How a team of dedicated people drive the spirit of Northeastern’s beloved mascot.
By Malia Wanderer
*To protect the identity of Paws, all names have been changed.*
Arms waving in celebration, a large Husky sporting a Northeastern jersey glides across the ice at a hockey game, riling up the crowd – the image of Paws has been a Northeastern staple, embodying the energy of students from its position on the field.
As one of a university’s best kept secrets, mascots live a double life, keeping their second identity hidden. According to long-time mascot and Northeastern alumnus Peter, the shared secret among the team helps bring the members together.
“You have this bond and this connection that you don’t really get to talk about outside of that, so you just get very close to the group of people,” Peter said.
There’s a reason for the mystique behind these mascot double agents. “A big part of why we don’t talk about it is [that] it’s supposed to be a mascot and not a person in a suit, and if you know the name of the person then it kind of takes away from that.”
According to mascot coordinator Chris, the strong sense of community within the team kept him coming back for years.
“There’s a lot of team camaraderie,” Chris said. “People were just really like, an unspoken rule, yeah, this job kind of sucks – we’re in the big sweaty dog suit, it’s heavy, it smells, but we’re all here to have fun.”
Paws is a work-study opportunity that accepts student applications. The most enticing part is the chance to have fun, according to first year mascot Brian.
“You get to be a character, and being at these sorts of events I wouldn’t really attend just as myself, but I can go and I can have fun,” Brian said. “You get an opportunity to sort of be silly and carefree, and I enjoy the concept.”
Additionally, as a prominent figure in Northeastern athletics, Paws gets the opportunity to travel to tournaments, which Peter said has yielded many unique experiences.
“I’ve got to do a lot of really, really cool things,” Peter said. “I’d say probably my favorite memory was in 2019. Our men’s basketball team won the conference championship, and just being able to be on the court for that and be there – it was such an amazing experience.”
In addition to conference tournaments, Paws makes appearances at regular sporting events, as well as the ever-popular Beanpot. Chris said one of his best memories came from the tournament when he had the job of helping direct the performer portraying Paws.
“When the men’s hockey team won the Beanpot, I was handling for the mascot at the time,” Chris said. “So he’s out on the ice skating around, and I’m sitting there on the bench at TD Garden watching. And I’m like, ‘Holy crap, I’m here, I am on the ice, everyones up there in the rafters watching, but I’m here.’”
As a new mascot, Brian said the idea of the job in general is what has made it so special for him.
“[What I look forward to] is just being on campus for different events and having this very tangible connection to the school,” Brian said. “I definitely miss the energy that [high school] football games can bring, but hockey for Northeastern sort of has the same energy … and that’s almost intoxicating”
Inside the suit, mascots do their best to portray their interpretation of the Husky while following certain rules, according to Chris.
“For the most part, people just tend to stick with the script. We just say don’t be mean, have fun, look like you’re having fun, show energy,” Chris said. “And then people take their interpretations out there… For me, I really love hockey, so for celebrating, I’ll do classic hockey celebrations. For the most part, it’s pretty similar, but everyone has their own little flavor to it.”
For Peter, he finds using body language to be an important part of portraying the Husky.
“I move around a lot more, I have a lot more energy because we can’t talk and we have the head on,” Peter said. “I express things much more nonverbally, so I use my body and I use hand motions and actions… They express how I’m feeling.”
Chris said the experience of portraying Paws helped him explore outside his comfort zone and become more confident.
“What I realized is after a couple games, nobody knows it’s me,” Chris said. “So if I do something stupid, if I fall, it’s not me, it’s the dog.”