WHITING — With 18 NHL mascots in the building, 5-year-old Joey Rotkvich was most excited to see the Mascot Hall of Fame’s Reggy.
“He’s my favorite mascot,” the Chicago resident said. “It’s the mascot hall of fame.”
Joey and his father, Joe Rotkvich, were in Whiting on Monday to see the kickoff for the NHL Mascot Conference, which will be held in Chicago this week.
Children swarmed the furry dancers after they were introduced and shuffled and swung down the stairs. They took selfies, gave hugs and high fives plus had 10-second dance offs with preteens.
“They’re wonderful in their interactions with kids, students, families, disabled people, older people,” Mascot Hall of Fame Director of Community Relations Al Spajer said.
Tommy Hawk was announced last and drew the biggest cheers as he danced down the stairs to The Fratellis' “Chelsea Dagger.” The delightfully weird Gritty of the Philadelphia Flyers was also popular.
The St. Louis Blues’ Louie heard a smattering of boos after his introduction.
“This is something we’ve looked forward to this for a couple years,” Spajer said.
The men and women inside the costumes toured the hall of fame after the event.
The Hall has a good relationship with Tommy Hawk and the Blackhawks, Spajer said. They reached out and the hall had an open date.
“It’s tremendously important (to host this event). You can see by the turnout here on a Monday afternoon,” Spajer said. “Stuff like this legitimizes us, in terms of letting people know we’re a facility that’s top-notch. We’re very happy to have them here.”
Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura agreed. He was on hand, as well, donning a bright, multi-colored jacket for the occasion.
“If you don’t have mascots come to the Mascot Hall of Fame, you can’t energize your visitors. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Stahura said. “We’re very thankful to the Blackhawks and Tommy Hawk for doing this.”
Stahura said the hall of fame is vital to the economy of his city.
“You can’t sustain a downtown business district, you can’t have a city that’s going to grow economically unless you can do something to bring people here,” he said. “We wanted to do something for kids that’s going to be educational, going to be fun and hopefully parents and grandparents bring some money to spend downtown.”