Let’s talk about the laziest series of choices a sports franchise has ever made. A series of market research decisions so brain-numbingly banal that when put together in its final form can barely hold its shape in this reality. Carlton the Bear is such a breathy groan of a mascot that he is in constant danger of evaporating into our own subconscious. If someone told me I was misremembering Carlton ever existing while talking about some Mandela effect bullshit I’d be inclined to believe them.
MLSE, the ownership group behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, has more money than Canadian God. So it comes as no surprise they brought into this world the car commercial of mascots. This is not true across the board for MLSEs mascots. The Raptors have an inflatable version of the OG Raptor (who rocks) that bounces around and eats actors pretending to be douchebags in opponents jerseys before it spits out a skeleton. Even their other hockey franchise – the Marlies – have Duke the Dog, and I hope I’m not overstating the facts when I say that Duke the Dog is one of the greatest mascots in the history of time. He’s got floppy ears and is presumably a VERY good boy. There are not enough dog mascots and too many damn cats, but we can get into that another time.
Stuffed bears are the nothing choice, they are everywhere and slapping your logo on one has been done by every brand attempting to condition children into connecting their brand with the first thing they ever loved. There are two other bears in the NHL and they would both Revenant the shit out of Carlton. However, his lack of substance would leave them hungry and they would starve to death.
What the designers could have done to show any amount of commitment to Carlton would have been to finish him. Just look at his “legs”. Someone clearly ordered too much fuzzy white fabric and they used it all on his bottom half. His sad sagging haunches flap around and droop off of the form of the performer wearing the costume. Without a finished costume, it is impossible to see Carlton as a character; his form is barely a veneer covering the Oakville skate instructor inside.
His name is a go-to Leafs tradition of throwing back to glory days; a sad attempt to convince their fan base that there was a time when the Leafs were good (they never were). MLSE needs you to remember. That’s why they named him Carlton, so young fans will ask their parents, “Why the fuck is that bear named Carlton?”
And they’ll say, “It’s a street.”
And the kid will say, “Why is he named after a street?”
And the parent will say, “Because we used to beat 5 other teams… sometimes.”
And the kid will ask, “What happened when the NHL got more than five other teams?”
And the silence will say everything.
Carlton The Bear is not the Mascot of Toronto Maple Leafs, but rather a 50 year Stanley Cup drought. Without inept management, neither would exist. He is the mascot of absence, of lack thereof. Carlton is the mascot of Nothing.