Professional sports franchises provide some of the best live entertainment around because they employ the old circus tradition of abundant spectacle. Consider how the NHL is a kind of three-ring show. At the game, the jumbotron screens on the giant scoreboard are one ring, the ice surface is another, and the seating is a third. Often there are performances going on in all three at once. But, there are rules about how spectators may participate.
To wit, the Vancouver Canucks’ mascot, Fin, who mediates fan behavior. He is equal parts clowning superfan and policeman. Before the game, on the scoreboard a cartoon Fin plays the hero in an animated alert about how to text for help if a nearby spectator becomes too disruptive. With a flowing cape, Fin answers the text to intervene against a drunk fan yelling and spilling beer and popcorn on his neighbors.
Between periods, Fin also appears on the ice in the form of a jersey-clad plush orca costume, with a man inside. There he serves as referee to the pre-schoolers demonstrating their hockey skills or as generous bestower of gifts to the masses, launched from the t-shirt cannon.
During the periods of play, Fin is the vehicle through which the limits of acceptable fan behavior are finally but playfully communicated, and recorded. Fin does all sorts of things ticket-buyers may not, or so they don’t have to: he dances suggestively in the aisle, hugs spectators, and—his signature move—bites people on the head for photos. Spectator video perfectly captures the live experience: the mise en scène is not excellent, the shot often blurry or obscured by someone’s head. Fin is a mobile and mysterious being at whom you never really get a good look. He pops through the stairwell dancing, or initiating a wave, or beating his drum and waggling his head fin for a few seconds. Then he disappears and materializes several sections over and many rows down.
Vancouver Canucks fans record, text and post Fin’s live performances and the rules of behavior they convey, which live on, carried around in countless mobile devices in Vancouver and beyond.
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