Last week, a headline on neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer read like something from an alternate universe: “Alt-Right Icon Gritty Seeks to Follow Adolf Hitler’s Footsteps and Become Time’s 2018 Man Of The Year”. It was at least the third piece the site has posted in the last month proclaiming Gritty – the googly-eyed, giant, orange, hockey-playing monster mascot for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers – as a symbol of the far right.
As it happens, the Daily Stormer is playing catch-up, in reality trying to re-appropriate Gritty as a symbol – to take him away from their ideological opponents on the left. Because, you see, Gritty was already a partisan. Gritty, this smiling muppety nightmare on skates, is antifa.
To learn of how innocently Gritty’s story began is to experience mental whiplash. As the son of the Flyers chief operating officer, Shawn Tilger, watched the on-ice antics of other NHL mascots at last year’s All Star game, he asked his dad why Philadelphia didn’t have a participant. The Flyers hadn’t had a mascot since 1976. His name had been Slapshot, and he was a one-season wonder. Forty years later Tilger wondered if it wasn’t perhaps time for another try.