We've been on a "creative break" for much of the week but have no fear, Top-5 Thursday is here. It seemed fitting that since First Round Bust has been on vacation, this week's topic should head down to Florida and cover the Minnesota Wild's new ECHL affiliate Orlando Solar Bears. The Solar Bears are a new version of the old IHL team, who featured such players as Todd Richards and Houston Aeros all-star Kirby Law, and begin play this year at the new Amway Center (I have to think the Wild have to be the only team to have two minor league teams play in the NBA arenas while they don't although there is no research to back it up).
They also have Shades, the coolest mascot this side of ice cream.
While Nordy, the Wild's wolfbearcatwhatever mascot, is slightly scary and not my cup of tea, Shades the Solar Bear is. Top five reasons are below.
1. The Caruso Factor
Orlando may be outside Horatio Caine's jurisdiction of Miami but that doesn't matter for this bear. Like the only detective in Miami besides Sonny Crockett and Dexter Morgan, Shades solves mysteries like "who would be a hockey mascot in Florida?" and "can fans be entertained?" (answer: yes) all while wearing Caruso's trademark sunglasses. And while he/she may not speak English, you know Shades is throwing out one-liners like this in Bear:
Shades is keeping it cool wearing...shades. YEAAAAAAAAAA!
2. Having the swag to wear a shirt with his/her face on it
Some may see this as narcissistic or even a little redneck but there is a sense of confidence being the face of an organization. Everyone has their eyes on Shades and wearing a shirt that has the bear's face on it is both funny and ironic.
Take note hipsters.
3. Shades is a "Solar" Bear
Not a polar bear - although it looks like Shades could be cousins with the Coca-Cola bears who show up on television every Christmas - a solar bear because it's hot in Orlando. Get it?
Okay, this may not be the best reason why Shades is awesome but at least solar bears are a good representative of woods hockey unlike those earth destroying Nanooks.
Somehow Shades is able to overcome that. RIP Anchorage.
4. Shades' in your face attitude
Yes, Shades can kill fans with his/her hands but that's not how Shades rolls. Look at that in your attitude - he/she is a third Fonzarelli - and totally in your face. Nordy wishes he/she had that.
(Bonus reason: Shades is cool enough to have a Wawa sign in the background.)
5. The classic animal mascot with a modern spin
One of the great things about the Wild is that despite being the youngest team in the NHL, they respect the history of the league. Part of that has to do with Minnesota having a long and storied hockey history but things like the team's third jersey feel classic with a small modern spin. The same thing is true with Shades.
Outside of the Solar Bear name and shades, the mascot would fit in with high schools or colleges. There are hundreds of bear-inspired nicknames, including the Original Six Boston Bruins, yet this is really the first time an old-school bear has gone in a new, hot direction. Shades aims to be its own thing like Nordy, however, unlike Nordy the Solar Bear doesn't forget where he/she came from. There is no guessing what Orlando's mascot is and with their in your face attitude and cool factor, Shades is awesome.