Youppi![1] (French pronunciation: [jupi] or French pronunciation: [jʊp.pi], French for Yippee!) is the official mascot for the Montreal Canadiens, and former longtime mascot of the Montreal Expos. Youppi! wears an "!" instead of a jersey number.

Youppi! as the Canadiens' mascot
TeamMontreal Canadiens
(formerly Montreal Expos)
DescriptionFurry orange creature
Origin of nameFrench word for "Yippee!"
First seen1979 (Expos)
2005 (Canadiens)
Last seen2004 (Expos)
Related mascot(s)Souki, Gritty
Hall of Famevoted December 2019
inducted June 2020

History edit

Youppi! as the Expos' mascot

Youppi!, a creation of Acme Mascots, Inc. (a division of Harrison/Erickson, Inc.), was commissioned by Montreal Expos vice-president Roger D. Landry. Originally leased by the baseball team in 1979, the mascot was eventually purchased by the Expos and represented them until they moved to Washington, D.C., after the 2004 season. With instructions from Landry and Rodger Brulotte, Youppi! was designed by Bonnie Erickson, formerly a designer for Jim Henson, and the designer of Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf and other Muppet characters. Its orange color was chosen as a reference to Rusty Staub, a former player for the Expos.[2] The orange, hairy giant was a popular figure at Olympic Stadium prior to the Expos' relocation to Washington, D.C.

Notoriety edit

Youppi! was the first mascot to be thrown out of a Major League Baseball game.[3] During the 1989 Expos season, on August 23 while atop the visitors' dugout in the 11th inning, Youppi! took a running leap, landing hard and noisily on its roof, and then sneaked into a front row seat. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda complained to the umpires[4] and Youppi! was ejected by Bob Davidson,[5] though he later returned, confined to the home team's dugout roof, as Montreal eventually lost 1–0 in 22 innings. Youppi! was also a frequent joke punchline of notoriously sarcastic Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Caray. Youppi! was also referenced by pitcher Bill Lee during interviews in Ken Burns's Baseball documentary.

Youppi! is one of only three mascots featured as displays at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The others are the Phillie Phanatic of Philadelphia, another design by Erickson, and the Famous Chicken from San Diego.

The Montreal-based political cartoonist Terry Mosher, better known as "Aislin", depicted or referenced Youppi! on several occasions, including a prescient 1988 cartoon drawn at a time when the Expos were having a poor season and depicting then-general manager of the Canadiens Serge Savard receiving a phone call from Youppi!, presumably seeking employment.[6]

Youppi! was voted to the Mascot Hall of Fame in December 2019, and was inducted in June 2020. Youppi! is the first mascot of a Canadian team to receive the honor.[7]

From baseball to hockey edit

After the Expos moved to Washington, D.C., and became the Washington Nationals, the Nationals initially stated that Youppi! would still be a part of the team in some capacity. However, the team adopted a new mascot, the eagle "Screech". For months after the move, the fate of Youppi! hung in the balance. Negotiations were held with ten groups, including the Montreal Alouettes.[8]

On September 16, 2005, the Montreal Canadiens announced that Youppi! would become the first official mascot of the organization, and the first mascot to ever switch between any two major sports leagues in North America. Prior to Youppi!, the Canadiens had no mascot. The terms of acquisition were reportedly in the six figures.[8] Youppi! now sports the Canadiens' bleu-blanc-rouge (blue, white, and red) jersey. Youppi!'s first game in the Bell Centre was on October 18, 2005.

On February 19, 2012, at the Canadiens' first home game after the death of Montreal Expos great Gary Carter, Youppi! wore the Expos colours in Carter's memory.[9][10][11]

On May 16, 2014, on the eve of the Canadiens series against the New York Rangers in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, New York City native Jimmy Fallon, the host of NBC's Tonight Show, which is taped in New York, made a bet with the Montreal Canadiens that if they won the series, Fallon would wear a Montreal jersey during his opening monologue. However, if the Rangers won the series, Youppi! would have to wear a Rangers jersey around Montreal and post at least ten pictures of him doing so on the Canadiens' Twitter account and also change their avatar to a pic of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist playing guitar. The Rangers won the series on May 29 in six games. As such, on June 1, the Canadiens honoured their bet and a dejected Youppi! was photographed around Montreal in a Rangers jersey with Fallon's name on the back, and the last photo, as Fallon stated, featured him riding the mechanical bull at Montreal bar Chez Serge.[12]

Arrival of METAL! edit

In 2022, to promote the team's reverse retro jerseys, the team created METAL!, a heavy-metal-obsessed blue creature, who claims to have been Youppi!'s "twin brother", and have been the Canadiens mascot from 1979 to 1993, even though there is no evidence of the latter statement.[13] According to the Habs' announcement, METAL! seemed to have fallen asleep in an ice machine in the Montreal Forum basement after a party celebrating the Stanley Cup win in 1993, and only emerged in the summer of 2022, when the thing was unearthed during renovations.

