Written by Cory Twibell, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 22 February 2013 00:00
The New York Islanders’ winged mascot, Sparky the Dragon, is one of the National Hockey League’s 26 costumed creatures found within NHL arenas throughout North America.
The Islanders’ former mascot, Nyiles (pronounced Nigh-els), resembled the grizzly fisherman featured on the team’s jerseys in the mid-1990s. Sparky the Dragon served as the mascot for the New York Dragons (Arena Football League), who played their home games at the Nassau Coliseum before the team suspended operations in 2009. Sparky, a beloved member of the Nassau Coliseum family, swapped his football gear for a pair of ice skates and the rest is hockey history.
Sparky, though unable to speak, recently caught up with Anton News via email.
“Sparky spends his mornings visiting elementary schools around Long Island. He performs school assemblies with Dina, the Islanders' arena hostess, about being healthy and making smart decisions,” Sparky said.
On game days, Sparky’s routine is much like that of an NHL player.
“Sparky makes sure all his gear is clean, he is well hydrated, and of course, well fed. Then he does some stretches and some laps around the ice. He doesn't want to pull a hammy,” Sparky explained.
With his hockey stick-shaped tail, bulbous head and permanent smile, Sparky has become a staple at Islander home games and team events throughout Nassau and Suffolk County.
“Islander fans love Sparky and constantly praise him for his hard work, hustle and surprisingly good sense of humor (you wouldn't expect someone who can't talk to be so funny). Sparky is always there to cheer someone up when they need it. He’s a pro and the quintessential motivator,” Sparky noted.
The team’s crosstown rival, the New York Rangers, is one of four teams in the NHL without a mascot. The franchises meet four times during the lockout-shortened season, while the rivalry between the two has become one of the greatest in pro sports.
“For players, Sparky is the type of mascot where you hate if he's not on your team but you absolutely love him if he is. Message to the Rangers: Beware of the Dragon,” said Sparky, who enjoys “Islander wins, interacting with the amazing Islander fan base and making new friends at each and every game and team function.”
Though the gig may seem like all fun and games, Sparky sometimes travels with the New York Islanders on business trips, too, as he’s flown – by plane – to Carolina and Ottawa for NHL All Star Games.
And like Islanders All Star forward John Tavares, Sparky prides himself on a team-first attitude.
“Whether he's visiting a fan in a suite for his or her birthday or giving out a prize in the stands, Sparky will do whatever the team asks of him and he has gone from being a prized prospect to an accomplished NHL veteran,” Sparky said.