For the last month, the Coachella Valley Firebirds have been revealing bits and pieces of their new mascot on social media. A foot in downtown Palm Springs. A game at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. A hand at Shield’s Date Garden.
On Thursday all the body parts were put together and unveiled as the Firebirds introduced Fuego as the official mascot of the desert’s new professional hockey team.
Fuego, the Spanish word for fire, is a 6-foot-tall orange feathered bird. It has a bird head in the vein of a cardinal, wings and a tail. It wears a No. 22 Firebirds jersey, a pair of dark blue shorts and some nice dark blue and orange striped high-top sneakers with the Firebirds logo on them. Fuego doesn’t talk, or make any bird noises. It mostly just claps and does a lot of energetic miming.
Fuego was introduced during a news conference Thursday at Classic Club overlooking Acrisure Arena which is still on schedule for a December completion. About 75-100 kids were on hand to celebrate and shake hands/wings with Fuego as it flapped and flew around the room.
After the introduction, the wide-eyed kids went into a different ballroom to play hockey-related games and interact and get pictures taken with Fuego. The young hockey fans were from the YMCA, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Desert, and ACES of the East Valley.
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Evan Pivnick, who was also introduced during the Thursday news conference as the team’s new director of broadcast and communications, said Thursday’s event went off as hoped.
“Every team has a mascot and that is the team’s sort of tie to the community, especially the younger fans,” Pivnick said. “He’s cool looking and kids received him very well, which is obviously what we were hoping would happen and it did. He’s going to be an important part of the community outreach for us. He’s going to be at all of our games, of course , but also at community events, viewing parties, in schools. He’s just a very important part of the community.”
Fuego is more of a cool, athletic mascot, rather than the big overweight goofy kind. That was by design as the team is embodying health and wellness as one of its core pillars.
“Fuego will be a true ambassador for our organization and for the community,” said Shannon Miller, the Firebirds’ vice president of branding and community relations. “It is important for our organization to be actively involved in the community, especially with the younger population. This is more than just bringing hockey to the desert; it is about collaborating on core community pillar programs with partners that allows us to provide a foundation of values that kids can tap into throughout their lives.”
Those three pillars introduced Thursday are health and wellness, education and recreation. Miller also announced that there will be a children’s youth street hockey league starting in the desert in October, culminating in a tournament.
The mascot also will be a major player as the team continues to get the word out about its inaugural season in the American Hockey League which starts Oct. 16 with its first-ever game. That first puck drop for the Firebirds will be in Calgary against the Calgary Wranglers.
The first home game is Dec. 18. The first 22 games of the Firebirds’ 72-game schedule will be played away from home as Acrisure Arena continues to be built in Thousand Palms on the north side of Interstate 10. Season tickets are available at the team’s website at cvfirebirds.com .
You can follow Fuego on Twitter and Instagram at @FuegoFirebirds.
Just like with the team’s name, logo and colors, the Firebirds brass did a pretty good job with Fuego. Fuego is sort of like a combination of the San Diego Chicken and The Fonz, and I’m here for it.
According to its origin story, Fuego was “born of fire and intense heat, with a powerful spirit destined to unite cities, communities, and people from all walks of life.” They definitely caught a break there, that Fuego is destined to unite communities, and not, I don’t know, eat people and swear vengeance on those who bore him of fire and intense heat.
The kids really did love him. He’s energetic and using the Spanish word for fire will resonate throughout the desert. Every Firebird fan is going to have one question when they first see him: Can I buy a pair of those cool shoes?