Here kitty, kitty
Always decked out in his finest blue attire, with a slick ability to charm the ladies and physical conditioning that simply cannot be matched, this cougar is quite the catch. Whether it be basketball, hockey, volleyball, you name it, this perilous pouncer rarely misses a chance to sprint up and down the aisles, firing up the Mount Royal faithful along the way.
In the mascot world, victory is the name of the game and nothing less will be settled for. In actuality, the man behind the mask is 26-year-old Ben Suffield, who has embodied the persona of the crafty kitty-cat for a little more than two years now.
“For me it all started when I asked Kimmo (Korvela, the Cougars game day coordinator) how things were going and he said really well but that it had been a constant struggle to find a steady mascot and I replied ‘hey I can do that,’ ” Suffield recalled. “Really it’s all about personality, you have got to be able to entertain people. I feel like I bring a lot of energy to the games and I find it’s really important to go with the flow of the people in attendance.”
Suffield said acting as Calvin allows him to explore a different side of his personality than he can while working at his full-time job as an assistant manager at a local logistics firm.
”I just have a blast doing it, it allows me to let loose and be free. It is really neat to get to play a sort of alter-ego,” he said. While it may seem like this job is literally all fun and games, Suffield says a great deal of personal training is needed if a mascot is going make it through a full shift. “You have got to be able to handle constant movement in a costume that is unbelievably hot,” Suffield said, noting that last year a new Calvin suit arrived with a fitted ice-pack vest to help keep his core temperature under control.
“It’s really all about strong cardio, which I have worked to hard to develop through playing soccer, ball hockey and other sports.” Suffield insists his determination and commitment towards the Calvin character has paid off in the long run. “I have made some great memories over time,” Suffield starts, “but the one that truly sticks out to me is playing in the annual mascot game at McMahon Stadium in front of that huge crowd.”
“There are others though too, more spontaneous moments. One night me and Troy (the moose mascot from SAIT) were working a rivalry hockey game together and the crowd was really loud. We usually get together and plan out what we’re going to do ahead of the game but on this night, I don’t know what he was thinking, Troy decided to jump — more like hurl — himself over four rows and landed right on top of me. We end up tumbling down to the boards and then pretended to duke it out. That was really fun.”
Having a moose land on top of you is just one of many hazards in a job that often forces this tabby to use all nine lives.
“I once took a punch to the face and a strap inside the costume came up and cut me right across the nose,” Suffield said.
His commitment to the craft has been essential in helping develop team spirit at Mount Royal, says Cougar Athletics events and communications coordinator Kyle Henry.
“Being a good mascot isn’t as easy as you may think. You need to be creative, athletic, instinctive and mostly importantly, able to have fun,” Henry said. “Our mascot works with a wide range of audiences from kids to adults and thus needs to be able to appeal to all ages. “A good mascot cares about the school and creating a positive image for the department, all things which Ben does well.”
Suffield says he drew some creative inspiration from other local mascots like Ralph the Dog with the Stampeders, the Flames’ Harvey the Hound and Farley the Fox, a frequent hit at Hitmen games.
“Ralph the Dog especially is really able to get the whole crowd behind him no matter what the situation,” Suffield said. “The mascots in the city do a ton of promotion and I think really play an important role in developing sport in Calgary.”
Looking towards the future, Suffield is excited about what Mount Royal’s planned transition to a university could mean for the school’s athletics department. Personally, he intends to continue his endeavors as a mascot, “for as long as I possibly can.”
The veteran crowd booster also encouraged other students and people in the community to come out and show some Cougar pride. “It’s always a really physical, high-calibre game. The energy is always very competitive and I can honestly say that in all my time as Calvin I have never found it boring.”
Surely neither have the fans of this feisty feline.