You may have seen him going up and down the stands during a basketball game or riling the crowd into doing the wave during a volleyball tournament. With his big whiskers and slick grey skin, Stuey the Sturgeon, VIU Mariners’ mascot, comes from a long line of mascots, back to a time before VIU even existed and was still Malaspina College.
There are few that recall the original Mascot, the Ancient Mariner, though he is remembered fondly by a few seasoned staff members at VIU.
Bruce Hunter, VIU’s Athletic Director and Mascot Expert, imparted some of his knowledge on the school’s mascot history.
“I think the Ancient Mariner would have been late ‘80s. I don’t think we had a mascot until then,” says Hunter. “Blue Thunder came along in ‘95 or ‘96.”
With a big rain jacket, gumboots, and a mariners’ hat, the Ancient Mariner was just the first of the mascots to follow a nautical theme.
Blue Thunder, affectionately called “Thunder”, is more like your typical mascot, with electric blue and bright yellow skin, big tail, grinning mouth, fangs and all.
“Blue Thunder sort of looks like a dragon, but is meant to be a sea monster,” says Hunter. “We’ve had some really good mascot people in the past that have made the most out of Blue Thunder, but he got a little tired. He was getting a little bit worn out and they’re not cheap; it’s not like you just go buy another one.”
After Thunder came Stuey, the anatomically correct Sturgeon, in 2010. After an outreach from the Fisheries program to VIU’s administration, it was decided that Stuey would be Thunder’s successor.
“VIU has a big sturgeon breeding program and we’ve had the sturgeon research program here forever; it’s one of those things that’s iconic to VIU,” says Hunter.
Though Stuey doesn’t make it out to every game, mostly due to a lack of a “dedicated mascot person,” he is still a prominent figure when VIU does public events.
“We usually use a work-op student [as a mascot person],” says Hunter. “But what we found in the past is that lots of people have the idea that they want to be a mascot, but then when they get in the suit, it just doesn’t really work. It’s definitely a challenging role; people think it’s easy but it’s not.”
Though finding a mascot person can be tough, there’s no denying the effect mascots have on a crowd.
“They add quite a lot to the whole game experience,” says Hunter. “We have Stuey now, but, to be honest, Thunder hasn’t fully retired. Sometimes we even have both of them out. Thunder still comes back for appearances.”