Behind Youppi! edit

In the 26 seasons that Youppi! was working with the Expos, only 6 men portrayed the mascot: Denis Desaulniers, Jean-Claude Tremblay, Claude Hubert, Pierre Bélisle, Jean-Simon Bibeau, and Sylvain Ouellette.

Denis Desaulniers (1979–1983) edit

Denis Desaulniers was the first to wear the costume following the shift from Souki to Youppi!. Inspired by the popularity and irreverence of the San Diego Chicken, Desaulniers auditioned for and received the part at 25 years old. During his career as Youppi!, Desaulniers strived to create a warm soul and fun-loving attitude for the character.

Desaulniers also introduced one of Youppi's most iconic moves: punching himself in the nose. He claims this was to stay in character while adjusting the head of the costume so he could see. Underneath the head of the mascot, he wore a motorcycle helmet with a thick layer of styrofoam to protect his head, which would cause the mascot's head to fall forward frequently.[14]

Jean-Claude Tremblay (1983–1985) edit

Jean-Claude Tremblay had his first interaction with the Expos after being hired to fix the mascot's costume.[15] At the time, Tremblay was doing corporate mascot gigs to make ends meet while working full-time at his brother's art shop. Once the Expos' team discovered Tremblay's talents as a mascot, he was offered the opportunity to succeed Desaulniers.

Tremblay was responsible for many changes to Youppi!'s costume, including more securely-attached eyes and a swap from the scruffy old material to washable parts following complaints (including his own) of the mascot's smell.

After 3 seasons, Tremblay surrendered his role as Youppi! to focus on his real passion: creating mascots. As of 2023, he is one of the most prominent mascot manufacturers in North America, credited with creating mascots such as the Tampa Bay Ray's Raymond and the Indianapolis Colt's Blue.[16]

Pierre Bélisle (1985–1988, 1991–1995) edit

A police officer at the time, Pierre Bélisle was drawn to the energetic and fun role of Youppi! following an intense undercover mission to infiltrate and take down drug traffickers in Canada, during which his true identity was revealed in prison. After garnering much success as Youppi!, Bélisle obtained special permission from the Chief of the SPVM to continue portraying Youppi! for 11 years. This was not Bélisle's first experience with baseball; he was formerly a prospective left-handed pitcher.

Bélisle is credited with some of Youppi!'s most iconic stunts, including jumping from moving vehicles on the field. However, one of the most memorable stunts Bélisle carried out as Youppi! was an ironic arrest in costume at the Olympic Stadium.

After rising through the ranks in the SPVM, Bélisle retired his role as Youppi!, as it was felt it could damage his credibility within the force.[17] He continued on to become the MLB Commissioner's Representative in Montreal for 9 years and the NHL Commissioner's Representative in Montreal for 4 years

Claude Hubert (1988–1990) edit

Claude Hubert was involved with mascots for around 20 years; he worked for many Canadian sports teams, such as the Montreal Dragons and the Montreal Machines. From 1985 to 1988, Hubert worked alongside Jean-Simon Bibeau as Bélisle's understudies and, when Bélisle left briefly to work as the Chief Instructor at the Quebec National Police Academy, Hubert shared the full responsibilities of Youppi with Jean-Simon Bibeau.

