When handed the challenge of creating a mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers, Sarah Schwab and her team doubled down, creating the viral internet sensation that is Gritty. “I think Philadelphia has this attitude that we can knock on ourselves but no one else can,” says Schwab, who lives in Aston.
To help craft an authentic representation of the city’s gritty nature, Schwab’s team enlisted the help of original Phillie Phanatic Dave Raymond. A lot of ideas were kicked around before they ultimately landed on “something monster-like,” says Schwab. “[But] we weren’t entirely sure what that looked like.”
With the help of over 100 artist renditions, a picture started to form of what was initially dubbed “Monster D.” They took that, plus a safer version, to senior management, who approved Gritty’s inception.
Just as important as the physical form was the personality, which they painstakingly curated to be equally bizarre. Gritty is best friends with Flyers captain Claude Giroux, loves hot dogs and ice from the Zamboni, and lives in the bowels of the Wells Fargo Center. “It was kind of organic and fluid, and it continues to be,” Schwab says. “I think it’s important in this day and age that you’re able to react in real time to things.”
When Schwab and her team unleashed Gritty on the world, they rightly expected mixed reactions. “On the day we launched him, we all sat in the back of the Please Touch Museum and watched the tweets roll in,” she recalls. “We were ready.”
Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird. pic.twitter.com/wLmGBa0Oyh
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 24, 2018
When arch rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins tweeted simply, “lol ok,” the Flyers camp responded with a creepy GIF and the note, “Sleep with one eye open tonight, bird.”
Philly fans loved it—and that love has yet to fade. “It feels pretty surreal,” says Schwab.