. We’ll talk about how to get the crowd going in a particular circumstance, or ask what you would do if you were in this scenario? Or sometimes we’ll try to coordinate and get together and visit other arenas and see videos of each other,” shared Sarge.

McLellan shared times when mascots put on a show for the crowd.

“I think sometimes when Oshawa and Niagara will be playing, the mascot from Oshawa will go to Niagara for the game,” stated McLellan.  

“And I know this year we had a team mascot from Niagara at our game, to add to it a little bit. Sarge put the mascot from Niagara in a headlock and poured popcorn on his head and the fans laughed at that.”      

Sarge hasn’t nailed down a signature move per se.

“I don’t think that I do have one. I used to do the worm the first couple of years. I haven’t done that in a while actually. Maybe I’ll have to break that out again during the playoffs. I think I was doing it too much and wasn’t getting the reaction that it once did. I guess my signature move could be my jumping over the carpet, (before the puck drop) that always seems to do it,” he reflected.  

The man in the uniform finds inspiration all around him.

“Social media is great. There’s always stuff going viral, but you obviously can’t directly take those moves.”

He is currently working on busting out a few new moves for the playoffs.

“I’ve got a couple of things up my sleeve with some things around the city, but I’m not at liberty to divulge them at the moment. We definitely have some new ideas, some new things we’re going to break out.”

When Sarge isn’t rallying the Troops on game day, he is often found visiting local schools, where the youngsters are quick to high-five the mascot.

“I enjoy the interaction with the students. Dealing with the children is the absolute best part of the job, seeing their smiles and how excited they are to see me. There is just so much energy, and that is really fun to be a part of.”

The students enjoy their interaction with Sarge and the players.  

“Our players are involved in the schools. We go into the schools where there are probably 300 to 500 kids. They want to get their picture taken with Sarge as much as they want to get a picture taken with a player,” said McLellan.

Sarge shares the best part of his job.

“It is feeling the energy of the crowd, just being in front of that many people at the Gardens. We have a very passionate fan base. There is no better place to be in Northern Ontario than Memorial Gardens on a big game night. Just to be the centre of all of that is absolutely incredible.”

Sarge will continue to be a dominant force in the arena as the Battalion begins its playoff run.