As Youppi!, Hubert was responsible for the first and only incident wherein a mascot was expelled from a Major League Baseball game. As Youppi!, Hubert hopped on top of the away team's dugout during an Expos v. Dodgers game and, following continued antics, was confronted by Tommy Lasorda. (Hubert claims to have already known of Lasorda's distaste for mascots following his infamous "tussle" with the Philly Phanatic.)[18] After the scuffle began to escalate, Bob Davidson, the umpire during that game, made the decision to eject Youppi!, who was eventually readmitted following chants from the crowd and a promise to remain on the Expos' side of the field.[19]

Jean-Simon Bibeau (1988–1990, 2003–present) edit

In 1986, Jean-Simon Bibeau was hired by Bélisle himself as his main understudy. This was not Bibeau's first experience with athletic recognition, as he was already holding a USA NCAA record for goals scored in a season while playing hockey with the Plattsburg Cardinals at this time.[20] When Bélisle left briefly to work as the Chief Instructor at the Quebec National Police Academy, Bibeau shared the full responsibilities of Youppi! with Hubert. Upon Bélisle's return as the main portrayer of Youppi!, Bibeau became Bélisle's sole understudy, but was hired full-time by the Expos Promotion and Marketing department.

By 1995, Bibeau directed all of Youppi!'s activities for the Expos, and would continue following Youppi!'s transition from baseball with the Expos to hockey with the Montreal Canadiens to the present day.

Bibeau's time dedicated to his mascot career has earned him the title of the longest portrayer of any mascot in any professional sport.

Sylvain Ouellette (1996–2003) edit

The last to portray Youppi! during his time as a baseball mascot, Sylvain Ouellette was previously working as an entertainer at nightclubs. While working in nightclubs, he met Vincent Guy Aubry, a DJ who often worked at the Olympic Stadium during Expos games. After hearing the Expos were looking for a mascot, Aubry mentioned Ouellette to his superior at the stadium. Although Ouellette was not a baseball fan at the time, his love and passion for entertaining landed him the job.

During the Expos' two seasons in Puerto Rico, Ouellette proved especially valuable due to his Spanish proficiency and experience with Latin dancing and culture.[21]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Youppi!'s name is officially spelled with an exclamation mark. This is sometimes dropped.
  2. ^ "Before Youppi! there was Souki, the Expos mascot that made children cry". June 23, 2020. Retrieved August 17, 2023.
  3. ^ "This Day In Sports: The Dodgers And Expos Play 22". AP. August 23, 2010. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  4. ^, 6 September 2019
  5. ^ "Los Angeles Dodgers 1, Montreal Expos 0". Retrosheet. August 23, 1989. Retrieved August 2, 2019.
  6. ^ "Cartoon - Youppi Calls Serge Savard | McCord Museum". Archived from the original on 2023-02-09. Retrieved 2023-02-09.
  7. ^ Bengel, Chris. "Youppi and 'The Orioles Bird' headline the National Mascot Hall of Fame class of 2020 inductees". CBS Sports. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Canadiens get Youppi! to be Mascot". TSN. 2005-09-16. Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  9. ^ "Habs honour Gary Carter in pre-game tribute; Youppi dons Expos gear for ceremony |". Global News. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  10. ^ "How Youppi!, Habs keep Expos' spirit alive". 2016-08-25. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  11. ^ Calcaterra, Craig (2012-02-20). "The Montreal Canadiens honor Gary Carter". MLB | NBC Sports. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  12. ^ "Canadiens mascot Youppi! honors bet with Fallon". National Hockey League. June 1, 2014. Archived from the original on December 22, 2020.
  13. ^ Canadiens, Montreal (November 12, 2022). "METAL! debuts at Canadiens game". Archived from the original on January 31, 2023. Retrieved March 11, 2023.
  14. ^ Godin, Marc Antoine. "Before Youppi! there was Souki, the Expos mascot that made children cry". The Athletic. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  15. ^, Zone Sports-. "Dans la tête de Youppi! : la mascotte vue par ceux qui l'ont incarnée | Vous avez vu?". (in Canadian French). Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  16. ^ Cacciola, Scott (2015-09-23). "The Man Behind the Mascots Is a Character, Too". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  17. ^, Zone Sports-. "Dans la tête de Youppi! : la mascotte vue par ceux qui l'ont incarnée | Vous avez vu?". (in Canadian French). Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  18. ^ "No love lost between Phanatic, late Lasorda". Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  19. ^ "How did a mascot get ejected from a game?". Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  20. ^ "Jean-Simon Bibeau Hockey Stats and Profile at". Retrieved 2023-07-03.
  21. ^ Sports, Jeremy Filosa | 98,5 (2020-06-18). "Sylvain Ouellette, du Club Med à Youppi!". 98.5 Montréal (in French). Retrieved 2023-07-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

External links edit